The 12th Astana Economic Forum (AEF), under the theme «Inspiring growth: people, cities, economies», started last Friday in Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan. The first President of the Country, Nursultan Nazarbayev delivered an opening speech at the event.
«Our regular meetings became a good tradition. I initiated convening such a forum in 2008. I really appreciate the great atmosphere maintained here. It became the regular event. And today it is the 12th forum. Every year we discuss the pressing global and regional issues, the strategic issues which will influence the development in the near future. Over the past years we debated a wide range of issues, including G-Global projects, environmental problems, war on poverty, development of human capital, new energy. Last year we held the Global Challenges Summit. Two anti-crisis conferences were held as part of the forum with support of the United Nations General Assembly. The recommendations and conclusions debated there largely helped Kazakhstan timely address global challenges, successfully overcome difficulties, our thoughts. You know that our development model has proved its sustainability and efficiency despite all circumstances and forecasts», Nursultan Nazarbayev said, addressing the plenary session of the XII Astana Economic Forum.
He added: «I highly appreciate confidence of our partners, countries, friendly investors who had trusted and trust Kazakhstan today. I think that such pragmatic optimism is a key exponent of confidence in political and economic system of Kazakhstan. Our country has become one of the respected members of the world community. For the years of independence, the country’s economy grew 20 times, the poverty reduced from 40% to 3%. We will further intensify our efforts in this direction».
In his speech, the first President of Kazakhstan also displayed his vision on a range of issues in international affairs. He outlined the prospects and challenges which humanity is expected to face in the foreseeable future. Nursultan Nazarbayev announced that digital transformation is changing the face of our familiar economy, and mobile creative human capital is becoming the main driver of growth. «By 2030, about 375 million people around the world will need to undergo training and change their profession», he said. According to the forecast in his presentation, by 2050, 7 out of 10 people will be urban citizens residing in cities. «Therefore, investments now no longer address countries, but cities», Nursultan Nazarbayev explained.
Turning to the current state of affairs, the first President of Kazakhstan noted that the situation in the world was indeed serious and disquieting. In this regard, he mentioned the US-China and the US-EU trade disputes, the rise of populism which he described as «a permanent trend», and the sanctions confrontation, most often seen in the context of US-Russia relations.
Nursultan Nazarbayev noted that such dynamics in the relationship between Washington and Moscow gave rise to a risk of a collapse of nuclear deterrence agreements and the resulting arms race. He said that the tendency was quite disquieting, even worrying, and it wouldn’t bring any good to anyone.
«Disagreements between the parties impede pragmatic and constructive economic interaction», he noted.
Nursultan Nazarbayev pointed out the urgent need for dialogue between the USA, Russia, China and the EU, describing them as «those on whom the fate of mankind depends». «I am negotiating with the leaders of those states», he added. Following this line of argument, the first President of Kazakhstan flagged the idea of establishing a «shared security territory» on the basis of the OSCE member states.
One more idea the first President of Kazakhstan raised was an «investment dialogue» between the Eurasian Economic Union, of which Kazakhstan is a member, the EU and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
Recalling that his country has provided an effective platform for negotiating deeply entangled international issues, he suggested that it could again be the host of initiatives of the kind he mentioned.
«It is needed to move from the counter-productive regime of sanctions to face-to-face dialogue between the leaders of the key countries of the world», the first President of Kazakhstan said.
By placing increased emphasis on top theme in the current international agenda, Astana has been making its concerns felt about Western sanctions against Russia, by which Kazakhstan, as a member of the Eurasian Economic Union, has also been affected, though indirectly. As an old saying goes, when the world’s most powerful nations are in disagreement, it is medium and small states that endure the collateral consequences of it.
In his speech, Nursultan Nazarbayev provided clarification regarding his decision to step down voluntarily from office.
«As you know, I am not speaking to you as President. The interests of the country and the people lead me to take this extremely serious decision, the decision to terminate my authority as President. Over the years of independence, we have become a recognizable state. We have taken a number of anti-nuclear initiatives. That inspires confidence in us», the first President of Kazakhstan said. Nursultan Nazarbayev noted that transition of power was ongoing, in accordance with the Constitution, «in a calm, peaceful way».
«I am grateful to my fellow heads of state, politicians from the entire world, who wrote to me, who called me, to express support for this step», he added.
«Kazakhstan is entering this new era with a clear understanding of its mission, strategic objectives and the need for continuity of the course taken. The early elections, which are due to be held in less than a month, are aimed at ensuring a sustainable development path for the country. I, as the Leader of the Nation and the Chairman of the Security Council, will continue to participate in public affairs relating to the strategic directions of Kazakhstan’s development, including issues of security, domestic and foreign policy. This is particularly important in the present period when there is a rapid transformation of all processes of global economic development. All my work will be to support the activities of the new president and to ensure a smooth transition of power in Kazakhstan», Nursultan Nazarbayev said.
Then, a number of high-ranking government officials from different countries and high-level representatives from international financial organizations gave speeches.
Addressing the plenary session of the XII Astana Economic Forum, Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng noted that his country has made significant progress in balancing urban and rural development and promoting a new type of urbanization. With a bright future for economic development, China will always be a stable engine of the world economic growth and a huge market full of energy where companies can seek business opportunity, he added. Mr. Han urged efforts to strengthen cooperation on further opening-up and sustainable development. He also proposed reinforcing collaboration on urbanization and strengthening cooperation in innovation and talents.
The Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, noted that «although we expect a reduction in global tensions in the next six months, we cannot be certain. We hope that the voltages that exist at the moment will be relaxed for certain reasons. And your mediation, perhaps, Mr. President Nursultan Nazarbayev, will help with this».
«Every nation can benefit from global economic growth», Nobel Laureate in Economics (2018), former World Bank chief economist (2016–2018) Paul M. Romer said.
The Chairman of the Board of Sberbank, Herman Gref, noted that «if you did not start yesterday then today you are already late».
This year’s AEF was unprecedented. In just two days, more than 50 sessions and events were held. These are record numbers for the 12-year history of the AEF. Innovative approaches do not end here. For the first time, students and youth had the opportunity to take part in the AEF talks and meet the Nobel laureates and politicians. Also for the first time, a round table was held with the participation of the International Monetary Fund for Ministers of Finance and governors of the central banks of the countries.