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09/15/08

News Bulletin No 25


POLITICS
Kazakhstan – the anchor of stability in the region: former German Chancellor
Kazakhstan remains key partner in Central Asia – NATO Deputy Secretary General
Kazakhstan to implement bar-code system for public services
CSTO summit disappoints Moscow, unites Central Asia

ECONOMY
Kazakhstan Aims to Boost UAE Trade Ties
Kazakhstan: Banking Overview
Kazakhstan Food and Drink Report Q3 2008

OTHER NEWS
Kazakhstan buys BBC Dibley show
Kazakhstan Director's Film to Open 13th PIFF in Busan
 

Category: General
Posted by: admin

 
Kazakhstan
News Bulletin
Released by the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the United States of America


No 25 September 15, 2008

POLITICS

• Kazakhstan – the anchor of stability in the region: former German Chancellor
• Kazakhstan remains key partner in Central Asia – NATO Deputy Secretary General
• Kazakhstan to implement bar-code system for public services
• CSTO summit disappoints Moscow, unites Central Asia

ECONOMY

• Kazakhstan Aims to Boost UAE Trade Ties
• Kazakhstan: Banking Overview
• Kazakhstan Food and Drink Report Q3 2008

OTHER NEWS

• Kazakhstan buys BBC Dibley show
• Kazakhstan Director's Film to Open 13th PIFF in Busan
 

POLITICS

Kazakhstan – the anchor of stability in the region: former German Chancellor

Kazinform

Kazakhstan’s role in the globalization process is of vital importance for the whole world, it becomes one of the most important economic and political countries. Ex-Chancellor of Germany Gerhard Schroeder made it public at the Central Asia. Investment opportunities. A New Silk Road conference in Almaty on Sept 9.

Kazakhstan has already become the anchor of stability in the Central Asian region, Schroeder said. “Kazakhstan and Germany have built good international relationship. Both countries have similar positions. Bilateral economic relations have demonstrated dynamic paces of development. Last year the volume of bilateral trade with Kazakhstan hit EUR 5.6 bln; about 600 joint enterprises work in Kazakhstan and Germany. We should bend every effort to strengthen such cooperation”, he said.

“In 2010 Kazakhstan will chair the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. This is a very important step and I fully support it. This decision allows Kazakhstan to rise to a brand new level of international recognition. New programs being implemented in Kazakhstan are laying its road to Europe. President Nursultan Nazarbayev highlights that Kazakhstan has a great strategic interest in close political and economic ties with Europe. This concerns political life, civil society, economy and, of course, energy sector”, the ex-Chancellor stressed.

 

Kazakhstan remains key partner in Central Asia – NATO Deputy Secretary General

Interfax-Kazakhstan

NATO looks forward to the next NATO+Kazakhstan meeting within Individual Partnership Action Plan on October 15 in Brussels, NATO Deputy Secretary General, Claudio Bisogniero said on his visit to Astana.

Bisogniero reportedly told Kazakhstan Defense Minister Daniyal Akhmetov in Astana on Thursday that NATO has a number of important cooperation aspects to discuss including Kazakhstan’s defense reform and cooperation in Afghanistan.

Bisogniero stressed that Kazakhstan remains NATO’s key partner in Central Asian region. NATO, he said, hails the progress and achievements made within the Individual Partnership Action Plan with Kazakhstan.

Akhmetov said the meeting in Brussels was of high importance and confirmed his attendance.

“I am glad to see a positive dynamic and quite intensive development of our relations. Expanding collaboration with the Alliance, European Union and the USA is the priority of Kazakhstan’s foreign policy,” the minister said. Kazakhstan also welcomes NATO’s decision to hold Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council Security Forum in Kazakhstan, he added.


Kazakhstan to implement bar-code system for public services

Bernama

By the end of this year, a bar-code system is set to be implemented in all public service centres throughout the Republic, Kazakhstan’s news agency (Khabar) reported today.

