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High water remains in regions across Kazakhstan as some residents return home

1 hour 10 min ago

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – For the past several days, Kazakhstan has been struggling to control floods and high water in several regions. Some 2,000 homes have been flooded across the country, Kazakhstan’s minister of internal affairs informed during governmental session.

Photo credit: Today.kz

“Life-sustaining activity was disturbed in 52 populated places in the Karaganda, Akmola, North Kazakhstan, Kostanai, Pavlodar, Aktobe and East Kazakhstan regions, where 1,949 houses were flooded … A severe situation was observed in the Akmola region, where 893 houses in 26 populated places were flooded and 2,418 people were evacuated,” Minister of Internal Affairs Kalmukhanbet Kassymov said, today.kz reported.  

A second flood wave hit Aktobe, where a large body of water reached suburban villages. On April 16, an emergency situation was declared in the city due to high water. According to the Committee of Emergencies of the Kazakh Ministry of Internal Affairs, more than 500 country houses were flooded as of April 17 and 1,361 residents had to quickly pack their bags and evacuate to safety.

It was previously reported that hundreds of police and emergency staff in Aktobe were working around the clock in flood zones to safeguard public peace and the safety of residents and to prevent looting.

The Atbasar area of the Akmola region is also suffering after a protective dam built only last year collapsed, causing 269 houses to be flooded as of April 17, today.kz wrote. The region is still waiting for floodwaters to recede.     

Earlier, the anti-flood headquarters of West Kazakhstan region conducted an aerial visual inspection of flood-prone areas of the Ural River. Complete ice clearance and the filling of the floodplains of the Ural River were observed during the visual inspection, Tengrinews.kz reported.    

According to analysis conducted, minor flooding in populated places and highways happened due to a large inflow of flood and melt-water into reservoirs in the Akmola, Karaganda and Zhambyl regions, and an urgent increase of water removal became necessary. All rescue units are operating on high alert. Temporary gauging stations were installed by subdivisions of the Internal Affairs Ministry along with akimats (city administrations).

Karaganda region. Photo credit: tengrinews.kz

A local emergency situation was declared on April 17 in three areas of Karaganda region as activities of daily living were disturbed in populated places in the Bukhar Zhyrau, Karkaralinsk and Abai districts, according to the press service of Karaganda region akimat.

The press service of the Committee of Emergencies recently announced that a noticeable decrease in water level and water removing from reservoirs was observed in flooded areas of Karaganda region. The committee noted all designated water areas are under control while non-stop observation of water levels in populated places is continuing.

Two hundred and sixty seven people who were evacuated from Kyzylzhar Village of Bukhar-Zhyrau district have returned back to their homes.  

People also began to return to their homes in Kostanai region after floodwaters were gone.   

Earlier, President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev during a meeting with Kassymov tasked the government with restoring normalcy to flooded regions.
The akim (governor) of North Kazakhstan region said the cost of houses that were fully destroyed would be compensated to residents. In addition, volunteers across Kazakhstan are arranging action to collect aid for fellow countrymen who are victims of flooding. Kazakhstan’s senators have also decided to help residents by transferring a day’s earnings to flood victims.  

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Cooperation between Kazakhstan, Qatar to have international impact

1 hour 18 min ago

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

There are plenty of differences between Qatar and Kazakhstan as even the briefest glance at a map of the world will show. But despite these big contrasts in size, geography and climate, there are also many surprising similarities which go beyond a shared religion of the majority of their populations.

Both countries, for example, have for centuries been on global trade routes, which has given our peoples an outward outlook. Kazakhstan and Qatar, too, are rich in oil and gas resources, which have helped transform the prosperity of our people. Qatar has the world’s third largest reserves of natural gas and is already the biggest exporter of liquid natural gas.

But both countries are already looking towards a post-fossil fuel world. National strategies have already been put in place, backed by major investment, to help diversify our economies. This includes a priority given to investing in the education of our young people.

Our two countries have also been markedly successful in forging our own path in the world. In global terms, we may be relatively young nations but we already are seen to have distinctive voices and to be champions for dialogue and cooperation.

We have worked hard to build strong relations with our neighbours and forge alliances around the world with countries, big and small. Both nations are also seen as important members of global efforts to counter terrorism and extremism.

Given this shared outlook and values, the strong and growing friendship between the two countries is no surprise. This relationship was cemented by the visit of the Emir of Qatar to Astana in 2014 and of President Nursultan Nazarbayev to Doha in the following year, which led to a new determination to strengthen economic ties and cooperation on foreign policy.

Assessing the progress made in the last two years was high on the agenda when Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov visited Qatar on April 23. In discussions with the Emir and senior members of the government, both sides were pleased with the increased financial and commercial links between the two countries but also saw plenty of scope to deepen them in the years ahead.

Kazakhstan’s ambitious privatisation plans, for example, offer an opportunity for Qatar to increase partnerships. Islamic finance, for which the new Astana International Financial Centre will be a regional base, is clearly another area for cooperation.

With its growing interest in renewable energy and green technology, there is also expected to be considerable interest in Qatar’s contribution to EXPO 2017. It is for the same reason that the Emir was given a personal invitation from President Nazarbayev to participate in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s first summit on Science and Technology in Astana in September.

But with tensions increasing across the world, it was understandable that the talks went well beyond bilateral relations. This is particularly relevant now that Kazakhstan has the responsibility of sitting on the United Nations Security Council. The continuing tragedy of Syria – and its impact on the region and beyond – was a major topic of discussion.

Through the Astana Process, Kazakhstan is helping create conditions where dialogue continues and trust is built. There are many barriers to overcome but the goal is to make it easier, step by painful step, to find solutions. Widening participation to include countries, such as Qatar and others from the Arab world, if it can be agreed, might help remove obstacles to progress.

Even a decade ago, it is unlikely many foreign policy experts would have predicted the influence and status of Qatar and Kazakhstan today in the international community. The more this influence is used to build prosperity and promote peace and cooperation, the better for the world.

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Astana Arlans win WSB group stage, reach playoffs

Tue, 2017-04-25 02:17

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – The Astana Arlans team of Kazakhstan earned a hard-fought 3-2 win over the China Dragons in the final match of the World Series of Boxing (WSB) group stage.

Photo credit: Sports.kz

The match, contested in China, started poorly for the Arlans. Anvar Muzaparov of the 52 kg category lost to Chinese boxer Guo Zhang. Then Zakir Safiullin levelled the score. The 2015 Asian championship’s silver medallist turned out to be stronger than China’s Sen Wang.

However, the home team took the lead in the next bout. One of last season’s best boxers Aslanbek Shymbergenov failed to defeat Richabige Hurichabilige.

In the two remaining fights, Kazakh boxers showed grit and clinched a victory. First, Arman Rysbek won over Lida Wang, knocking him out in the first round. In the super heavy category, current champion of Kazakhstan Olzhas Bukayev defeated Zhibao Wang by a technical knockout in the fourth round.

