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News


06/15/09

News Bulletin No 20


POLITICS

•    Brazilian President to pay working visit to Kazakhstan
•    Chinese parliamentary delegation visits Kazakhstan


ECONOMY

•    IMF chief visits Kazakhstan for talks on downturn
•    Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan plan joint WTO bid
•    Four Islamic banks may open in Kazakhstan-Central Bank
•    ConocoPhillips inks deal to explore offshore Kazakhstan block
•    Kazatomprom Says Deal With Uranium One ‘Inalterable’


OTHER NEWS

•    Domingo to perform concert in Kazakhstan
•    Kokpar: Kazakhstan's Spring Games
 

Category: General
Posted by: admin

POLITICS

Brazilian President to pay working visit to Kazakhstan

Kazinform

President of the Federative Republic of Brazil Luis Inacio Lula da Silva is expected to pay an official visit to Kazakhstan this Wednesday, Official Representative for the Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs Yerzhan Ashikbayev said today during briefing; Kazinform reports.

“The issues of bilateral relations, prospects of the development of cooperation in different spheres as well as progress of joint commissions following the visit of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev to Brazil in 2007 are expected to be discussed during the meeting”, - Yerzhan Ashikbayev said. According to him, the parties plan to discuss the issues on strengthening cooperation in agriculture, mining industry and energy.

“This is the first visit of the Brazilian President to the Central Asia which shows interest and readiness of Brazil to develop all-round relations with Kazakhstan”, - he emphasized.



Chinese parliamentary delegation visits Kazakhstan

Xinhua

A Chinese parliamentary delegation visited Kazakhstan from June 9 to June 12 at the invitation of the Kazakh parliament.

The Chinese delegation was headed by Zhang Bailin, deputy director of the law committee of the Chinese National People's Congress. During the visit, the delegation met separately with Kopeev Muhambet, deputy chairman of the Kazakh Senate, and Zhanybek Karibzhanov, deputy chairman of Mazhlis, Lower House.

Both sides spoke highly of the recent achievements in the development of the bilateral relations and exchanged views on further cooperation between legislatures of the two countries.

 The two sides agreed that both parliaments and their expert committees would keep close contacts and cooperation so as to boost the development of the China-Kazakhstan strategic partnership.




ECONOMY

IMF chief visits Kazakhstan for talks on downturn

Reuters

The head of the International Monetary Fund arrived in Kazakhstan on Monday to discuss how Central Asia's biggest economy can combat the global downturn and to offer the agency's support.

Kazakhstan's oil-dominated economy and highly leveraged banking sector have been hit hard by the world economic crisis and the government is worried that falling living standards could trigger social instability in the former Soviet nation.

The World Bank had earlier suggested Kazakhstan should consider a precautionary stand-by deal with the IMF to ensure additional money is available in an emergency but Kazakhstan says it has enough state cash to fight the crisis.

IMF Managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn arrived in the capital Astana, a city built from scratch at the height of an oil boom earlier this decade, as part of a broader tour of Central Asia -- a vast Muslim region wedged between Afghanistan, Iran, Russia and China.

On his first trip to Kazakhstan, Strauss-Kahn will hold face-to-face talks with officials to discuss further anti-crisis steps and examine first hand if Kazakhstan needs external help.

"He will also underline the IMF's commitment to supporting them (Central Asian nations)," the IMF said in a statement ahead of the visit.

The economy has expanded 10 percent on average since the start of the decade in a boom driven by its oil exports and cheap borrowing, transforming the country into a booming consumer society.

But Kazakhstan is now on the brink of its worst recession in about 10 years, with gross domestic product shrinking by 2 percent in the first quarter.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development expects the economy to shrink by 2 percent in 2009 but the government is more optimistic and expects at least 1 percent growth.

Kazakhstan, ruled by President Nursultan Nazarbayev for 20 years, has persistently rejected suggestions of external help, saying it has enough foreign reserves and free cash in its oil fund to reinvigorate its slowing economy.