The code will be attached to every document coming into service centres and clients will receive a receipt with the matching code. When scanned at one of the terminals in the centre, people can see how their inquiry is moving along and when their document will be registered.

According to senior officials from the Ministry for Justice, the introduction of this new technology will enable a more rapid response and improved quality control of state services.

The new technology is now being used in a pilot site: one of Astana’s public service centres. Before the end of this year, the bar-code system is set to be implemented in all 260 public service centres around the country.

Kazakhstan’s Justice Ministry said: “When handing in documents at a Public Service Centre, people need to provide officials with their contact information and when their documents are ready they will be informed about it via SMS, telephone or e-mail saying your documents are ready, please come and take them.”


CSTO summit disappoints Moscow, unites Central Asia

Eurasia Daily Monitor

At the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) summit in Moscow on September 5, Central Asian leaders once again avoided supporting Russia's recognition of South Ossetian and Abkhaz independence. As at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit on August 28, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin were stripped of much of their anticipated support from the Central Asian member states. Largely thanks to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who showed his reluctance to take a pro-Kremlin position as the war in South Ossetia broke out between Russian and Georgian troops a month ago, his regional neighbors were careful about words of support for Russia.

Although the CSTO member states signed a formal declaration approving Russia's military campaign in Georgia, it did not mention recognition of the independence of Georgia's secessionist territories. Nevertheless, the CSTO meeting was concluded with general remarks that its member states condemned the Georgian government's aggression and approved Russia's peacekeeping efforts (www.lenta.ru, September 5). The declaration further called on NATO to abstain from Eastern expansion and installment of new air defense systems.

That Moscow hoped for a more approving response from CSTO members was obvious from a preceding offer to Uzbekistan to double gas prices (up to $307 per square meters from the current $160) and a promise to help Armenia build a railroad (www.CA-news.kg, www.Politcom.ru, September 3). Originally, the summit was planned in Bishkek, the current chair of CIS, but it was rescheduled to Moscow at Russia's insistence.

The summit once again demonstrated that Russia uses the CSTO selectively; while sending its troops to Georgia without consulting with its member states, it expected their approval after the fact.

Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and, to a lesser extent, Uzbekistan's need to sustain a diplomatic balance between China and Russia is another important factor in refusing to support Russia. An attempt to expose pro-Western attitudes is not the most imperative reason in this game, one analyst in Dushanbe thinks, it is rather Beijing's firm, yet subtle, refusal to back any secessionist moods in Central Asia (interview with Jamestown, September 6). By overlooking recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Central Asian states were not leaning toward the West but rather were escaping Moscow's pressure, the analyst concludes.

As the conflict broke out between Russia and Georgia, many experts were cautious about the reaction of the Central Asian states, especially about whether Kazakhstan in particular would distance itself from the West should Moscow prevail in the war. Similar worries now persist with regard to the upcoming CIS summit in Bishkek on November 10. Medvedev will visit Bishkek in October 8 to discuss economic and trade issues, as well as the status of Kyrgyz labor migrants in Russia; Bakiyev will visit Belarus a few days later. Medvedev is expected to offer Kyrgyzstan assistance in managing the aggravating crisis in the energy sector in exchange for approving Russia's recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The issue of Georgia's exit from the CIS will be discussed at the summit in November as well.

Few political leaders in Kyrgyzstan rushed to express their support for Russia while the government remained quiet, and Bakiyev has shown at both the CSTO and SCO summits that Kazakhstan is of a far greater importance to him. Kyrgyzstan will depend vitally on Kazakhstan's supplies of natural gas and electricity this coming winter. On September 10 Kyrgyz Prime Minister Igor Chudinov announced that Kyrgyzstan would be able to escape a winter crisis if the government closed a contract with Kazakhstan on electricity supplies. Though these supplies will be at higher rates than before, Bakiyev needs to prevent escalation of tension among local public that has not seen an electricity crisis such as this since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Tajikistan, in turn, received urgently needed humanitarian aid from Kazakhstan last winter as well. As an organization, the CSTO failed to support Tajikistan during its winter crisis in 2007-2008, despite its recently created division dealing with emergencies and natural disasters.

