Nurali Aliyev tells of indicators achieved by the capital of Kazakhstan over the past year in the area of attracting investments, promotion of entrepreneurship, upgrading of transport system and implementation of smart-technology, as well as what will be his new scope of activity after resignation from the position of the Deputy Akim of Astana city.
Nurali Rakhatovich, as far as we know, in your former position you were mostly engaged in enhancement of Astana investment attractiveness. What results were achieved in this regard?
– In fact, attracting of investment to the capital was a priority area of my activity. Taking into account the current global economic situation, the implementation of large-scale projects with maximum attracting of investment has become a new anti-crisis solution.
To promote the interests of our capital, I have visited more than dozens of countries to conduct hundreds of negotiations. I can note that it was pleasure to do this. Astana possesses such advantages as safety, well-developed infrastructure, good natural environment and rapidly growing population. These factors have made a positive impact on the results of my trips.
As a result, for one year, KZT 772, 7 bln. were raised to the capital asset of the city, that is more than the 2014 indicator by 20% and 2013 one - by 41% . Thus, the growth of investment inflow to the capital is already an economic trend.
What particularly Astana offers to potential investors?
– The favorable conditions for conduct of business and establishment of competitive production within the territory of the “Astana- new city” Special Economic Zone with the total area of 7634, 71 ha. As recently as last year, the investments were attracted to the SEZ in the amount of KZT 402 bln.
By the way, 2015 was successful the “Astana-new city” SEZas it was conferred a title of the “Best SEZ in the Central Asia” according to the FDI Global Free Zones rating.
Astana Invest International Investment Forum was planned as one of grounds for attracting investors. Did the last year forum satisfy your expectations?
– Any potential investor greets the clearly evident demonstration of the city’s confidence and opportunities. In the last autumn, on my proposal, for the first time the Astana Invest – 2015 was conducted as a wide dialogue business platform. The participation of 500 delegates from 20 states was planned. The results have considerably exceeded expectations. More than 3500 people from 56 countries have attended the forum. The worldwide financial experts from USA, China, Europe, Asia and the Arab countries have directed their eyes to our capital. 33 memorandums were signed for an overall amount of USD 1,7 bln. Of which, as a result of my personal negotiations, were signed for the amount of USD 596,6 mln. For the first time the CNN International - largest media holding - has acted as forum media partner.
I am sure, all this is an indicator of growing investment attractiveness of Astana.
How much the capital is attractive for the Kazakhstani entrepreneurs? Isn’t any decline observed in the area of small and medium enterprise due to the global economic crisis?
– Conversely. According to the results of 2014, the share of gross value added by the small and medium enterprises to the GRP was equal to 61,8%. This is the best indicator among the regions.
The number of existing SME facilities in Astana has practically reached the level of 100 thousand, having increased by 6,4% in 2015. More than 500 new jobs were created in the sector, the number of employees has increased by 14,3%.
Astana has come out on the top in terms of credit portfolio value within the framework of the “Road map – 2020” program. 12 thousand entrepreneurs have obtained a state support.
The various opportunities are provided to small and medium enterprises. Thus, about 1000 sales areas were designated as retail business facilities.
As part of support of local production development, for the first time the Domestic Products Sales Center was launched in Kazakhstan. Serving as a Deputy Akim of Astana, I have signed 10 memorandums with national companies for an overall amount of KZT 102,1 bln.
When summarizing the progress for business support in the Republic, Timur Kulibayev, the Chairman of Presidium of the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs “Atameken” RP has highly appreciated the enabling environment created in Astana for business development. He noted that the best practices accumulated in the capital will be employed across the entire Republic.
The upgrading of transport system is underway in the city. What is its essence and to which extent it is necessary at the present day?
– The worldwide interest to Astana is growing year by year. The infrastructure creates the first impression from the city. And the transport and traffic network are its circulatory system.
Right after my assignment, in cooperation with foreign public transport specialists we conducted qualitative research of the capital’s transport system. The research revealed that the current condition of road infrastructure doesn’t meet international standards. As a result of in-depth examination of the transport system, we became aware of substantial hidden economy, poor service, low traffic capacity, lack of rolling stock, shortage and depreciation of public transport and, finally, lack of a unified management system and clear development strategy.
