TBY talks to two chamber of commerce heads on their roles in assisting the development of the local business and trading environment.
How does the growth of your member portfolio reflect Kazakhstan’s economic development?
DORIS BRADBURY As the largest and most influential foreign investor association in Kazakhstan, AmCham’s membership portfolio becomes more and more diverse year by year. Even during the financial crisis, our membership grew by 20% per year. In terms of national participation, only half the membership is American, and we actively promote the international diversity of our membership. In terms of sectors, the largest representation in AmCham after oil and gas is banking and consumer products, demonstrating the country’s affluence. Luxury hotels, airlines, and financial services such as insurance and investment firms are major members, too. Accounting firms and law firms have more business than they can handle at the corporate level.
ÖMER YALÇINKAYA KATİAD is the representative of the Turkish business community in Kazakhstan. Turkey was one of the first states to recognize the independence of Kazakhstan. Due to cultural and linguistic ties with the Kazakhstani people, Turkish businessmen were among the first to invest in this country. In our view, Kazakhstan is the most attractive country for investment in the former Soviet Union. Statistical figures support this view. Turkish companies have invested more than $3 billion into Kazakhstan’s economy and completed contracting projects with a value of $20 billion so far. Turkish companies mainly operate in the construction, services, and manufacturing industries, which create employment for the local labor force. Turkish companies are employing more than 50,000 Kazakhstani citizens at present. New technologies and know-how brought by Turkish investors are valuable assets for the economy. In addition, the Turkish business community is very dynamic and adaptable to change. Several economic crises were faced in the last two decades, and Turkish companies quickly adopted themselves. Most of them continued to grow their businesses despite hard times in the global economy.
In which areas do you think Kazakhstan needs to improve to ensure the continuity of FDI?
DB Rule of law is probably at the top for AmCham members, along with anti-corruption, customs operations, taxation issues, and regional economic integration. If investors have a problem they need to feel that they can turn to the courts; that with legal representation they can receive a fair hearing and obtain a just solution to their problem.
ÖY The Kazakhstani government is taking important steps to improve the investment climate of the country. Kazakhstan may attract more foreign investment if the bureaucracy is reduced. China is attracting huge foreign investment as bureaucracy is minimized. For example, the work permit procedures are much more simplified in China. Such measures should not set barriers to investment. Foreign staff should not be perceived as competitors to the local work force. On the contrary, skilled and experienced staff should be seen as an asset for the country and as an opportunity to transfer their skills and knowledge to local employees.
What role does your association play in developing the local business environment?
DB AmCham has developed a very strong advocacy voice in recent years that allows us to speak on behalf of our members directly to the Prime Minister. We have specialized working groups composed of CEOs who write policy papers that we present to the Prime Minister and that are then discussed by the Group Chairmen with the relevant ministers. We also organize public conferences with broad attendance by the media on issues such as rule of law and anti-corruption to encourage public discussion of these issues. These conferences involve government ministers and, when they are held in Astana, are broadly attended by the government and diplomatic corps.
ÖY KATİAD is playing an important role in introducing new opportunities to its members, conveying their business needs to the relevant authorities, and hence building a bridge between investors and decision makers. It is not only bringing together existing members, but also trying to attract new investors and encourage them to invest in Kazakhstan. In this respect, we are serving as an investment development agency to increase the level of foreign investment in Kazakhstan. We try to develop relationships with other countries’ business organizations as well so that their investors benefit from cooperating with the Turkish companies’ two decades of experience in Kazakhstan.
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