Thus, with five wins from six matches, the Astana Arlans claimed first place in Group C and went through to the playoffs.

WSB is a league that sees the world’s best amateur boxers competing in teams without headgear and using the scoring system of the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA). According to the WSB website, the appearance of the league “reunited the broader boxing world and its grassroots amateur foundation by providing a bridge between Olympic Boxing and a future professional programme within the AIBA family.”

WSB is wholly owned by the AIBA. All WSB boxers are also registered with AIBA and all referees and officials working WSB matches are specifically certified for the competition. Franchises have a national identity and are formed by national federations. Teams are allowed a quota of overseas boxers: a maximum of eight in total and no more than three of the same nationality.

Teams compete in the ten AIBA standard weight categories. The regular season takes the form of a league phase, with the teams facing each other home and away in alternating weight categories. The top teams continue to the playoff stages.

Teams representing franchises across the globe compete in a league format leading to playoffs and a final. The boxers compete in five three-minute rounds and five bouts per match.

The Astana Arlans club was founded in 2010. In the very first season the club’s boxers proved themselves as one of the strongest teams in the world. The team is a two-time WSB champion. It won the third season in 2012-2013 and the fifth season in 2014 -2015.

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Kazakhstan calls for global reduction in military spending

Tue, 2017-04-25 02:01

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Kazakhstan renewed its call for a cut in global military spending on the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS) in an April 24 statement published by the country’s Foreign Ministry.

The aim of the GDAMS 10-day campaign that started April 18 is to push governments to invest money in health, education, employment and climate change rather than militaries.

The statement starts with an affirmation that the world has entered a new and troubling era, with tensions and conflicts, suspicions and competition increasing between major powers. This, in turn, is leading to a new arms race and a greater use of force to defend national interests and expand spheres of influence.

Kazakhstan, therefore, supports such international initiatives as the GDAMS, saying that they are more important than ever. Launched in 2011, its aim is to encourage countries to reduce military spending, which, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), reached $1.7 trillion in 2015.

“Since independence 25 years ago, Kazakhstan has championed the cause of peace, co-operation and disarmament. Our own devastating experiences led us to give up voluntarily the world’s fourth biggest nuclear arsenal and shut down the Semipalatinsk test site. President Nazarbayev has urged the international community to make building ‘a world without nuclear weapons the main goal of mankind in the 21st century’,” the statement reads.

In his manifesto “The World. The 21st Century,” Nazarbayev also called for measures to eliminate the use of force as a means of settling disputes. Reducing military expenditure from its present high levels would be a step towards this goal and would help ease tensions and the dangerous competition between military blocks.

Kazakhstan also believes that a reduction in military budgets could release funds to tackle hunger and extreme poverty and build a fairer, more prosperous and stable world. These are the aims of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which were agreed to by the international community in 2015.

The lessons from their predecessors – the Millennium Development Goals – underline the critical importance of extra funding to deliver transformational change. It is why at the UN General Assembly in 2015 President Nursultan Nazarbayev called for each country to divert one percent of military spending to help achieve the SDGs by their 2030 target.

“Even if this initiative does not yet enjoy the support of some governments, at the same time, there is growing awareness among the population of many states that military intervention worsens rather than solves problems,” the statement says.

Kazakhstan believes that by eliminating nuclear weapons and transferring even a small part of military budgets of all countries, the world could find significant additional resources to support sustainable development. This would, according to the statement, improve the prospects for security and peace around the world and reduce the need for military spending.

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Astana Piano Passion Festival Kicks Off

Tue, 2017-04-25 01:44

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – The fourth Astana Piano Passion Festival, an international festival of classical music and competition for young pianists, officially opened in Astana April 22. Young talents from different countries will be competing over the next few days for the right to participate in other international festivals and to win cash prizes.

The closing ceremony is to be held April 28.

“Our competition has become very popular all over the world. I am very glad that the applications were record-breaking: from 28 countries. For us, this is a big family; this is not a competition. Of course, there is a contest. But this is a festival, it has an amazing atmosphere, and I always have such anticipation. It means a lot,” said People’s Artist of Russia Denis Matsuev, who is art director of the festival and also a member of the jury, according to 24.kz.

This year, more than 140 participants applied for the competition. The competition is becoming more internationally representative, and for the first time competitors from 13 countries will perform in the semi-final round, the festival’s press service announced.

The contest aims to support young talents. The total prize fund of the competition is $60,000. Winners of special prizes from Matsuev will take part in the international festivals Crescendo and Stars at Lake Baikal, as well as in the Annecy Classic in France. Astana Piano Passion winners will give concerts with the Moscow Philharmonic, at events planned for EXPO 2017 and at next year’s Piano Passion. Traditionally, a special prize is also given for the performance of works by a Kazakh composer.

Performances are assessed by an international jury. The event is organised by the Ministry of Culture and Sports, the akimat (city administration) of Astana and the public foundation Accordi di Astana with the support of the Moscow Philharmonic Society and Matsuev himself.

This year, the battles of the young talented pianists can be witnessed in real time. The official website of the festival, astana-app.kz, is broadcasting all the competition stages live online. Organisers hope this will help ensure the transparency of the contest.

This year’s festival opened with a concert by the Astana Opera orchestra conducted by Abzal Mukhitdinov. The orchestra performed Yerkagali Rakhmadiyev’s “Kudasha-duman.” The winner from last year, Simon Karakulidi of Russia, performed Sergei Prokofiev’s concert for piano with orchestra No.1, which was conducted by Yerzhan Dautov.

Kazakh Vice-Minister of Culture and Sport Aktoty Raimkulova welcomed participants to the competition and announced that this year there will be a special prize from the ministry.

Also during the opening ceremony Rachmaninoff’s “Piano Concerto No. 3” was performed by Matsuev with the symphony orchestra of Astana Opera.

During the festival, Astana hosts auditions for semi-finalists and master classes of the best musicians and teachers.

The final performances of pianists will be held April 26 to 27. The closing ceremony on April 28 will be held at the Astana Ballet Theatre.

Winners of the highest awards of the competition will perform in the closing ceremony, which will also feature an original performance of George Gershwin’s famous “Rhapsody in Blue” by Matsuev. Musicians from Moscow Andrei Ivanov on the double bass and Alexander Zinger on the drums will improvise onstage along with the maestro.

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Kazakh, Chinese foreign ministries sign 2017-2019 cooperation agreement

Tue, 2017-04-25 01:37

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov and Chinese Foreign Minister China Wang Yi signed a cooperation agreement between their ministries for 2017-2019 during their April 21 meeting in Astana.

They discussed cooperation in politics, trade, the use of transboundary water resources and consular issues. They also stressed the importance of dialogue.

“Our meeting confirms the high level of Kazakh-Chinese cooperation. This year we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations. Over these years, cooperation between our countries has been developing in the direction of steady growth and strengthening. In many respects, this became possible due to regular contacts of the heads of our states,” Abdrakhmanov said, according to the Kazakh foreign ministry’s press release.