Under my leadership, a Transport Network Modernization Program for the years 2015-2019 was drawn up, which is designed to develop public transport and transport planning spheres. Implementation of the Program will increase transparency of financial flows and quality of services, improve infrastructure, and will enable introduction of innovative projects.
Last year was the year of “high-powered work” for the sphere of public transport of the capital. First, bus fleets were considerably reequipped: more than 350 buses of new generation were added, suburban and express routes were introduced. Personnel were additionally trained. Secondly, Bus Lanes were added on six roads. As a result, the waiting intervals were reduced. Taking into account the climatic conditions, 27 closed bus stops were installed. Thirdly, as a part of Wi-Fi bus program almost all buses were equipped with free access to wireless internet for mobility and comfort of citizens.
What caused the construction of LRT in the city?
– We faced the task of creation of modern passenger traffic linear system which would make a minimum impact on the urban road network. Having examined the global experience, we came to the conclusion that LRT would become a perfect solution for the capital. This is a Light Rapid Transit system, the route of which lies through the high-line track above the ground, therefore the load on the traditional traffic system is almost eliminated. Besides, the LRT will ensure the safety, mobility and comfort of passenger traffic, and essentially reduce the travel time.
The first line will connect such key objects, as the International Airport of Astana, “EXPO” specialized exhibition, “Abu-Dhabi Plaza” multi-functional complex and new railway station.
The project is implemented in partnership with Beijing State-Owned Assets Management Co. consortium and Ltd/China Railway International Group, which have introduced the Light Rapid Transit system in 25 cities of China and other metropolitan cities. It is executed at the expense of long-term financing from China State Development Bank for the 20-year period with 2,5% annual interest rate.
And where do things stand in terms of another global trend – development and adoption of smart technologies in Astana?
- For about ten years, I have been trying to keep an eye on recent trends and news in IT and smart technologies. I’ve deepened my knowledge in practice during the work in “Transtelecom” JSC. This is one of the largest communication service providers in Kazakhstan.
Initially, “TransTelecom” provided telecommunication services for railway enterprises. But such narrow focus would not have led the company to the top of business. Therefore, after studying the global IT market, we decided to expand the range of services. In addition to classical telecommunications, we started to implement infrastructural IT-projects and provide consulting services on implementation of smart technologies in the regions.
That is why, not surprisingly, when I was Deputy Mayor (Akim), I paid special attention to the activities of Astana Innovations JSC - one of the subordinate enterprises of Akimat. In our capital we develop smart technologies based on the study of international experience. We attract the globally leading companies in this field to creation of smart services. We investigated technologies used in “smart” cities like Barcelona, Toronto, Paris, Shanghai, Nice, Riga and others taking into account their climate, living standards of people, and technological capabilities. At present, Astana Innovations JSC implements projects: “Smart Astana”, improves the project “Safe City” and supports other innovative projects through the allocation of state grants. Thus, only due to start-ups, 14 patents were received for innovations with the brand “Made in Kazakhstan”, and more than 50 jobs were created.
A special feature of “Smart Astana” is the implementation of projects with 100% involvement of investors. The partners are the world's major holding companies. In 2015, KZT 3 billion have been invested in the implementation against KZT 360 million a year earlier. “Smart Astana” mobile application is launched to integrate all the smart services. Already about 50 thousand users have installed the Beta-version. I believe, this is only the beginning and soon, almost every resident and guest of the capital will use the application.
Can you provide a specific example of practical implementation of new technologies?
– For example, starting from the beginning of this year, on the basis of “Service 051” State Department, Intelligent Contact Center of Astana has been launched. It receives applications not only in the old-fashioned way - through a free call to “109” number, but also through the Smart Astana web-portal and mobile application, as well as through the “Astana 109”web-pages in Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. For the first two months of 2016, operators have processed about 90 thousand citizens’ applications against 55 thousand ones in January-February of last year. Now, the “Astana 109” web-pages in social networks serve not only as a platform for applications of the citizens, but also as an effective tool for alerting them of, say, the cancellation of classes at schools, closure of routs and much more. Gradually, the range of information will expand.
