Wednesday 17, February 2016

Dubai – MENA Herald: Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan are looking at new ways to attract foreign investors and boost revenues to weather current low oil prices.
Addressing the first CIS Global Business Forum in Dubai, Dr. SahilBabayev, Deputy Minister of Economy in Azerbaijan, said falling oil prices represent a good opportunity for his country to accelerate diversification in its economy and attract foreign investment in non-oil sectors, especially investors coming from the UAE and the GCC region.
“While low oil prices affected Azerbaijan’s income, we see this as a good opportunity to attract investments in other sectors. Diversifying the country’s non-oil sectors is our top priority in 2016,” Babayev said.
“This is a long process decision and we have certain achievements on this front. Currently, non-oil sectors are contributing 71% to Azerbaijan’s overall GDP,” he added.
Baku’s involvement in China’s Silk Road Economic Belt vision (also known as the ‘Iron Silk Road’ project) promises great potential for investors, as new railway lines envisaged by the project will allow easy access of goods on both directions between Azerbaijan and China. This poses a huge growth opportunity for Azerbaijan, especially in sectors such as agriculture, food processing, machinery and tourism,” Babayev commented.
Neighbouring Kazakhstan is also bullish on its economy. Strategically located on the Silk Road trade route, the country sees huge growth potential in non-oil sectors.
“We believe there will be a great deal of demand on organic food production, especially from China, over the next few years. We are also developing our relationships with other countries, including the US and the European Union, while we continue our efforts to act fast on diversifying our economy and lessen our dependency on oil,” said Rakhim Oshakbayev, Vice Minister for Investments and Development in Kazakhstan.
On the other hand, SMEs are a backbone of Kazakhstan’s economy. According to Oshakbayev, SMEs are playing an increasing key role in supporting his country’s economy.
“In addition to their role in creating job opportunities, SMEs are contributing 17% to Kazakhstan’s overall economy. We believe that developing the SME sector is key to the economy and therefore the government has launched various initiatives to support it,” added Oshakbayev.
To encourage more businesses to open up in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, the governments of these two CIS countries have gone the extra mile to provide a favourable hub for foreign investors.
Last year, Azerbaijan introduced a liberal tax structure for SMEs and eased their access to financing. Providing visas on arrival for some nationalities has also simplified access of businesses to both countries.
“We have 20 countries listed on our visa on arrival system this year and we plan to increase the number to 34 countries in 2017,” concluded Oshakbayev.