World Economic Forum on the Middle East 2008

  • Eye on Kazakhstan

    Monday 19th May 2008 - 12:00pm - 1:00pm

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  • Eye on Kazakhstan

    • Kanat Bozumbayev • Esam Janahi • Vladimir Shkolnik


    • Vahan Zanoyan 


    Kazakhstan is growing and looking to further diversify its economy. It is seeking foreign investment to help it to continue along both paths. That was the central message of a session that featured two ministers and the head of a state-owned holding company.

    Marat Tazhin

    , Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, kicked off the session by outlining the reasons why his country has been the most aggressive among Central Asian nations in pursuing economic and political ties with the Middle East:

    • In the last decade Kazakhstan has created the institutions needed to facilitate foreign investment
    • Kazakhstan has the greatest economic potential in Central Asia. It already accounts for the lion’s share of foreign direct investment in the region
    • The country has adopted a strategy designed to diversify its international business and commercial partners
    • Politics and culture: “Everybody understands the political importance of the Middle East,” Tazhin said. “Because we are part of the Muslim world, there are also historical, cultural and human dimensions.”


    Vahan Zanoyan

    , Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, PFC Energy International, Switzerland, said that Kazakhstan’s stage of economic development is similar to that of many Middle Eastern countries 15-18 years ago. That, along with cultural familiarity, increases the comfort level there for Middle Eastern investors.

    Vladimir Shkolnik

    , Minister of Industry and Trade of Kazakhstan, further explained his country’s desire to diversify its economy. “Because of its geographical location, Kazakhstan had to develop [trade agreements] with its neighbours,” he said. The goal is to expand those.

    The country’s biggest challenge is to improve its transportation system, noted Shkolnik. “We have developed a special programme for the transportation sector – not only internal transportation but also international,” he said. Port development and the creation of logistical centres are two priorities, he added.

    Kanat Bozumbayev

    , Chairman, Management Board, Samruk - Kazakhstan Holding for Management of States Assets, Kazakhstan, recalled that Samruk was founded in 2006 as the holding company for state assets, including its majority-owned companies. Subsidiaries are concentrated in the oil and gas, power, transportation and industrial sectors. He added that Kazakhstan is open to foreign direct investment in these areas and in defence. “We are analysing a number of projects in all sectors of the economy,” he said. “We have experience working with famous companies from Russia.”

    Esam Janahi

    , Chairman, Gulf Finance House, Bahrain, and Young Global Leader, outlined the US$ 10 billion deal his investment bank signed with Kazakhstan to develop the Caspian Energy Hub, a commercial and technical centre for the oil and gas industry designed to attract companies from Kazakhstan and the rest of the region. “It is an attractive place for oil and gas companies from the Caspian region to put their headquarters,” he said.

    Human resource development represents a major aspect of the endeavour, said Janahi. “Part of the strategy of the government is to focus on human resources,” he said. “That fits with the vision of Kazakhstan.” Later, in response to a question from the floor, Tazhin added: “Sometimes we talk about human resources in a general sense, but we should understand that the Soviet educational system gave us 100% literacy.”




  • Esam Janahi Esam Janahi
    Board Member, Vision 3, United Arab Emirates

    Esam Janahi is Chairman of Gulf Finance House Investment Bank (GFH). Previously, he was Chief Execut...