The downturn has already forced Kazakhstan to earmark $25 billion -- roughly a quarter of GDP -- to fight the crisis.



Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan plan joint WTO bid

Reuters

Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan will launch joint negotiations for World Trade Organisation (WTO) membership, abandoning separate accession talks, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday.

Russia, the largest country outside the 153-member trade body, had been pushing for membership for well over a decade and the European Union's trade chief said last week the negotiations could finally be completed by the end of this year.

Kazakhstan started WTO talks in 1996 but has continuously put off the accession deadline.

Negotiations will now be started afresh, on the basis of a new customs zone between the three former Soviet states, their leaders said in a joint statement read out by Putin.

The leaders agreed 'to inform WTO about the intention to start WTO accession talks for the customs union of Kazakhstan, Belarus and Russia as a single customs zone'.

The joint customs zone will be created from Jan. 1, 2010, the statement said.



Four Islamic banks may open in Kazakhstan-cbank

Reuters

Kazakhstan expects three or four Islamic banks to set up operations in the former Soviet republic this year, central bank head Grigory Marchenko said on Friday.

The mainly Muslim nation passed legislation in February allowing Islamic banking -- which operates under the principles of Islamic law.

"All the necessary documents have been adopted by the FSA (Kazakh financial supervisory authority) in Kazakhstan and on the side of accounting, all the documents have been adopted by the central bank," Marchenko said.

"Overall we are expecting that maybe three or four Islamic banking licences will be extended in the next 12 months," he told a foreign investment forum attended by EBRD President Thomas Mirow.

Qatar Islamic Bank QISB.QA and Bahrain-based Islamic lender Ithmaar Bank ITHMR.BH have already expressed interest in entering the Kazakh market, citing social stability, skilled workforce and good economic fundamentals.

Marchenko said traditional and Islamic banking would be separated by law.

"An existing Kazakh bank can establish an Islamic subsidiary. But the law does not anticipate operation through a separate part in an existing non-Islamic bank. ... Traditional banking and Islamic banking should be kept separate," he said.

Kazakhstan's banking sector, which borrowed extensively abroad to finance growth, has been hit hard by the global credit crunch, and market players have been looking for ways to diversify investment and lending in the industry.



ConocoPhillips inks deal to explore offshore Kazakhstan block

Houston Business Journal

ConocoPhillips has signed an agreement with JSC National Co. KazMunayGas and Mubadala Development Co. PJSC to jointly explore and develop the Nursultan block offshore Kazakhstan.

The Houston energy giant will share a 49 percent interest in the contract with Mubadala, while KazMunayGas will hold the majority interest.

The project will be operated by Kazakh LLP, which will be jointly owned by ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) and the other companies.

The Nursultan block is located in the Caspian Sea about 18 miles from Aktu, Kazakhstan. The block covers about 5,000 square miles and, according to government estimates, is considered highly prospective for both oil and gas.



Kazatomprom Says Deal With Uranium One ‘Inalterable’

Bloomberg

Kazatomprom, the Kazakh state nuclear company whose former president is accused on embezzlement, said agreements with foreign investors including Toronto-based Uranium One Inc. are “inalterable.”

Kazatomprom officials met in the last two weeks with counterparts from companies including Uranium One, Japan’s Marubeni Corp. and Sumitomo Corp., France’s Areva SA, and China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group, Almaty-based Kazatomprom said in an e-mailed statement today.

The Kazakh National Security Committee last month accused former Kazatomprom President Mukhtar Dzhakishev of embezzling state shares of uranium deposits. Dzhakishev sold assets subsequently acquired by Uranium One. Shares of Uranium One fell the most in almost nine years after Dzhakishev’s arrest.

Under Dzhakishev, Kazatomprom planned to make Kazakhstan the world’s largest uranium producer. It bought 10 percent of Westinghouse Electric Co., the nuclear-reactor builder controlled by Toshiba Corp., as Dzhakishev sought to move Kazatomprom into generation and power-plant construction.