The ministers also discussed preparations for President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s participation in the May 14-15 One Belt One Road International Forum in Beijing and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s June 7-9 visit to Astana. Both presidents will participate in the June 8-9 Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Astana.

Wang Yi said he believes bilateral cooperation will continue and that personal friendship, regular contacts and mutual trust between the leaders of the two countries are important.

“Under the leadership of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the Kazakh people have embarked on the path of sustainable growth and sustainable development, the country is carrying out important reforms and is keeping pace with the times,” the Chinese minister said.

The ministers agreed to meet regularly to discuss Kazakh-Chinese bilateral cooperation and international affairs, including Kazakhstan’s non-permanent membership on the UN Security Council for 2017-2018. They also agreed to develop cooperation within the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA).

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EBRD updates Kazakh strategy to reflect green economy transition

Tue, 2017-04-25 01:27

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – The European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is updating its Kazakhstan strategy to highlight Kazakhstan’s Green Economy Transition as an example for other countries. Energy, resource efficiency and climate change mitigation will remain EBRD’s focus for the next four years.

“The priorities of EBRD in Kazakhstan for 2017-21 period reflect a significant increase in investments over the last three years, which have made it the second largest country of operation in 2016,” EBRD Director for Kazakhstan Agris Preimanis told The Astana Times.

“The bank plans to continue significant investments in the country in the forthcoming strategy period, as well as to continue providing support to the Government, the National Bank, the Astana International Financial Centre and other stakeholders with the implementation of the key reforms. The EBRD will continue to work hand in hand with the government and private sector in the country on the implementation of third stage of country’s modernisation, which will provide a new impetus to reform process in the country,” he noted.

“In 2016, we invested more than $1 billion in Kazakhstan, making it the second largest country of operation.  We have worked closely with the government on supporting their reform efforts in areas such as tariffs in regulated sectors, privatisation, green economy and creation of the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC). The EBRD is fully committed continuing our close collaboration,” he noted. ‎

According to Preimanis, EBRD develops new country strategies regularly, to reflect evolving priorities of the government and the lender.

“The new Kazakhstan Country Strategy is expected to be approved in July 2017 and it will run for a four-year period from 2017 until 2021,” he said.

The EBRD will be represented in force during EXPO 2017, the Ministerial Conference, Astana Economic Forum and the Foreign Investors Council, which will be co-chaired by the EBRD President, Sir Suma Chakrabarti.

Currently, the EBRD invites “the public to give its views on policies and strategies,” commenting on its website that the EBRD management reviews all public comments and advises the board of directors.

“The EBRD takes this consultation into account in shaping its assessments and decisions on policies and strategies, alongside feedback by shareholder governments, clients and other interested parties, and draft policies and strategies may be amended accordingly,” the statement quotes, adding that the deadline for comments is May 22.

In the meantime, EBRD notes “significant downside risks” for the country in its draft. Kazakhstan’s economic growth has been recovering slowly, the draft says, from 1.2 percent in 2015, compared to 4.3 percent in 2014, reasoning with the “plunge in oil prices, recession in Russia, slowdown in China and weaker domestic demand. This challenging environment continued into 2016, with the economy contracting from external pressures, the tenge dropping by more than 50 percent after the introduction of a flexible exchange rate regime, high inflation and limited liquidity. Although the situation has stabilised, with growth expected to reach 0.7 percent in 2016 and improve to 2.4 percent in 2017,” the draft quotes.

“Kazakhstan has reacted to the difficult economic environment by accelerating structural reforms and fiscal stimulus, both of which are helping to boost growth. The cornerstone of the reform programme are the government’s efforts to boost the competitiveness of the economy, attract investment and streamline the regulatory framework to promote competition and make it consistent with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) best practices,” it continues. “Notwithstanding these efforts, a number of important challenges remain. These include the need to boost private sector competitiveness and generate balanced, sustainable growth that extends beyond Kazakhstan’s hydrocarbon resources and increases the country’s resilience. Further steps are also needed to reduce the state’s still-outsized role in the economy, normalise the banking sector as a financial platform and boost regional connectivity and inclusion and adherence to environmental standards in order to create a more vibrant and competitive private sector, particularly in the non-extractive industries.”

The EBRD outlined its strategic orientations in cooperation with the Central Asian country as follows: balancing the roles of the state and private sector; broadening access to finance, strengthening the banking sector and developing local capital markets; enhancing inter-regional connectivity and international integration; promoting green economy transition.

“Overall, the bank’s experience in Kazakhstan over the existing strategy period has demonstrated the value of joint ownership of the reform agenda, with all key parties involved, and the government’s strong financial commitment. The bank will also continue its strong engagement in assisting Kazakhstan’s transition to a low-carbon economy, including in relation to its Conference of the Parties (COP21) commitments, green legislation and investments in energy efficiency and renewables. While the bank’s work in Kazakhstan to date has been a leading example of its new Green Economy Transition approach, energy and resource efficiency and climate change mitigation will continue to be a major focus of its work,” the executive summary of the draft strategy concludes.

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BI Marathon Set for May 28 in Astana’s Triathlon Park

Tue, 2017-04-25 01:16

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – The annual BI Marathon is planned for May 28 in the capital’s Triathlon Park, and 300 people have already registered for the event.

Photo credit: Facebook

“This year the location of the marathon is changing to Astana’s Triathlon Park, which the BI Group company gave to the capital [as a gift] for its 18th anniversary [in 2016]. We are confident that in the coming years, the new place will be important for physically active residents and guests of the capital city,” Gaukhar Kerimova, BI Group’s public relations director, told The Astana Times.    

The park, located in the centre of the city on the right bank of the Yessil River, is a specialised area for running, bicycle racing enthusiasts and all those who make exercise part of a healthy lifestyle.

The annual marathon is growing in popularity and this year’s event has already attracted more participants than last year. Two hundred guests and about 2,500 BI Group personnel joined last year’s run – fewer than the 300 that have so far registered for the event in May, according to the race’s website, www.bi-marathon.kz.

“We have set the limit to 3,000 people based on the experience of past marathons, but we are sure that this year will have more people interested in this event,” Kerimova said.

Terms of the marathon have not changed from last year. Runners can take part in races of a variety of distances, from 1.5 kilometres to 42.195 kilometres.

The organisers hope this year will have more team races, Kerimova noted. The event includes the Ekiden team race for six participants.

“Our marathon has a happy goal: to help children with special needs who are being treated within medical and social programmes of the BI-Zhuldyzai fund,” she explained.  

Over nearly two years, about 2,000 children have undergone rehabilitation at the fund’s medical centre, and 300 of them had surgeries done by foreign specialists whom the fund regularly brings to Astana. Thirty-one children aged four to 12 who had been confined to wheelchairs have been able to take their first steps due to treatment they received through the fund, Kerimova said.

Those who want to join but feel intimidated can take advantage of free training sessions the company offers.

“We would also like to point out the training sessions held along with company paid coaches every weekday morning and evening at three parks in Astana. Full information and registration are available at the bi-marathon.kz website. Join us and run towards victory along with us!” she said.  