Both the SCO and CSTO summits, as well as Nazarbayev's proven regional leadership, set a new trend within Central Asia. For the past few years Kazakhstan was mooted to be an emerging regional leader on a potentially equal footing with China and Russia. The summits have shown this in practice, setting expectations for a further increase of Nazarbayev's regional influence.

 

ECONOMY

Kazakhstan Aims to Boost UAE Trade Ties

Khaleej Times

The United Arab Emirates is poised to become the greatest beneficiary among Gulf states from the booming economy of Kazakhstan, the natural resource rich Central Asian country.

In an exclusive interview with the Khaleej Times, Prime Minister Karim Massimov said his country was keen to increase economic cooperation with all Gulf states, but noted that Kazakhstan was especially close to the UAE: “We want to work with all states in the Gulf region, but we have very good relations with the UAE.”

Kazakhstan, the world’s ninth-biggest country by land size but with a population of only 15 million, has vast reserves of a broad range of natural resources, from oil and natural gas to gold, iron ore, coal, copper, zinc and uranium.

Massimov, who can speak in Arabic and who has forged close relations with many of the UAE’s leading families, believes that the rapid expansion of the Kazakh economy over recent years has helped to create a better understanding between his country and Gulf states: “Ten years ago it was not as easy to understand each other because we were on such a different economic level.”

Speaking from his office in the centre of Kazakhstan’s futuristic capital, Astana, set on the sprawling Central Asian steppe, Massimov said the close ties and personal friendships that have developed between President Nursaltan Nazarbayev and the UAE’s ruling families as well as other Gulf leaders have been a critical factor in fostering greater understanding between the UAE and Kazakhstan. He said Kazakhstan intends to build on those relationships to attract greater flows of direct investment from the UAE and other Gulf states to his country.

UAE investors are already active in the country, with Alnair Capital Holding — a private equity fund backed by Abu Dhabi’s royal family — having taken a stake in Kazkommerce Bank, one of the country’s leading financial services institutions.

Kingdom Holdings is also planning two luxury Four Seasons hotels in Almaty, the country’s commercial capital, and Astana.

Massimov said many Kazakh companies have also expressed a “huge interest” in becoming involved in Gulf tourism, but that the credit crunch which hit the country last year as a result of the global financial meltdown would probably delay such projects in the short term: “I don’t expect to see anything in this area this year, but probably in two or three years.”

Dubai in particular is becoming a favourite tourist destination for a growing number of Kazakhs, who have become increasingly affluent in recent years on the back of double digit growth rates.

Average gross domestic product growth (GDP) rates are expected to slip to around seven per cent over the next few years, according to Massimov, as the country’s banking and property sectors restructure and recover from the credit crunch.

But with such a broad range of highly prized commodities, he expects steady economic growth even if the world’s commodity price boom cools.

Perhaps not surprisingly, many potential UAE investors have expressed a desire to acquire assets in the oil and gas sector, which has attracted as much as 90 per cent of the total foreign direct investment into Kazakhstan in recent years. But Massimov believes his government has to encourage Gulf investors to broaden their interests. “We can’t rely solely on oil and gas, because eventually we would be a dead country.”

When asked which sectors other than oil might interest Gulf investors, he mentioned tourism, real estate and construction. He also noted that UAE investors have also expressed an interest in agriculture, given the present concerns over spiralling food prices and worries over future food security.

Although it is mainly known for its extractive industries, Kazakhstan is also a major wheat exporter, and has vast tracts of unused or under-utilized farm land that if developed, could help ease any future shortages.

