Kazakhstan landed the number one spot in a recent ranking of how attractive Central Asia’s countries are for business investors, thanks to raking in more than $24 billion in foreign direct investment (FDI) last year.
The Caspian region and Central Asian country was a top destination for some of the most active cross-border investors, including the Netherlands, the United States, Switzerland, Russia, and China, which topped the list of countries from which foreign investment flowed.
“Foreign direct investment to Kazakhstan increased 15.8 percent last year with the country having seen inflows of $24.3 billion,” said Yermek Kosherbayev, a deputy foreign minister, while addressing a press conference last Friday, according to reports by Kazinform.
As the region’s wealthiest country, Kazakhstan overtook Kyrgyzstan ($851 million), Tajikistan ($645 million) and Uzbekistan ($624 million). For Turkmenistan, also a Central Asian republic and a former part of the Soviet Union, data was not disclosed.
“Kazakhstan today is a leader in Central Asia in terms of attracting investment. Over the years of independence, more than $320 billion have been attracted to the country’s economy,” Kosherbayev said.
The Netherlands is particularly active in Kazakhstan. Oil and gas are important to the European country, as Royal Dutch Shell, Chicago Bridge & Iron Company – a large engineering, procurement and construction business – Witteveen + Bos engineering and consulting agency, and Van Oord, which specializes in dredging and land reclamation, all have investments in what is the world’s ninth largest country.
According to a recent statement issued by the foreign ministry, 27 projects worth $3.1 billion were launched in Kazakhstan last year with the help of “Kazakh Invest” – the government’s response to the call for making doing business in the country easier.
Nearly half of the projects unveiled are related to renewable energy sources and communication technologies. In addition, Kazakh Invest brought eight multinational corporations to Kazakhstan, including Linde Gr. (Germany), Farm Frites (The Netherlands), China Triumph International Engineering and United Green (the UK), among others.
Kazakhstan has long been striving to attract more international business and investment by reviewing policies for doing business in the country, with an aim to facilitate and increase FDI.
In 1997, the government drafted the bill “On State Support for Direct Investments,” which defined privileges for foreign businesses investing in priority sectors of Kazakhstan’s economy. In accordance with the legislation, entrepreneurs are provided with state grants, are exempted from payment of land tax and property tax for a period of up to five years from the date of signing the contract, and are fully or partially exempted from customs duties on imports of equipment, raw materials and materials necessary for the implementation of their project.
Meanwhile, the government in Nur-Sultan – Kazakhstan’s capital, which was renamed earlier this year from Astana – has since moved beyond where it was in 1997 with regards to FDI.
“Over the past few years, Kazakhstan has made significant progress in improving its investment regime and business environment,” reads a statement published by OECD, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, according to reports by Bloomberg.
At the same time, the U.S. State Department’s 2018 Investment Climate statement named Kazakhstan the “best investment climate in the region,” highlighting “significant progress” within creating a market economy.
Kazakh Invest, which is now operated by the foreign ministry, was a government initiative meant to ease local investment policy. Launched with a network of foreign representatives and regional branches, the platform provides a one window system where all an investor’s needs are met.
Over the past two years, specialists from Kazakh Invest have managed to ensure transparency of decision-making and reduce the administrative burden. For example, a single national interactive resource was launched, which gives comprehensive information about investing in Kazakhstan.