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National Bank has clear vision of banking sector development, says deputy chairman

Tue, 2017-04-25 01:09

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

This year, the National Bank of Kazakhstan plans to perform an independent assessment of banks’ asset quality in the country. Verification of the real situation in this sphere will give the regulator an opportunity to effectively address banks’ challenges. National Bank of Kazakhstan Deputy Chairman Oleg Smolyakov discussed these issues in an interview.

Photo credit: Kazpravda.kz

How do you assess the quality of Kazakh banks’ loan portfolio? Officially, the non-performing loan share indicators have significantly decreased during recent years. Does this statistics reflect the real situation? Some international experts think that the potential share of non-performing loans is quite high.

The banks’ portfolio quality is one of the key aspects influencing the future of the state financial market and its participants. As of early March 2017, the non-performing loans level (over 90 days of delay in payment), in accordance with banks’ reports, accounted for 7.32 percent or 1.1 trillion tenge; that is 3.8 percent lower than the maximum level set in 2014.

Banks’ reports, prepared in accordance with the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), provide for quite a significant difference in opinions of banks’ managers and auditors referring loans to the non-performing loans category.

In 2015, major macroeconomic shocks took place and had a negative impact on the financial situation and financial solvency of bank borrowers. However, banks seek to delay recognition of losses on loans, including by means of “artificial” restructuring of loans, postponing the payment. Such loans are called “evergreen” in financial circles. As a result, loans, with no payment, are not included in the non-performing category in banks’ reports. That is why the National Bank has every reason to consider that, in general, the potential volume of non-performing loans exceeds the current level stated by banks in reports.

Thus, the real banks’ asset quality requires additional assessment because of the low quality of borrowers’ financial situations, use of non-hard collateral, for example, money and property to be received in the future, affiliated companies’ certificates of insurance, guarantees of natural persons, etc., as well as non-refundable loans of shareholders’ business and concerned persons.

This situation is not specific to Kazakhstan; many regulators face it. In order to solve it, the National Bank, like regulators in other countries, plans to perform an inclusive assessment of asset quality that is usually accompanied by stress tests. An inclusive assessment of banks’ asset quality will be conducted this year using a common methodology in order to bring the assessment to a common denominator. In order to ensure fairness and credibility to the assessment, central banks of other countries have attracted independent experts. We will apply a similar approach. The banks’ asset quality assessment will be conducted by an external consultant based on the methodology developed in line with international financial reporting standards.

Understanding the scale of potential problems will give us an opportunity to approach the process of introducing the system of structured problem resolution of failed banks widely using the instruments of recapitalisation and restructuring of healthy banks and appropriate rehabilitation of unhealthy ones.

 

Members of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission, who visited Kazakhstan this year, called on the National Bank to take quite a strong stand regarding “weak” banks. Do you share this approach or are you ready to lend a helping hand to financial institutions in trouble?

President Nursultan Nazarbayev, in his latest annual state-of-the-nation address titled “Third Modernisation of Kazakhstan: Global Competitiveness,” set a task for the National Bank to develop a package of measures for the bank sector rehabilitation within the fulfilment of the task aimed at “resetting” the financial sector. In particular, we have a task of accelerating the activities aimed at cleaning banks’ balance sheets from bad loans and, if necessary, ensuring recapitalisation of banks by their shareholders.

Following the results of the activities aimed at assessing the asset quality and stress tests, appropriate measures will be undertaken according to the identified problems. First of all, they include requirements of bank recapitalisation on the part of its shareholders to increase bank sustainability. In addition, measures will include procedures of rehabilitation and settlement of problem banks. That is why the National Bank’s actions aimed at conducting stress tests provide for the creation of legal and economic conditions for efficient rehabilitation and settlement of problem banks and safest approaches ensuring fast resolution of banks’ problems without erosion of credibility to the bank system and with minimum state expenses. Timeliness and awareness in undertaking measures to banks that are not strong enough lets the regulator significantly decrease public costs aimed at ensuring financial stability. The sooner the problem is identified, the easier it is solved and fewer social and economic losses are required.

In general, the National Bank adheres to a position in accordance with which only strong and financially stable banks can operate on the market, those that are able to meet the requirements of the regulator and conduct its activities not disrupting the financial stability of the bank system. Weak banks should leave the market.

Banks wishing to stay in the bank services market in the face of the volatile economic situation in the country and the world as well as challenges facing the banking sector of Kazakhstan should take appropriate measures – to unite or recapitalise. At the same time, the National Bank supports those banks’ initiatives that will ensure stability of the entire bank system. The chosen approach corresponds to the current international practice and received positive feedback from the IMF during recent meetings and discussions on the state of the economy and the banking sector.

 

Does it mean that we can expect new consolidation processes in the banking sector this year?

I repeat that we support the initiatives launched by individual banks to unite, which will help to increase the capitalisation of banks and improve existing business processes for customer service. At the same time, on our part we are ready to provide necessary support to banks for speedy completion of integration processes aimed at increasing the efficiency of the banking business.

 

What are the conditions under which the transaction can be concluded between Halyk Bank and Kazkom?

In accordance with legislative requirements, implementation of a potential transaction will be possible only if the rights and legitimate interests of depositors, creditors, other customers and counterparties of banks under contracts, including international obligations, are respected. In order to implement a potential transaction for the purchase of the Kazkommertsbank shares by Halyk Bank, there is a need to conduct a joint independent assessment of the Kazkom assets quality on the part of the National Bank and Halyk Bank. The quantitative parameters of the potential transaction will be determined after obtaining the results of the independent assessment. However, even now we can clearly state that the basic condition for the possible entry of Halyk Bank into the Kazkom capital is recapitalisation of the financial institution to a level sufficient to ensure its smooth operation.

 

Earlier it was said that it is planned to involve the Fund for Problem Loans into the potential transaction. What will be its role in this process?

As it is known, a significant part of the Kazkommertsbank credit portfolio (over 50percent) is represented by the liabilities of the BTA Bank. At the same time, the BTA Bank assets are assets with so-called long-term horizon of cost recovery. As a result, they do not form a sufficient level of financial flows necessary for their maintenance of Kazkommertsbank. Therefore, in order to ensure the financial stability of Kazkommertsbank, it is necessary to separate the assets of the BTA Bank from Kazkommertsbank at the first stage. The Fund for Problem Loans will serve as the operator at this stage. In the future, it is necessary to ensure involvement of these assets in the economic turnover within public-private partnership projects, including regional development programmes.

 

According to the task set by President Nazarbayev, legislative amendments are being developed in Kazakhstan aimed at introducing risk-based supervision that will allow the regulator to take preventive measures against banks that have not yet violated the norms but are pursuing a risky policy. Please, give us an example of what these anticipatory actions might be.

Yes, indeed, in his latest state-of-the-nation address, President Nazarbayev set a task to work out a package of measures to rehabilitate the banking sector, to ensure a transition from a formalised approach to risk-based supervision.