But he accepted that the oil and gas sector would continue to attract the most interest in the short term: “We would obviously prefer more investment in the non-oil sector, especially in emerging high-tech industries that are a long-term priority for the government, but that is probably not possible at the moment.”

Massimov said Kazakhstan had made some direct efforts to attract the interest of the Gulf’s rapidly expanding sovereign wealth funds and private equity firms: “I realise that at present such institutions, which obviously have huge amounts of cash, still prefer investments in the developed world. But I personally believe Kazakhstan can attract their interest.”

He noted that Kazakhstan would prefer to deal directly with such funds, but has realised that a different approach is needed. The country has been working with some of the world’s leading investment banks to develop and structure potential deals and projects which can then be offered to the funds: “We have invited the big banks to structure deals which can then be offered to the funds. We now know that we have to go through an intermediary, otherwise it doesn’t work.”

Investment to upgrade and expand the country’s infrastructure is also a priority, and the government has developed a new public-private partnership policy that could possibly appeal to leading Gulf investors: “Verbally, when I talk to various royal families, they express an interest, but it will take time.”

Massimov is also looking to the UAE to help solve a growing bottleneck in the Kazakh economy.

With only 15 million people and rapidly expanding natural resource sector as well as a burgeoning service sector in the main urban centres, both foreign and domestic companies are being increasingly constrained by a severe shortage of skilled people.

“In order to maintain average annual growth rates of seven per cent, we need an additional 250,000 workers each year. We are looking at the experience of the UAE and Singapore to help us develop a new draft law governing how we deal with this skills shortage. We don’t have a solution yet and as a politician I understand that normally this would not be well accepted by many Kazakhs, but we have to do it.”

Massimov said he hoped to visit the UAE in the near future. In preparation for that, the UAE has sent a tutor to Astana to help him brush up on his Arabic. When asked where he found the time to incorporate daily language sessions over a 60 day period into his busy schedule, he simply laughed and replied: “Well, there are 24 hours in the day, aren’t there?”


Kazakhstan: Banking Overview

McGuireWoods Kazakhstan, by Joseph III Carter and Mukhtar Nurzhigitov

Kazakhstan's commercial banking sector has grown dramatically in recent years. While the sector, like that in many other countries, is currently stressed as a result of the credit and liquidity crises that have rippled around the globe since the Fall of 2007, the longer term prospects of  Kazakhstan's banks remain bright primarily because of Kazakhstan's very positive economic outlook associated with its vast oil, gas and mineral resources. In addition, Kazakhstan's Government took relatively quick action in response to the crises by establishing a large program to deposit State reserve fund moneys with certain large banks to be used to support the country's real estate, construction and small and medium sized business sectors that began to experience difficulties toward the end of 2007. The Government's action appears to have helped most of the country's top banks, although international rating agencies continue to express concern about the banks' asset quality and levels of foreign borrowings. Despite near term issues connected to the crises, Kazakhstan's banking sector presents an attractive investment opportunity for foreign banks.

Kazakhstan's Banking Sector
Kazakhstan's banking sector has two tiers. The National Bank of Kazakhstan (NBK) is the central bank and represents the first tier of the sector. The NBK develops and pursues the State's monetary and credit policy, issues the national currency (the tenge), maintains the country's foreign currency and gold reserves and carries out foreign exchange control and regulation. The NBK has delegated to the Agency for Regulation and Supervision of Financial Markets and Financial Institutions (FMSA) the general authority to oversee and supervise the second tier banks, although the NBK retains authority in certain limited areas. The FMSA generally supervises and regulates, among other things, the chartering of banks, the establishment of representative offices of foreign banks, the acquisition of banks or significant interests in banks, minimum reserve and capital adequacy requirements and the level of external borrowings that may be made by banks. The FMSA also monitors the asset quality of the banks and periodically inspects their operations and, together with the NBK, continuously works toward improving the governance and transparency of Kazakhstan's banking system.  Kazakhstan is generally considered to have the strongest bank regulatory regime in the countries of the former Soviet Union.

