What is your assessment of Bureau Veritas' performance last year?
Bureau Veritas in Kazakhstan has been performing well. We are developing in different areas now. When we first started it was mainly in the oil and gas business, and now we have a strong presence in the construction business, both in superstructure and infrastructure. We are increasing our presence in different geographies in Kazakhstan. Of course the crisis in Kazakhstan has affected us, and we have fewer new requests coming in. We are taking part at Expo 2017, which is currently a major investment area for the government. We are looking into new products and services cooperating with different parties, particularly the municipalities. Transportation has been developing well and we are taking part in the Astana LRT Project. Astana LRT is a large railway project but it also takes into account all the transportation systems in Astana, including road repair inspections, laboratory tests, and public bus inspections. When it comes to the manufacturing sector we have increased our number of clients in different areas, mainly in management certification, and we have started working in cooperation with Kazak Railways, providing it with different services.
What sectors of the economy possess the greatest growth potential in the near future?
Digital technology is going to develop rapidly in Kazakhstan in different areas. In terms of infrastructure, these industries require new equipment for area such as road construction, railways, and even airports. Infrastructure needs to develop and reflect advances in construction techniques. We will also soon see advances in the oil and gas sector because they have many new structures in place now. These structures are going to require repairs and renewals and maintenance. Power will also emerge as important as renewable energy becomes increasingly sought after.
What challenges do international companies face while investing in Kazakhstan?
The main challenge for all international companies including us is human resources. The work permit process is both long and strict, and it is getting more difficult each year. On one hand this is good for the country, but on the other hand, if you want to develop, you need to have some expatriates to share experiences. I can also understand the government's point of view, as some of the companies do not bring anything of worth, just flying people in and having them leave as soon as they finish the job. There is no real sharing of information in this. However companies like us, which are dedicated to developing the country and to staying here for as long as possible, approach work from a different perspective. When it comes to the oil and gas sectors, I do not see a major problem aside from international oil prices. Kazakhstan has a good strategy for oil and gas.
In construction, the main obstacle is the standards used today, as they are different from recognized international standards and not fully answering the requirements for new technologies. There is a scheme to develop this that remains unfinished, but Kazakhstan, especially with preparation for the Expo, is constructing much larger and taller buildings than before, and as a result clearly requires improved standards. We are able to share our international experience, which is an important benefit for our partners. Bureau Veritas is one of the biggest and oldest testing, inspection, and certification (TIC) companies in the world. We are able to bring our international knowledge but provide local services to our clients, with good local understanding and knowledge of local standards and regulations, which is an important factor for our clients for selecting us. Our short-term goal is to develop our infrastructure here, and to continue with operations in the oil and gas sector. Our major construction projects have already begun. We will diversify ourselves soon to railways, and increasingly into the transportation and energy sectors.