The National Bank has already started developing a package of measures to rehabilitate the banking sector, within which international principles of the regulatory and supervisory process will be implemented. In particular, it is planned to strengthen activities on prevention of crisis phenomena, without waiting for the emergence of problems and risk implementation.

At present, we have approved approaches to the introduction of risk-based supervision in accordance with the methodology adopted in the European Union. These approaches provide for the development of a new supervisory model, including the identification of methods for assessing the viability of the business model and its inherent risks, risk management systems and internal control of banks, as well as internal systems for determining capital adequacy and liquidity. Risk-based supervision provides for a complete change in the system of supervisory response measures, in particular the conceptual modification of existing limited impact measures and early response measures, grounds for applying sanctions and enforcement measures. This supervisory model will allow for gradually reducing the degree of banks’ exposure to various risks by improving their management systems.

In 2017, the National Bank plans to introduce a common methodology for assessing provisions with appropriate adjustments to the bank’s capital (reducing regulatory equity by the difference between regulatory provisions and provisions under the IFRS). In addition, approaches to the assessment of bank transactions with related parties and transactions on preferential terms will be strengthened. The issues of strengthening the responsibility of auditors and appraisers for concealing information about the deterioration of the bank’s financial situation, including the ban on carrying out activities in the financial market, will also be considered.

At the same time, at the legislative level, the mandate of the National Bank will be strengthened in terms of carrying out the forced restructuring of the bank’s capital structure and simplifying the process of uniting banks.

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New Astana railway station set to open June 1

Tue, 2017-04-25 00:59

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Astana is set to open a new railway station ahead of the EXPO 2017 international specialised exhibition, to be called Nurly Zhol. The facility will open June 1, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy press service reports.

The project is divided into two stages ensuring the integration of the Astana railway junction and the construction of a railway station complex. The former implies the development of infrastructure to provide the passage of increasing freight and passenger traffic.

“Advanced innovative technologies available in the construction industry were used at a new railway station. Thus, the railway overpass equipped with noise protection screens allowed to provide the passage of trains to the new railway station, without disturbing the existing and planned transport arteries of the city,” noted  the report.

With a capacity of more than 35,000 passengers per day, the new station will significantly relieve the load from the existing station of Astana, which welcomes up to 18,000 passengers per day.

International experts from BuroHappold, British professional services firm providing engineering consultancy, Tabanlioglu Architects, an architectural firm based in Istanbul, and a team from Germany designed and implemented technical solutions to locate the station on the concourse above the railway tracks.

“This is a kind of know-how of the modern way to build the station buildings. The ‘Station bridge’ almost everywhere have replaced the station of a ‘shore’ type due to greater efficiency, compactness and more rational use of a space,” said the report.

The new station is located closer to the Astana business centre, which will significantly reduce the burden of vehicle movement and accelerate traffic.  

To ensure the safety of passengers with limited physical abilities, the facility with an area of more than 120,000 square metres will feature tactile paths, an information board with the use of the Braille and special cash desks.

In addition to the main waiting room, there will be hotel rooms, storage rooms, mother-and-child rooms, medical offices, food courts, restaurants, indoor and outdoor parking for more than 1,500 vehicles and much more services that meet the best world standards.

“The building will be equipped with energy-saving elevators, escalators and ground heat exchangers, which pre-heat the air coming from the street in the winter and cools the air in the summer. A multi-zone air conditioning system distributes cold and heat from one external unit directly to several internal ones ensuring energy efficiency,” according to the report.

Rainwater harvesting and rainwater recycling systems have been designed for the cleaning of facades and irrigation of adjacent territories.

For the convenience of passengers, modern queue management systems, electronic ticket sales and internet access are provided.

To ensure a high level of protection against threats in emergencies, security staff will carry out a wide range of anti-terrorist activities. Facility will be equipped with passenger screening, video surveillance and access control systems. Security staff will operate inside and outside the facility to ensure 24-hour monitoring.  

The new station will provide more than 1,300 people with jobs.

General construction will be completed May 15 and during the next two weeks all tests of engineering communications, intelligent train control system as well as passenger services will be carried out.

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More than 13,000 run in Almaty international charity marathon

Tue, 2017-04-25 00:37

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – An international charity marathon took place April 23 in Almaty.

During the last several years, the event has become a landmark not only of Almaty, but of Kazakhstan as well. This large Central Asian sporting event, eagerly awaited by thousands, has become an annual holiday promoting an active lifestyle, health and charity.

More than 13,000 individuals registered and received bib numbers, while about 15,000 people in total ran through the streets of the city. Participants passed 3 km (children aged 10-14), 10 km, 21.1 km (half marathon), 42.2 (marathon), 10 km (Nordic walking) and a team relay marathon of 42 kilometres, 195 metres.

“This is one of the biggest sporting events in Central Asia. We see that every year it is gaining momentum. We not only do sports, but we also help children with the money that was raised today. More than 500,000 Almaty residents do sports today and about 1,000 sporting events are held in our city. As the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev said, ‘only a healthy nation can be competitive, so I wish everyone success and to feel a unified sports spirit,’” said Almaty Akim (Mayor) Bauyrzhan Baibek in his remarks before the start of the marathon.

Various people ran through the streets, including company managers, students, show business stars and even professional athletes, such as 2012 Olympic champion Alexander Vinokourov.

The finish line and awards ceremony took place at Central Stadium. Nikolai Grigorov and Polina Repina won the marathon and received cash prizes of 350,000 tenge (US$ 1,123). Amir Baitukanov from Ust-Kamenogorsk and Aidyn Kassen from the capital claimed second and third place, respectively, in the men’s marathon. Alyona Uvarova, of Almaty, came in second and Mariya Kireyeva, of Semey, took third in the women’s event. All participants were awarded memorable finisher medals and the winners received medals, certificates of merit and gifts from partners.

“This is the sixth time our city gathered lovers of a healthy lifestyle at the start of the Almaty Marathon, which has a significant impact on the city’s sports tourism. Every year, people are becoming more interested in mass sports events. The marathon has become one of the most anticipated annual sports and charity events. This year, the funds received from the entry fees will be sent to six specialised institutions, in which 1,500 children with serious illnesses study and receive treatment,” said marathon director Saltanat Kazybayeva.

 

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South Korea inspects its EXPO 2017 pavilion, will showcase latest energy technology

Tue, 2017-04-25 00:29

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – President and Chief Executive Officer of the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) Jaehong Kim and Astana EXPO 2017 national company Chairman Akhmetzhan Yessimov agreed to cooperate on the event during an April 19 visit to the expo site. Kim visited the site to check on construction of the Korean pavilion.

President and CEO of Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency Jaehong Kim with Astana EXPO 2017 Chairman Akhmetzhan Yessimov

“The Korean pavilion at Astana EXPO 2017 will be a memorable place for visitors and they will have an opportunity to experience the latest Korean technologies and culture with the accompaniment of the Energy Seed,” said the KOTRA president and CEO.