The second tier of the Kazakhstan banking sector is made up of 35 commercial banks. Roughly half of these banks have foreign ownership. As of December 31, 2007, the four largest second tier banks, Kazkommertsbank, BTA, Halyk Bank and Alliance Bank, accounted for roughly 70% of the Kazakhstan banking market share measured by assets. These banks operate in Kazakhstan as well as certain other countries in the former Soviet Union. The next six largest second tier banks accounted for an additional 25% of the country's banking assets. The remaining 5% of the year-end 2007 banking market share was divided among a number of small banks, some of which are general commercial banks, some of which target limited market segments and some of which are the local operations of foreign banks such as Citibank, HSBC, Sberbank and China Bank. The top 10 second tier banks, particularly the top four, grew dramatically over the five year period ending December 31, 2007. Asset growth has moderated significantly for virtually all second tier banks during 2008 as they work through the credit market turmoil. Some banks have actually shrunk in asset size as they have repaid or are positioning themselves to repay foreign debts. Fallout from the credit and liquidity crises has impacted the share prices of many of the larger second tier banks over the last half year.

Recent Transactions and Developments
There have been a number of recent transactions and developments that underscore the attractiveness of the Kazakhstan banking market to foreign investors.

In 2007, two Kazakhstan banks were acquired by foreign banks. The first was Demir Bank, a relatively small bank that was acquired by a Turkish banking subsidiary of the Israeli bank, Bank Hapoalim. The second was ATF Bank, the country's fifth largest bank, which was acquired by Bank UniCredit, a large Central and Eastern European banking concern headquartered in Italy. ATF Bank's operations are now being re-branded under the UniCredit name.

In March 2008, Bank Center Credit, Kazakhstan's sixth largest bank, entered into an agreement with Kookmin Bank, Korea's largest bank, pursuant to which Kookmin would initially acquire a 30% stake in Bank Center Credit and thereafter increase its ownership stake over time to 50.1%. The transaction, which is subject to regulatory approvals, will ultimately enhance Bank Center Credit's capital position. It is expected to be completed later this year.

In June 2008, Alnair Capital, an investment group based in the United Arab Emirates reportedly affiliated with Sheik Tahnoon bin Zayed, began to acquire a significant stake in Kazkommertsbank, Kazakhstan's largest bank as of the end of 2007. Recent reports indicate that Alnair Capital now holds a 25.15% stake in Kazkommertsbank.

In July 2008, Raiffessen International, a banking group headquartered in Austria, announced plans to open a banking subsidiary in Kazakhstan and HSBC announced an expansion of its banking operations, including opening a branch in Astana, Kazakhstan's capital city, and a planned opening of two other branches in major Kazakhstan cities by the end of 2008.

Several large banks are currently considering transactions. BTA has indicated that it might sell Temir Bank, a retail-oriented subsidiary. Alliance Bank, which has suffered more than most from the credit and liquidity crises, is reportedly seeking a substantial investor.

Credit Suisse and VTB Bank (Russia) have opened representative offices in Kazakhstan. VTB expects to convert its office into a banking subsidiary in a year or so. Recent press reports indicate that Morgan Stanley is in the process of establishing a representative office in Almaty, Kazakhstan's financial center.

Regulatory Issues
Foreign banks seeking to commence banking operations in Kazakhstan must comply with various regulatory approval processes.

Representative Offices; Subsidiary Banks. Foreign banks may generally create representative offices simply by notifying FMSA. FMSA regulatory approval will be required if the foreign bank desires to convert its representative office to a banking subsidiary or to establish a de novo banking subsidiary.

Acquisitions of Banks. Foreign banks seeking to acquire all or a significant part of a Kazakhstan bank must obtain several advance regulatory approvals:

FMSA Approval. A foreign bank seeking to acquire at least 10% of the voting shares of a Kazakhstan bank must obtain the approval of FMSA. A foreign bank seeking to acquire 25% of the voting shares of the bank in one or more transactions or otherwise obtain control of bank decisions by agreement must also obtain FMSA approval.

