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20 октября 2023
Paolo Sorbello, photo by Zhanara Karimova

The Week in Kazakhstan: Still Burning

Kazakhstan’s government is assessing a number of open questions, from fires at gas fields and coal mines to a potential arbitrage with oil companies

The Week in Kazakhstan: Still Burning

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev visited Beijing and met China’s President Xi Jinping on October 17. Tokayev said the two countries have “built effective cooperation in all areas”. Representatives of state-owned and private enterprises signed cooperation agreements in oil and gas, logistics, and finance worth $16.5 billion.

Minister of ecology Yerlan Nysanbayev told the press on October 16 that the government has not yet received any official communication regarding arbitral proceedings against a $5 billion environmental fine levied against an oil production consortium. Media earlier reported that the North Caspian Operating Company (NCOC, the consortium that operates the Kashagan offshore field) could apply for international arbitrage, should the fine not be reconsidered.

Nysanbayev also said the government continues to monitor air and ground pollution, including methane emissions, from the ongoing accident at the Karaturun gas fields in the western Mangistau region.

A fire at a coal mine in central Kazakhstan is still burning, Syrym Shariphanov, the minister for emergency situations, said on October 19. The fire at the “Kazakhstan” mine in the Karaganda region, operated by ArcelorMittal Temirtau, started in August and killed five workers.

Prime minister Alikhan Smailov said on October 17 that around 300,000 more residents should gain employment this year, in order to meet an earlier goal of adding one million new people into the workforce in 12 months. In the first half of the year, the Statistics Committee recorded 9.1 million employed people and an unemployment rate of 4.7%.

Kaspi.kz, a fintech group that owns one of the country’s largest banks, plans to list some of its shares in the US. The group said in a note on October 19 that it submitted a draft statement to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). A public offering of the shares, the group said, depends on market conditions and approval from the SEC. In October 2020, Kaspi.kz listed in the London Stock Exchange.

An October 12 report by The Bell, an independent media, found that Russia’s neighboring countries have increased imports from European Union countries as well as exports to Russia, linking this dynamic to a possible sanctions-circumvention strategy. On October 18, Kairat Torebayev, the vice minister of trade, said that, due to sanctions against Russia, the government has banned the export of 106 types of dual use goods. On October 19, the ministry of trade, in an official note, rectified Torebayev’s words and said that: “Bans on the export of goods to the Russian Federation were not established in connection with anti-Russian sanctions.”

Since its establishment last year, the State Commission for the return of illegally withdrawn assets has kept from the public eye the full list of companies and people under its microscope, the Prosecutor General’s Office said on October 14. The note cited investment, reputational, and socio-economic risks for the actors included in the list.

Terminals Holding, a UAE-based group, signed an agreement with the ministry of transport on October 18 aimed to lay the groundwork to a management takeover at the airport in Astana named after former President Nursultan Nazarbayev. The government said Terminals Holding will now carry out a comprehensive assessment of the activities of the airport and subsequently take over operational management.