Astana EXPO 2017 is the first international exhibition hosted by a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) country. It will be held June 10 to Sept. 10 under the theme Future Energy. One-hundred-and-fifteen countries have confirmed their participation and are expected to showcase the latest in energy technology. Korea is expected to have one of the largest pavilions under the theme of Future Energy, Smart Life.

The main concept of the Korean pavilion follows a timeline of how one becomes an energy-efficient citizen by developing new renewable energy technology, constructed closely by the Energy Seed, the core source of all energy. South Korea will also promote Korean culture through K-Wave performances and events.
The Korean pavilion is expected to enhance relations and energy-related industry relationships with CIS countries, known for their abundant natural resources.

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Singapore sees Kazakhstan as regional transport hub, says trade minister

Tue, 2017-04-25 00:00

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ALMATY — Minister of State for Trade and Industry of Singapore Dr. Koh Poh Koon led a large business delegation to Almaty  April 19-22, as part of the Future China Advanced Leaders Programme. The delegation consisted of the State Minister for Communications and Information and Health of Singapore Chee Hong Tat, IE Singapore (International Enterprise Singapore), Singapore Economic Development Board (EDB), as well as Singaporean companies representing the agri-business, construction, education, energy, finance, manufacturing and real estate sectors.

The aim of the visit was to explore development and business prospects in Kazakhstan, one of the core countries in the Silk Road Economic Belt initiative.

One of the main highlights of the trip was the Almaty-Singapore Business Forum, which was attended by Akim (Mayor) of Almaty city Baurzhan Baibek and leading Almaty-based companies.

Participants of the forum covered investment and business opportunities in infrastructure projects, especially within the Silk Road Economic Belt. 

During the forum, State Minister for Communications and Information and Health of Singapore Chee Hong Tat stated that among all Central Asian countries, Kazakhstan is a leader in terms of economic development. According to Chee Hong Tat, Kazakhstan has a great potential to play a significant role in ensuring regional development, which provides good opportunities for investments within Eurasian Economic Union from South-East Asian economies. He stressed that Kazakhstan is an important onland hub, while Singapore is an important sea gate within the One Belt-One Road initiative, which can be efficiently utilised in joint investment projects.

Speaking at the forum, Baibek stressed that Kazakhstan is a country that has a significant transit and transport potential. Its unique geographic position opens up huge economic opportunities for the country.

In turn, Dr. Koh Poh Koon stated that Kazakhstan is of great interest for Singapore. Its unique location on the Great Silk Road makes it a gateway to Central Asia and the market of the Eurasian Economic Union. The delegation came to Almaty to understand what role Almaty will play in the future and to implement plans for cooperation, he said, adding that given its transport-logistics, railways and communication advantages, Kazakhstan is considered a “safety belt” in the New Silk Road Economic Belt. Therefore, Kazakhstan is a very important partner for Singapore and for those intending to do business in this part of the world, he noted.

Following the forum, the leadership of the Almaty Socio-Entrepreneurial Corporation (SEC) signed an agreement on premium membership in the Singapore-based Kazakhstan – Asia-Pacific Trade & Investment Chamber (KAPTIC).

 

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SCO foreign ministers lay groundwork for June summit in Astana

Sat, 2017-04-22 08:20

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) member state foreign ministers met April 21 in Astana to prepare for the June 8-9 meeting of the heads of member states.

The Council of Foreign Ministers (CFM) agreed on a draft agenda for the Council of Heads of State, which would take place in Astana on the eve of the opening of the Astana EXPO 2017 international specialised exhibition. They also agreed on a SCO Astana Declaration draft and a list of documents to be submitted for signature during the heads of state meeting.

They also discussed the upcoming accession to the SCO of India and Pakistan, which is expected to take place during the Astana summit and to increase the organisation’s international influence and credibility. The group also addressed strengthening regional security, fighting terrorism and extremism, combating drug trafficking and developing cooperation within the expanded organisation.

Kazakhstan has chaired the SCO since June 2016 and Kazakh Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov reminded the group of the priorities laid out during the previous head of states meeting by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, including strengthening regional security, developing economic cooperation, unlocking transit and transport capacity and deepening cultural and humanitarian ties in the context of the SCO Development Strategy 2025.

Addressing his colleagues from China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan at a meeting that took place at the Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abdrakhmanov also focused on economic and cultural-humanitarian cooperation within the organisation. He noted that SCO representatives will participate in a number of upcoming events in Kazakhstan, including EXPO 2017, the 11th week of education in Astana, Festival of Arts and the SCO Youth Forum themed Development of Green Economy, Tourism and Sports.

The meeting was also attended by SCO Secretary General Rashid Alimov and Director of the Executive Committee of the SCO Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS SCO) Yevgeniy Sysoyev, among others.

Later in the day, the Kazakh President received the participants of the meeting, including Alimov, Sysoyev, Abdrakmanov, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Erlan Abdyldaev, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Tajik Foreign Minister Sirodjidin Aslov, and Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov.

Nazarbayev noted the importance of the ministerial meeting on the threshold of the organisation’s summit in Astana.

“As SCO chairman, Kazakhstan attaches great importance to the upcoming summit of the organisation in June in Astana. Our chairmanship is going on in  a time of complicated processes in the region and in the world,” he said.

Nazarbayev noted a number of issues on the SCO agenda, including increasing efforts to approve the SCO Cooperation Concept on Environmental Protection, sign the SCO Convention on Countering Extremism and adopt the statement on this issue and the anti-drug strategy of the organisation’s member countries.

“The economic and cultural-humanitarian cooperation within the SCO is crucial. One more important issue of the upcoming summit’s agenda is adoption of a decision on finalising the procedure of accepting India and Pakistan to full-fledged membership in the SCO. The adoption of the Astana Declaration, which will define our future plans is planned too,” he noted.

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Race car enthusiast plans to construct Lotus Seven

Sat, 2017-04-22 08:15

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Artyom Abishev, a young race car enthusiast from Almaty, has decided to bring his hobby to a new level. He plans to push his project to construct a Lotus Seven locally via a crowdfunding platform.

“Lotus Seven is a lightweight two-seater open-top sports car created by the Lotus company engineer. Over time, many companies started assembling that car, as well as people in their garages, since it has a simple frame construction and was universal for all rear-drive platforms of engine – transmission – propeller shaft – drivetrain,” said Abishev in an interview with The Astana Times.

He works as a technical specialist in lubricants and technical maintenance and has always been interested in constructing race cars.

“A large ring road is being built at the Sokol racetrack [in the Almaty region] and people are testing their vehicles on a small karting track by taking part in competitions. In fact, the term ‘track day’ has been used for a long time in the West. That’s when instead of shashlik, billiards or bowling, people sit down in their special cars and go to the nearest track. We do not have such tracks and there will be one soon. But after it appears, how will people go there? People would not like to use expensive elite sports cars; their tires cost more than $2,000 and it is an expense for only one day. Well, some may be interested in spending $2,000-3,000,” said Abishev.

