SHARED VISION

Kazakhstan 2018 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Doris Bradbury, Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham), on participation in Expo 2017, high-potential sectors, and forums for increasing public-private cooperation.

Doris Bradbury
BIOGRAPHY
Doris Bradbury joined the American Chamber of Commerce in Kazakhstan as Executive Director in May 2006. A career specialist in the countries of the post-Soviet Union, she began her career teaching at the University of St. Andrews in the UK before embarking on international work. After working for over a decade with the Canadian Government in Ottawa, she served as a Senior Associate Director at the Carter Center in Atlanta, and worked extensively in Moscow. A graduate of McGill University (Canada), the University of Edinburgh (UK), and having conducted PhD research at the University of London and Moscow State University, she has broad professional experience in Canada, the US, Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan.

How do you rate the overall success of Expo 2017, particularly in light of the increasing internationalization of Kazakhstan?

Expo 2017 was a success for Kazakhstan and raised international awareness of the country and its economic and cultural attractions through Western media coverage. CNN was particularly good in its coverage of the Expo, the historical Silk Road, and Kazakhstan today. Kazakhstan's enormous commitment of time and financial resources was well spent, and the Expo “Future Energy" theme underscored the country's vision for the future, a vision that is shared by all of the world's developed countries. AmCham also produced a magazine devoted to Expo and its theme that showcased our members' efforts across all sectors to contribute to the development of energy today and in the future, expanding the theme to include the broader green economy. We were pleased to be able to show AmCham member companies fully participating in building this future for Kazakhstan.

With higher than 3% GDP expected for 2017, which specific sectors have potential to continually grow the economy?

There are many opportunities available, though there still are some issues that the government needs to address. Agriculture could be enormously important for Kazakhstan; however, land reform needs to be addressed for the country's agricultural potential to be fully realized. Mining is also a priority sector, but the new Mining Code that has been developed needs to be enacted. Major mining companies are anxious to begin large-scale exploratory operations, but first they need the assurances that will be entailed by the new code, which is based on the Australian Mining Code. Mining and agriculture could both be true growth industries for Kazakhstan if the fundamentals necessary for their development are supported by the government. The government is also keen to develop innovative technology aiming to create a technology hub in Kazakhstan. With the development of the New Silk Road project, logistics is another priority sector with a promising future. Kazakhstan's proximity to China, Russia, and Europe are key to the future of logistics.

What are some of the major issues being brought forward to the government by the business community?

AmCham is fortunate to have established a productive advocacy platform with the government, which actively seeks out AmCham advice and recommendations on the most crucial investment issues. Eight years ago, the prime minister created the Council to Improve the Investment Climate, a monthly forum for AmCham and its members to meet with cabinet ministers responsible for the country's economy and which is actively chaired by the current Prime Minister, Bakhytzhan Sagintayev. Prime Minister Sagintayev is proactive and truly wants to see the reforms that will enable Kazakhstan to fully realize its economic potential. Issues raised at the council this past year have been privatization, deregulation, currency controls, intellectual property protection, tax reform, judicial reform, and environmental regulatory change, the last issue following on Expo's future energy theme. These are all vital issues that require a systemic approach with both immediate and long-term objectives. Privatization is a current priority as the government seeks to return to the private sector companies that were taken under the government's wing during and after the 2008 financial crisis. Some public sector institutions will also be privatized, namely the state railway system. This is not an easy process and is one that has proven difficult even for highly developed European countries. Currency controls are a thorny topic at present: the National Bank is keen to introduce more stringent currency controls under its de-dollarization initiative, which worries the investment community. We have pointed out that this may have a negative impact on the investment environment, and the government has listened carefully to our views. The council has proven a very productive forum to bring the government into direct contact with investors and to make the investment community's voice heard.