Saturday, December 09, 2006

What will they build next in Astana?

Kazakhstan has unveiled a new architectural project for its capital Astana - a giant transparent tent that will contain an indoor city. Like the recently completed glass pyramid, this project will also be completed under the direction of Norman Foster. See this article for more details from the BBC.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

One Small Step for Russia, Nineteen Big Steps for Kazakhstan

The World Bank and IFC recently released their annual ranking of 175 countries by the ease of doing business. Russia inched up slightly in the overall rankings, from 97th to 96th. Kazakhstan, however, made an impressive jump of 19 places up to 63rd among the reviewed countries. This places it in 3rd place among non-EU NIS countries, behind Armenia (34) and Georgia (37). Georgia's rise in the rankings in 2006 was nothing short of explosive: it leaped up 75 places in the rankings.

Relative to its peers among "BRIC" countries, Russia appears to be in pretty good shape: it is only 3 places behind China, and a decisive 25 places ahead of Brazil and 38 places ahead of India! Knowing the business climate in Russia, it's scary to think it's THAT difficult to do business in the world's largest democracy.

Technorati Profile

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Bringing in the Big Guns

Reports circulated earlier this week that President Nazarbaev offered the former head of the World Bank James Wolfenson to be a development adviser of the Regional Financial Center in Almaty (RFCA). The Kazakh government is pulling out all the stops to bring in top-name talent to jump start its ambitious plan to create a regional financial center in Almaty. This project could truly change the commercial landscape in the region if they pull it off. Or it could meet the fate of the Kazakh cluster initiative, for which Michael Porter served as an advisor, that began with a bang to boost competitiveness but seems to have fizzled out since. Now if they could only bring in Eliot Spitzer to clean up the graft and corruption...

Detail of the RFCA project:

According to Interfax-Kazakhstan, the idea of setting up a regional financial center in Almaty was first proposed in 2003. Boston Consulting Group, a U.S.-based consultancy, is working with the Kazakhstani government on the project. The RFCA is planned as special zone with a separate legal regime. Unlike existing special economic zones, the center will not have a clearly defined location. The RFCA's participants will observe the principle of the area by having an office within the city of Almaty. According to plans, foreigners arriving in Kazakhstan in order to work at the RFCA will receive an entrance visa upon their arrival at the Almaty International Airport. Visa prolongation and changing of visa status would be done by the RFCA's executive agency without the need to leave the republic. RFCA participants are expected to maintain documents and contracts in English, with decisions of the executive agency also being translated into English. Moreover, for convenience of the RFCA's participants, plans exist to establish a special court. In addition to broker-dealer organizations, included also at the RFCA will be issuers, investors and market-makers. The list of potential issuers includes large and mid-sized Kazakhstani companies, mid-sized companies from Russia, Ukraine and the Central Asian region, Kazakhstani banks, brokers of index funds and other securities, as well as foreign issuers. The RFCA is expected to draw investors from among Kazakhstani pension funds, mutual funds, insurance companies, Kazakhstani banks and companies, Russian and other regional banks, other large and mid-sized investors, foreign investors, and Muslim investors. Partial recovery of audit expenses depending on the issue volume, listing discount right down to a zero level of the listing cost during the first year of RFCA operation and exemption from RFCA registration fee are proposed as economic incentives to create favorable conditions for issuers. Tax control over RFCA participants will rest on tax reporting supported by an auditors' report. The 2006 republican budget allots over 1.5 bl tenge for RFCA creation.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Privet Mir

Welcome to Kazconnect, a blog devoted to discussions of the growing opportunities--and periodic pitfalls--on the Kazakh market. What sectors are hot; what business trends are emerging; what other global players are thinking about this market.

It is amazing how much the country has changed since the Soviet collapse, and equally amazing how little people outside of the region know of Kazakhstan and what its culture, economy, and people are like. Beyond of course what they've learned from Borat and his soon-to-be released movie “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” Oh well, as they say, "There's no such thing as bad publicity." Kazakhstan certainly is garnering a lot more of the latter thanks to Borat than their hired lobbyists in D.C. could have ever dreamed of. And if the Kazakh authorities could just learn to laugh at themselves a bit and leverage the tremendous amount of PR that Borat's outlandish and even boorish antics are providing, they could do a tremendous amount to end the stereotypes and ignorance about the "real" Kazakhstan. And terminate Patton Boggs' retainer to boot!