Because of its light weight, Lotus Seven has great characteristics in the ring and is much cheaper. Abishev needs 3.8 million tenge (US$12,130) for the project and the car can be constructed in six months.

“In general, we would like to create one piece to understand whether we are able to realise the algorithm of the sports product of small value for our auto-moto fans, since in the West small enterprises producing such machines for people who ride in the ring have been working for a long time. The car will be something like a cue for billiards or a bowling ball,” he said.

He admits there are probably other ways of financing, but crowdfunding is a great way to review the market.

“We are going along the path of small resistance, while checking whether our product is interesting to the customers,” he added.

Abishev is not the only one in the race car business, as he has fellow enthusiasts. 

“This is our daring dream – the production and service of these cars. It is difficult to say exactly about the capacity we are planning; the main thing would be demand, but it is possible to go to any capacity. Our buyer is anyone who likes to drive cars and motorsport,” he said.

The main difficulty he faces, he feels, is the way people think.

“People expect everything should pay off and make a profit immediately after investing. I would classify it as greed and unwillingness to develop their own country,” he added.

Abishev wants to implement a successful algorithm for the creation of a narrowly-focused Kazakh product to support domestic motor sport, which means creating an inexpensive and competitive race car.

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Kazakh President praises EXPO 2017 preparations

Sat, 2017-04-22 08:11

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarvayev praised preparations for EXPO 2017 during an April 21 visit to the Expo site.

“Official opening of the exhibition will take place on June 9. The readiness of EXPO 2017 is at a final stage. The excellent holding of the exhibition will demonstrate to the world the community achievements of an independent Kazakhstan,” said Nazarbayev at the meeting on socio-economic development of Astana and preparation for the exhibition attended by Astana Akim (Mayor) Asset Issekeshev, Chairperson  of the Astana EXPO 2017 national company Akhmetzhan Yessimov, Kazakh Minister of Energy Kanat Bozumbayev and Minister of Internal Affairs Kalmykhanbet Kassymov, among others.

The President emphasised that Astana should become one of the best cities in the world, convenient and comfortable for living. In this regard, Nazarbayev gave instructions to further develop the capital.

“It is necessary to introduce modern digital technologies in all areas of urban management. The government should define Astana as the main platform for the introduction of digital technologies,” the head of state said.

According to his instructions, the International Technopark of IT startups will be launched on the expo site. Nazarbayev also instructed to develop the city following the example of Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore and to create on its base a financial and business hub on the scale of the Eurasian space.

“There are 2,700 foreign companies working in Astana. They invested about 3.2 billion US dollars in the city’s economy. At the same time, the existing opportunities are not fully used. The potential of the special economic zone of Astana is involved weakly. The further development of the capital must take into account the urbanisation processes. By 2030, its population may grow by another one million people. This puts the city’s task of ensuring productive employment through the creation of new permanent jobs,” Nazarbayev said.

The President also pointed out that Astana has a significant potential to become a tourist centre and instructed the government together with mayors to develop the capital’s tourism. Nazarbayev also emphasised the need to create roadside services for tourists who arrive by car.

The head of state also focused on the preparation process of cultural and mass events in the days of the exhibition, the safety of guests and residents of the capital and the level of preparedness of volunteers to meet visitors.

EXPO 2017 will take place in Astana from June 10 through September 10, 2017.

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Kazakhfilm to complete filming of “Mir Mechty” in May

Sat, 2017-04-22 08:08

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – A feature film named “Mir Mechty” (“The World Of Dreams”) produced by the Aimanov Kazakhfilm studio by an order from Kazakh Ministry of Culture and Sports will complete filming in May, the press service of Kazakhfilm informs.

“’One of my friends who lives in Saint Petersburg told me that there is a writer named Daniyar Sugralinov in Kazakhstan and that I have to meet him. But I didn’t give much thought to it back then,” Sharipov shared.

“’I got acquainted with his work by chance and we met each other only during summer of the last year. We did not plan to make a film out of this book. We kept the main motive and tried to present it in a more cinematographic way,” he said.

A feature film tells the story of a man who tries to change his life. The plot of the film is based on a book of Kazakh writer Daniyar Sugralinov named “Kirpichi 2.0” (“Building Blocks 2.0”).

Farkhat Sharipov is known for films like the 2010 drama “Skaz o Rozovom Zaitse” (“Tale of a Pink Hare”), the 2013 comedy “Inoplanetyane ni pri Chem’’ (“Not the Fault of Aliens”) and “Akzhol.”

The film will be shot in Almaty. Among young candidates, Dulyga Akmolda was confirmed for the main role. Yerzhan Tusupov, Gulzhamal Kazakhbayeva, Assel Kaliyeva and other actors will participate in the film as well.

“Before filming began, the director was preparing us for quite a long time. We rehearsed every scene with him. The main character is close to my heart because he is simple. I myself did not encounter such situations the main hero faced but I know people who did,” Akmolda shared.

Post production, editing, colour correction and dubbing on “Mir Mechty” will begin shortly after May with a wide release planned by the end of the year.

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Almaty, Astana children’s camps offer healthy activities

Sat, 2017-04-22 08:03

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Summer is almost around the corner and it is time for the holidays all children anticipate. The Astana Times has compiled a list of the best children’s camps near Almaty and the capital city.

Located in picturesque forests of the Borovoye resort area on the shores of Katarkol Lake, Kontinent children’s therapeutic centre offers a swimming pool, extensive educational programmes and many kinds of leisure and outdoor activities for children from seven to 15 years old.

“A multifaceted programme will not bore anyone. It has games and competitions, walks to the forest and a lakeside, excursions, disco, sports activities, swimming and a stage performance that will energise children for the whole next study year,” Pandaland.kz writes.

The Baldauren camp is a national educational and recreational centre that operates all year round and welcomes nearly 300 children every couple of weeks and every 20 days during a study year.

Children will enjoy modern living and study conditions here. All rooms are well equipped and have shower units with massage inside.

Five times a day, meals and healthy activities, such as massage, gala camera (a room where one breezes in salts), therapy tanks and medicinal baths, saunas and cocktails are offered, according to the website.

School children aged eight to 15 years old are welcome. The Kazakh Ministry of Education and Science distributes holiday packages for this camp.

The Baldauren camp was awarded the European Quality award in 2009 in Oxford city. The camp is located in the town of Schuchinsk in the Burabai region.

The Hilton children’s camp invites all children to develop their English language skills. Children will find their own group according to age and language level.

Kids will be offered a video library that contains dozens of English language feature films and cartoons. Apart from language courses, children play interesting games, sing traditional and modern English language songs, make mini plays and other various activities. Shows, carnivals, parodies and costume balls are also held.

Located 20 minutes from the intersection of Navoi and Al-Farabi streets (Almaty), on spacious land with clean mountain air, the Chamberlain Country Club and Camp is an active and interesting place for children to spend their summer holidays.

A daily training programme includes hands-on and theoretical lessons. The programme incorporates natural horsemanship and agility methods.

