It gives me great pleasure to be here and to be able to sing the praises of Kazakhstan, one of the EBRD countries of operation where I have spent most time during my years as the Bank’s President.
May I also greet the many old friends I see with us in the audience today, notably Deputy Prime Minister (Askar) Zhumagaliyev, Akhmetzhan Yessimov and Baroness Nicholson.
- The global context
Ladies and gentlemen, the transformation of Kazakhstan since independence has been nothing short of astonishing.
Many of us have witnessed it with our own eyes.
Each of my visits there – and I go every year – offers new evidence of exciting progress, whether in Astana, Almaty, the many other cities where the EBRD has offices, or the regions where we are investing in projects that are changing lives on the ground.
And, on my travels to other EBRD countries, I often hold Kazakhstan up as a model of what can be achieved when the right conditions prevail.
Kazakhstan really does have the potential to become a shining example to other countries as they seek to build market economies that are sustainable, that work in the interests of all, and that are even more open to the rest of the world.
I say the rest of the world, but let me focus for a moment on Central Asia.
Recent years represent just the start of what I believe will be an era of even greater achievement for Kazakhstan and its neighbours.
A period in which Central Asia, bolstered by new initiatives such as the Belt and Road and the Quality Infrastructure Initiatives, will be even better connected to and integrated within the wider global economy.
Kazakhstan has been playing a very special part in this story to date.
And I see every sign that this historic role will continue.
For now, the EBRD applauds the reforms and the work to build a more diversified economy that the Kazakh government is undertaking.
Kazakhstan has successfully transitioned from lower middle-income to upper-middle income status.
Of course, that new status brings with it fresh challenges, yes.
But also exciting opportunities for us all.
- Two partners in a common cause
At the EBRD we have already seized hold of the many opportunities Kazakhstan has to offer.
And we have done so with both hands.
Our joint story illustrates what happens when two partners unite in a common cause – and what they can achieve together.
And I would also suggest that it should serve as inspiration to others of what investment in Kazakhstan can deliver.
The size of our own investment in the country is most impressive. The cumulative total now stands at well over US$8 billion.
Last year we signed 25 projects there worth US$690 million and 41 percent of that figure represented investments in the private sector.
This year nearly all our projects to date have been in the local currency.
And 43 percent of the total sum invested so far in 2018 has been in the green economy.
That tells you a lot about our priorities and the way we are responding to the evolving challenges transition economies are facing.
But over and above the actual numbers, we take great pride in the way our investments, coupled with our work on policy reform, have spurred progress in such areas as the green economy and the growth of capital markets.
And regional development and gender inclusion as well.
The extension of our groundbreaking Enhanced Partnership Framework Agreement with Kazakhstan will allow us to have even more impact.
And as Kazakhstan makes progress in its plans to accelerate privatization, many more of us will gain the chance to get involved as well.
- Three recent breakthroughs
Every time I visit Kazakhstan, I am encouraged to see the momentum for change build and how much has been done since I was last in the country.
We are particularly excited to see how the privatisation programme is progressing.
But, today, here in London, I would highlight three recent developments.
In fact, I would go further and describe them all as genuine breakthroughs in which EBRD has been instrumental.
First, I want to congratulate everyone involved in the signing of the concession agreement for the BAKAD PPP, Central Asia’s first to be based on international best practice.
It sent a very strong signal to the whole world that Kazakhstan can attract even greater flows of foreign direct investment.
This is clearly a major infrastructure project, one which will have considerable impact on the region and its openness to the rest of the global economy.
But such interconnectivity goes far beyond purely physical infrastructure.
Initiatives such as Belt and Road and Quality Infrastructure hold out the promise of far more investment in what we call ‘soft connectivity’, the development of larger, more efficient capital markets and the ever swifter transfer of new technologies and innovation.
The second breakthrough has been the progress made in Kazakhstan’s efforts to deliver the goals of the Paris climate agreement.
Greening the Kazakh economy is absolutely essential for modernising the country – and making it more competitive.
We take great pride in the part we have played in this transformation, both through our involvement in policy reform and actual investments.
We have worked with a wide range of different partners on this: local, European and Chinese.
Our investment in this sector stands at US$170 million, with most of that sum invested since the beginning of last year.
And the third breakthrough is the creation of the Astana International Financial Centre and everything that has been done to make it a financial hub for Kazakhstan and the wider region.
Creating and developing local capital markets is a major priority for the EBRD and we are very excited about the AIFC’s potential.
It is my firm belief that many of us in this room today stand to benefit from what the AIFC has to offer.
It will help channel domestic and foreign investment, stimulate growth, set new standards of corporate governance, and promote skills transfer and green innovation.
It should act as a conduit and a catalyst for the sort of investment in Kazakhstan many of you are contemplating.
That might be financing infrastructure projects or involvement in privatisation.
The fact that the AIFC will be governed by English law and subject to international arbitrage, a first for the region, shows how the Kazakh authorities really mean business here.
- Sum up and call to action
Ladies and gentlemen, the sense of excitement about Kazakhstan makes every visit there an adventure.
You can feel it even here in London.
I make no apology for giving voice to my enthusiasm for Kazakhstan and the opportunities for investing there today.
I will no doubt be singing a very similar song at our Central Asia Investment Forum in Beijing next month.
I hope very much that some of you will join us there.
Or that we will be reunited at the next Foreign Investors’ Council in Kazakhstan in next summer.
Thank you very much.