“Kazatomprom intends to increase its development pace as it understands its own responsibility to satisfy the growing demand for uranium,” Vladimir Shkolnik, the company’s president, said in today’s statement. Kazatomprom will talk about future cooperation with Canada’s Cameco Corp., Japan’s Toshiba Corp. and U.S.’s Westinghouse Electric Co. in “the nearest future,” the company said.

Kazakhstan has 15 percent of the world’s reserves of the metal, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Uranium One gained 1.15 rand, or 5.8 percent, to 20.95 rand ($2.62) as of 9:18 a.m. in Johannesburg trading.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nariman Gizitdinov in Almaty, Kazakhstan at ngizitdinov@bloomberg.net



OTHER NEWS

Domingo to perform concert in Kazakhstan

United Press International

Famed Spanish tenor Placido Domingo has agreed to give his first concert in Central Asia in Astana, Kazakhstan, organizers said.

Press-service of Astana akimat said the show is set for July 5 at the Palace of Independence. The concert is to kick off festivities celebrating Astana's 11th anniversary as the country's capital.

"Domingo's visit to Kazakhstan confirms my country's rich musical heritage and high appreciation of arts and culture," Erlan Idrissov, Kazakhstan's ambassador to the United States, said in a statement issued Friday. "His performance is one more milestone in Kazakhstan's remarkable transformation from Soviet times to independence, and it shows leadership of Kazakhstan in the region."

The famed tenor is to perform with soprano Virginia Tola, conductor Eugene Kohn and the Astana State Philharmonic Orchestra.

"It is a great honor for me to perform in Astana during the national holiday -- it's the perfect setting to make my Central Asia debut," Domingo said.



Kokpar: Kazakhstan's Spring Games

By Micah Lemons, Examiner.com

The following post was taken from an email I wrote while teaching English as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kazakhstan from 2006-08.

We just had our two-week spring break, which saw me traveling back and forth in southern and eastern parts Kazakhstan. The holidays started on the 21st of March and lasted until the first of April. It's called Nauryz in Kazak and it is their New Years festival.  Counting the minimally observed Chinese New Years, Nauryz was the fourth New Years celebration that I've seen in Kazakhstan.  They celebrate January 1st, then two weeks later for the old USSR New Years, then the Chinese New Year, and then finally Nauryz.

Since southern Kazakhstan has a more distinct Kazak culture than the northern part, most of the volunteers came down to my area to observe the festivities.  The players line up for the beginning of Kokpar, played for Nauryz in southern KazakhstanOn the 22nd of March, we went to the outdoor stadium in Shymkent and watched their traditional game of Kokpar, which is like polo played with a goat carcass. There are two teams that try to throw the goat carcass into the goal while riding on horses.  Thankfully, they soak the carcass in some solution that makes the skin very tough so that it doesn't break open during the game.

We watched two games and each time the carcass would be repeated trampled and stretched in every imaginable way as the two teams struggled for control.  The most incredible aspect of Kokpar is the way that the players get a hold of the carcass.  First, the carcass is deposited in the middle of the field by the referee.  Then both teams race from the sidelines to the middle where they create what looks like a rugby scrum.  Horses ram each other as they try to jockey for a better position.  In this crazy jumble of horse and man, one brave rider will reach all the way down from his horse to the ground and pick up the carcass with his bare hand.  Watching this happen is breathtaking.  Often another horse will be simultaneously colliding with his horse and the probability of getting hurt seems bordering on one hundred percent.

Players jockey for position around the goat carcass in the game of KokparOnce the rider has the carcass in hand, he slides it under his leg (usually his right since most riders are right handed).  Then, he merely has to avoid the other horses en route to the basket.  His teammates ride alongside and fend off would-be goat-carcass-robbers.  Amazingly enough, the origin of this game is remarkably clear, unlike our own modern sports of football, basketball or soccer.  Why would anybody need to put the ball through the hoop?  I have no idea.  However, Kokpar clearly demonstrates that you need to protect your food from other hunters.