Agency on Competition Protection. Kazakhstan legislation provides that the consent of the Agency on Competition Protection must be obtained before a foreign bank can acquire at least 25% of the voting shares of a Kazakhstan bank in one or more transactions, obtain rights to determine the conduct of activities by a Kazakhstan bank or perform functions of its executive body, or appoint the same individual to positions in the executive bodies or boards of directors of both the acquirer and the Kazakhstan bank.

Tender Offer for Joint Stock Companies. An entity that acquires 30% or more of a Kazakhstan joint stock company in the secondary market must, within 30 days of the acquisition, publish in the mass media an offer to buy the company's shares owned by other shareholders. Shareholders may accept the offer and sell their shares within 30 days after publication of the offer.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

 

Kazakhstan Food and Drink Report Q3 2008

a new market research report on www.companiesandmarkets.com

The Kazakhstani drinks sector has been attracting considerable attention from expansion-oriented international operators, as discussed in BMI’s recently published Kazakhstan Food & Drink Report for Q308. Although Russia continues to attract the bulk of investments in the CIS’s food and drinks sector, many firms are stating to see the potential of this oil-rich economy.

Beer is the most popular alcoholic drink in Kazakhstan, with the domestic market experienced booming growth in recent years. Kazakhstan has attracted considerable attention from international brewers for it is seen as one of the CIS region´s best-performing economies due to a commendable post-independence reform effort, coupled with sound fiscal and monetary policies, which has led to enviable levels of economic growth and rising disposable incomes. Another factor has been the government’s recent acknowledgment that there is a need to diversify its economy to reduce its dependency on energy exports, which provides opportunities for investors in other industries, such as alcoholic drinks.

One such investor is Efes Breweries International (EBI) which has been making major investments in the country for years, such as the construction of a greenfield plant in Almaty in 2001, and has been reaping the benefits. In April 2008 EBI announced impressive full year results for 2007, as sales volumes grew 13.8% year-on-year (y-o-y) to 13.3mn hl in 2007. The company pointed to Kazakhstan, a key emerging market, saying that robust volume growth in both Russia and Kazakhstan are expected to help expand margins. However, EBI can expect strong competition from Carlsberg-controlled Baltic Beverages Holding (BHH) which also has a long-established presence in the market and is the leading brewery. In recent years the company has been investing heavily in the Central Asian markets, and has this year completed its first brewery in neighbouring Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent.

BHH has said that in the future markets such as Kazakhstan will become increasingly important as growth drivers, as the beer market continues to develop and mature, therefore increasing investments can be expected. Such investments will be a major factor in the strong sales growth BMI is forecasting for alcoholic drinks – 79.4% in value terms between 2007 and 2012, reaching US$1,225mn by the end of the forecast period. Per capita spending on alcoholic drinks will rise significantly by almost 77% to reach US$78.5 as disposable incomes rise, alcohol becomes more widely available, and consumers switch over to higher value drinks.

The beer market is expected to experience the strongest growth in terms of the alcoholic drinks sub-sector. Young consumers in particular are illustrating a preference for drinks with lower alcohol content, which is reflected in beer’s rising popularity at the expensive of more traditional spirits. The other major driving factor behind growth in all food and drink product categories will be the country’s economic performance. Developments in the hydrocarbons sector and sustained high commodity prices will continue to drive overall growth in the economy, along with consumer confidence and spending.

http://www.companiesandmarkets.com/Summary-Market-Report/Kazakhstan-Food-and-Drink-Report-Q3-2008-49318.asp

 

OTHER NEWS

Kazakhstan buys BBC Dibley show

BBC News

Kazakhstan has bought the rights to BBC comedy, The Vicar of Dibley, which stars comedienne Dawn French.