The children here stay in a freshly built complex in a new building and spacious rooms with mountain views. A horse barn, an outdoor training arena and more is available for horse riding activities, according to almata.kz.

The programme of this camp also has football and volleyball training, an indoor swimming pool, various workshops, a concert, a bonfire and other sports and recreation activities.

Ak Bastau is another children’s recreational camp located in Almaty’s Karagaily micro district, 23 Makatayev Street.

Spending time in fresh air daily, playing football, volleyball, basketball, tennis, receiving therapeutic and recreational treatments, sitting in an air salt room and meeting new friends will make the child’s stay pleasant and enhance their health, according to the website.

This camp also serves goat’s milk that is considered an “elixir of life.”

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Saka stone houses in Central Kazakhstan shed light on Kazakh nomadic culture, archaeologist says

Sat, 2017-04-22 05:18

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – The study of the settlements of the Saka, also referred to as Scythians, ancient tribes that lived in what is now modern-day Kazakhstan, is one of the main tasks for Kazakh archaeologists seeking to fill in the blank spots of the region’s history.

Excavations in Central Kazakhstan have determined that ancient tribes made stone dwellings in the region more than 2,500 years ago.

According to Arman Beisenov, head of the department of primitive archaeology of the Alkey Margulan Institute of Archaeology, the studies of stone dwellings became possible through the qualitative improvement of archaeology in Kazakhstan not so long ago.

Since Kazakhstan’s independence, archaeologists have been grappling with the task of studying an ancient history. The programme “Madeni Mura” (Cultural Heritage) gave a powerful impetus to archaeology in the country, and the series of discoveries of mounds filled with golden artefacts raised the questions of who made those amazing artefacts, and where?

This interest led to the discovery in Central Kazakhstan of more than 50 places with remnants of stone buildings used for residential and household purposes in the Saka era. The main materials were obtained in the Karaganda region and neighbouring regions.

“The findings came from the time of the Saka culture; it is approximately the eighth to fifth century B.C. A comparison with materials from North Kazakhstan, Zhetysu, and Mountain Altai regions, gave an additional and convincing vector of evidence. In addition, we received radiocarbon dates from several foreign centres in St. Petersburg, Kiev and Belfast. There is no doubt that the Sakas lived in Central Kazakhstan,” Beisenov said in an interview with Kazakhstanskaya Pravda newspaper.

In Beisenov’s words, the known Saka houses were rectangular, reached about 10 to 15 metres in length and were 8 to 10 metres wide. It is supposed that the houses were two metres in height, but with their massive walls of more than a metre in width, internal space would have been quite limited.

The Sakas used the technique of the Andronovo era of filling gaps between two rows of large slabs with small stones and earth. Half a century ago, Margulan and other Kazakh anthropologists noted the use of this technique in houses from the Bronze Age. Andronovo masonry, a stable construction tradition, was used after the Sakas, too.

The area of ​​the studied dwellings is about 50 to 70 square metres, according to Beisenov. The residences were inhabited by 10 to 12 people and most of the settlements have up to three buildings. It turns out that small communities of closely related families lived in the settlements, a hypothesis confirmed by ethnographic materials.

The archaeological finds show that more than 2,500 years ago, the way of life of different peoples in Central Kazakhstan was very similar to the Kazakh one for centuries afterwards. The clan consisted of small communities. In winter, they lived in wintertime settlements, and in summer, they went to river valleys, living nomadically in folded yurts.

The Kazakh anthropologist said that the foundation of the economy of the ancients was cattle breeding. The findings from the elite Saka mounds of Taldy-2, Karashoky and Sherubai show that people there mastered metallurgy and metalworking well. In excavated settlements in the Yedirei and Karakuys mountains, there have been found numerous fragments of stone hoes and grain growers, which indicate the development of agriculture. These people are thought to have occupied an ancient social stratum known to Kazakhs as “zhatak” (recumbent, immovable). In the winter, Kazakh zhataks stayed with their families in their houses, while other residents went to zhailau (pastures) to let their cattle graze. The zhatak’s duties included guarding, refurbishing houses and cultivating fields with wheat and millet near the settlement. After the return of the community, everybody went harvesting.

“Our studies of settlements and dwellings of Central Kazakhstan are aimed at the future. Just a week ago, our colleagues from the Royal University of Belfast in the United Kingdom told me about the progress in analysing materials found in Central Kazakhstan. The results of the studies of the samples of bone tissue of people buried in Taldy-2, Akbeit and other mounds proved that their diet included millet. As you can see, the most interesting things are ahead,” Beisenov said.

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Kazakhstan improves four slots to 81st in WEF’s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index

Fri, 2017-04-21 00:50

The Astana Times provides news and information from Kazakhstan and around the world.

ASTANA – Kazakhstan improved its position by four spots to 81st in the latest World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index.

The index is published biannually and compares 136 economies on factors and policies enabling sustainable travel and tourism development, which contributes to the development and competitiveness of a country, according to the WEF report.

The index is based on the four sub-indexes, 14 categories and individual indicators.

The top 10 countries in this year’s index are Spain, France, Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Italy, Canada and Switzerland respectively.

Approximately 4,559,500 people visit Kazakhstan annually and spend an average of $336, according to the report. Kazakhstan’s travel and tourism industry GDP is approximately $3 billion, which is 1.6 percent of the total GDP. Approximately 150,585 people are employed in the industry, which is 1.7 percent.

The index ranks Kazakhstan sixth in health and hygiene, the country’s highest ranking in the index. Kazakhstan’s low HIV-positive population and absence of malaria contributed to the high-ranking in that category.

Kazakhstan’s second-best ranking, 8th, was in price competitiveness. That category examines ticket taxes and airport charges, hotel prices, purchasing power parity and fuel prices level.

The WEF ranks Kazakhstan’s business environment 36th in the world. Out of many indices in that category, Kazakhstan showed good results in time required to receive construction permits, costs to start a business and tax rates.

Kazakhstan’s information and communications technologies (ICT) readiness was ranked 52nd with safety and security 58th. Human resources and the labour market ranked 47th.

The three worst results were reached in international openness at 113th, environmental sustainability at 99th and tourist service infrastructure at 97th.

International openness included visa requirements, openness of bilateral air service agreements and the number of regional trade agreements in force.

Environmental sustainability was assessed poorly mainly due to low indicators in environment treaty ratification and baseline water stress.

The report shows that within the tourist service infrastructure pillar, quality of tourist infrastructure and the presence of major car rental companies dragged it down.

In the Eurasian region, Kazakhstan is in fourth place after Russia (43rd in the global rank), Georgia (70) and Azerbaijan (71). The country is followed by Armenia (84), Tajikistan (107) and the Kyrgyz Republic (115).

“The Eurasian sub-region [the report refers to the whole region as Europe and Eurasia] faces issues relating to international openness and transport infrastructure. Yet this sub-region boasts more qualified and efficient human resources while, at the same time, providing more price competitive options, thanks to lower hotel prices and fuel costs,” stated the report.

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