What is about the tourism industry, the need to develop of which is discussed so much, including with regard to the capital?
– Further to study of the international experience, for the first time in Kazakhstan, on my initiative, “Astana Convention Bureau” was established. Navigation and information system was organized for the convenience of guests to the capital. In particular, tourist information kiosks have been opened in the international airport and main railway station, pedestrian navigation indicators have been installed, new programs of bus and walking tours along the boulevard with an audio guide have been elaborated, furthermore, we plan to introduce a single ticket system. These projects are based on the trinity of languages policy.
In addition, this year, a special website with 3D-tour around the city, Astana Guide mobile application, and new tourist magazine will be launched. A regular guided tour will start to operate on the “Hop-on/Hop-off” system - we acquired three double-decker buses at the expense of investors.
The appropriate step we take to further develop the hotel complex. In Astana, 73.2% of hotels are not ranked by category. Level of their services is still poor. Therefore, the “Astana Convention Bureau” has developed a new methodology for ranking of hotels based on the existing rules and international experience.
Last year, the “Recommended by EXPO-2017” program was launched to provide the hotels and restaurants with an opportunity to get the official status of partners of the capital.
With regard to additional places for accommodation during the EXPO-2017, the negotiations are underway for the implementation of “Summer City” project, which involves the installation of tent camping with all the facilities and infrastructure. These two-room furnished homes with electricity, will be able to accommodate from 3 to 20 persons.
Colleagues from other regions noted the effectiveness of “Convention Bureau”, so we expect the opening of similar structures in other tourist centers of our country.
What are your predictions in general for the “EXPO-2017” – how much successful and useful can be this event?
– This topic is discussed a lot. I personally received many questions from users of social networks. I am convinced that “EXPO-2017” is a national project, which will give impetus to the domestic economy and the development of new technologies in our country, it will greatly enhance the level of development and credibility of Astana. I know how synergistic effect the international exhibition will bring and is already bringing. Here are a few examples.
First of all, only with urban construction materials producing enterprises a memorandum of KZT 60 billion for the construction of the “Expo” was signed. This is without taking into account cooperation with companies in the other regions of our Republic.
In order to supply the required volume of fresh and high-quality products for the “EXPO-2017”, we established the trade and economic relations with almost all the regions of Kazakhstan.
Second, such large-scale event will take place for the first time in the history of Kazakhstan. It is important to understand, that we have never received such a large number of tourists. According to the requests, the exhibition will be attended by over 5 million people, including 70% - for the regions of Kazakhstan and neighboring countries, 30% - from far abroad. This is a unique opportunity to learn how to receive tourists on a good level. I assure you that the quality of services in the services sector will rise significantly. 1600 employees of state institutions, who can directly be in contact with foreign visitors, learn English. They include health care workers, employees of law enforcement bodies, customs and border services, disaster relief and others. That is the level of training of personnel will rise.
I think that the “Expo” is another opportunity for our people to demonstrate the Kazakh hospitality to the whole world. This year we celebrate the 25th anniversary of our state’s independence. A quarter-century period is not so long. “EXPO-2017” will raise awareness of Kazakhstan and Astana throughout the world.
Third, in a difficult time, a lot of support will be provided to small and medium businesses of the city. The experience shows that in times of crisis, the major infrastructure projects, such as “Expo” greatly stimulate the economy.
I hope that after 2017, Astana will continue developing already with modern infrastructure and new operating investments.
Have you used your many years' experience in the business environment during your tenure as the state employee?
- It is undoubtedly. My economic education came very useful in the governmental service. Business thinking allowed me offering to the potential investors some things that were attractive for them and from which they could not refuse.
During the past year, many things were implemented in the spheres of industrial and innovative development, small and medium enterprises, tourism, agriculture and transport. I suppose, the tasks set to me were performed – it was laid a quality foundation for the further development of Astana in these spheres. What is the most important is that this work would continue not losing momentum.
As you have rightly mentioned, I worked in the business for many years. Entrepreneurship is congenial for me. The ability to learn and develop new business niches, to unlock the economic potential of the company, to act as a worthy competitor in the business environment - this is what I devoted myself for many years. And now, I want to continue my activity just as a businessman.