The series, written by Richard Curtis, is based around a female vicar living in a rural Oxfordshire village.

The award-winning BBC One comedy was first broadcast in Britain in 1994 and ran for three series, followed by several Christmas and Easter specials.

The show's executive producer Jon Plowman said the deal showed how comedy was able to "break down barriers".

'Great news'

The last outing for French's jolly, chocolate-loving, irreverent vicar was a Comic Relief special last year.

The series was sold to broadcaster Khabar Agency by BBC Worldwide, the BBC's commercial arm.

Kazakhstan is where Sacha Baron Cohen's character Borat was from.

The film, Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan, upset some people from Kazakhstan, who did not like the way they had been represented.

Mr Plowman said: "This is brilliant. I have always felt that the people of Kazakhstan were the ideal audience for the vicar.

"Seriously, this is great news and shows how comedy breaks down barriers. I hope they love it."

Monisha Shah, from BBC Worldwide, said: We're delighted that Kazakhstan viewers will see this wonderful Emmy- award-winning comedy thanks to broadcaster Khabar Agency.

"I am sure that like thousands of others around the world, they will also enjoy the charm and delights of English parish life, so beautifully crafted by Richard Curtis and Dawn French."

Guest stars in the show have included Rachel Hunter, Sean Bean, Johnny Depp, and Kylie Minogue.

 

Kazakhstan Director's Film to Open 13th PIFF in Busan

Korea Times

The 13th Pusan (Busan) International Film Festival (PIFF) will open Oct. 2 with ``The Gift to Stalin'' by Rustem Abdrashev (Kazakhstan/Russia/Israel/Poland, 2008). Asia's largest and South Korea's foremost cinema event will run for 10 days, showcasing the longest lineup ever of 315 films from 60 countries including 85 world premieres. Korean helmer Yoon Jong-chan's ``I Am Happy'' will wrap up the festival Oct. 10.

Young director Abdrashev brings a story set in 1949 Kazakhstan, where a Jewish boy survives the former Soviet Union's forced migration of ethnic minorities to Central Asia. Yoon (``Blue Swallow,'' 2005) brings yet another story about deeply pained, ``unhappy'' individuals in ``I Am Happy.''

The southern port city will turn into a cinematic playground, with 37 theaters around Haeundae Beach hosting the screenings. PIFF's feature film competition section, New Currents, features 14 works, all of which 11 are world premieres. In other sections, there will be 48 international premieres (first overseas screening after a film's domestic release) and 95 Asian premieres (first screening in the Asian region).

There are 11 sections, including the Gala Presentation featuring the latest works by maestro filmmakers and Flash Forward showing pieces by rising young directors. The competitive short film and documentary divisions have expanded to include films from other Asian countries.

PIFF also introduces Romanian cinema that swept the Cannes Festival in May in ``Romania New Wave'' as well as the latest Asian feature animations in ``Ani Asia!'' The Korean Cinema Retrospective highlights classics by Kim Ki-young and Han Hyung-mo.

The Asian Film Market will take place Oct. 3-6 in various venues around Busan to facilitate international film exchange. Programs include the pan-Asia project Pusan Promotional Plan (PPP) and the Busan International Film Commissions and Industry Showcase (BIFCOM), Asia's foremost film industry and technology showcase.

PIFF will welcome cineastes from near and far. Guests include Hong Kong filmmakers Tsui Hark and Wong Kar-wai and Italian helmer Paolo Taviani, and actors like Hyun Bin, Anna Katrina, Lee Bo-young and Haruka Ayase.


``PIFF has become Busan's most symbolic cultural asset,'' said Busan mayor and PIFF chairman Hur Nam-sik. ``I welcome everyone to the `sea of cinema,' Busan.''


News Bulletin of the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan
Contact person: Zhanbolat Ussenov
Tel.: 202-232-5488 ext 104; Fax: 202-232-5845
E-mail: zhan@kazakhembus.com