Bogatyr Access Komyr: Investing into the Future
Dennis C. Price, General Director of Bogatyr Access Komyr, grants an interview with our magazine
You are an active member of the Foreign Investors' Council. Could you estimate the FIC’s activity regarding its effectiveness as a consulting and deliberative body, chaired by the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
I'll do it with great pleasure. In the December 2004 FIC Plenary Session, Nursultan Nazarbayev, the President of Kazakhstan, raised a question about the practicability of the council's further activity. Each member of the council unanimously agreed that it is essential to continue the work of this important institution. Both foreign investors and state authorities are aware of the necessity to continue a constructive dialog in order to draft fruitful bills that will be acceptable to all those concerned. As the chairman of the board of the FIC, I can see that a great deal of the FIC's objectives have been achieved over the years of its existence. We have succeeded in improving the tax and customs legislations for foreign and local investors. Many problems faced by people trying to register and obtain visas have been solved. But of course, much still needs to be done. The FIC focuses on strengthening the positive investment image of Kazakhstan. We, the companies that have already invested into the Kazakhstani economy, aim at attracting other investors in your country.
As a member of the Working Group on the current activity of foreign investors, could you tell us about its functions and objectives set for this year?
The group is multifunctional. Allow me to specify some of our main issues. We focus the Government’s attention on frequent and burdensome examinations of investors' activities by regulation authorities; discuss the significance of educating and training highly skilled workers to work in foreign companies; further discussions about the improvement of the customs legislation and analyse transfer pricing regulations. The range of major issues is rather wide, but in my opinion, the above mentioned are the key topics of today.
During the last FIC Session, the potential of the pilot project on the production of environmentally friendly biomass in Ekibastuz was discussed. Could you please tell us about this innovative project in detail?
Yes, our company initiated the project and I am glad to share the information about it. The technology is based on the ability of one-celled algae to reproduce under the influence of sunlight. Algae growth is accompanied by the occlusion of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and other polluted emissions from heating power stations. Algae also accumulate carbon and emit oxygen and nitrogen into the atmosphere. Algae, rich in carbon, might be processed into environmentally friendly materials like bio diesel fuel, bio plastics, and bio paper, and we can also speak about the biomass that could be utilised as cleaner fuel by heating power stations. A pilot project, which was carried out at a Boston power station, Massachusetts, USA, showed a great drop in hazardous emissions. Of course, the results are only valid for the tested power station and for certain environmental conditions and temperature regimes. The next step is to examine and estimate how algae develop in Kazakhstan. Then, we could design equipment for deleterious gas accumulation and environmentally sound alternative production. In the next three months we expect specialists from New York and Boston to visit Ekibastuz for a preliminary assessment of the local conditions. The main investigation will be conducted in 2005 and a selected enterprise will begin the pilot project in early 2006.
I consider such advanced detailed studies and the reduction in the negative influences on the environment as essential in furthering the effective development of the primary sector. Furthermore, oil, gas and coal resources are limited. However, if we consider alternative energy such as biomass production, cost-effective methane production and exploitation, and the potential reuse of industrial waste, we would be headed for the sustainable development of economy. I mean not an indefinite development, but a planned and long-term one. We should use the available resources reasonably and rationally.
Today, a topical issue for Kazakhstan is qualified specialists and the formation of a skilled workforce for the industrial sectors of the economy. You took part in the Third Republic Conference concerning this issue, how would you describe the results of the event?
First of all, the conference was a great and positive step forward. The deputies of the Majilis, representatives of ministries, department and regional associations and unions, trade unions, educational institutions, heads of big enterprises and businessmen took part in the event. They agreed by general consent that the improvement of the national system for training professionals and skilled workers is an urgent need for Kazakhstan. For example, here in Ekibastuz, a unique situation occurred. After taking control of an already existing industrial complex and its staff, we had some problems caused by a lack of specialists for some positions. In other respectively new and rapid-growth industrial branches, such as the food industry, oil and gas sector, and telecommunications, a greater deficit of qualified employees exists. So, the participants of the conference concluded that overall monitoring is needed and the required new professions for the next 3, 5, and 10 years must be determined. Once this is done, Kazakhstani universities and colleges should provide training for the labour force in compliance with the determined economic demands. We should concentrate our efforts on the younger generation, because today the reserve of specialists is gradually reducing. One should admit that the inability to provide the national economy with local skilled workers will cause the necessity to import the labour force.
Who in your opinion should coordinate the training process and what part should enterprises play in it?
I think it is of the utmost importance that the overall control of the training process is done by state bodies, such as the Ministries of Labour and Social Protection, Education and Science, Environmental Protection, Energy and Mineral Resources. It is probable that the Ministry of Industry and Ministry of Finance could also be attracted to the process. Of course, any attempts on the part of Government cannot be successful without the effective cooperation of industrial enterprises. The objectives for employers are not only to study the required vacancies, but to provide new specialists with comfortable and attractive working conditions. One could hardly move to Ekibastuz from Almaty without motivation. We must make a real effort to ensure a greater coordination between educational institutions and employers who can provide sponsorship and practical training. Enterprises should be involved in the process of filling in the demand for skilled workers and specialist training. Another way is to award student scholarships and grants on condition that after graduating, the students who received the award have to work in the company that sponsored them. And finally, employers should provide on-the-ground refresher courses and continuing education, which is one of the most effective and flexible systems for professional training. Such form of training is rather efficient in the US mining industry, where workers simultaneously can be engine drivers, large dump truck drivers, and conveyor or bulldozer operators. It should be mentioned that Bogatyr Access Komyr has already been using these methods, which is not a unique approach. Today, many Kazakhstani enterprises are aware of their own responsibility to professional education.
Mr. Price, in conclusion please describe how successful last year was for Bogatyr Access Komyr.
All investment programmes for 2004 were fulfilled, in spite of some impediments. As for our annual output, simply put, it was the most successful year for Access Industries, Inc. in Kazakhstan since September 1996. But, I am really inspired not by our achievements in 2004, but by the possibilities and perspectives for 2005, 2010 and 2012. Access Industries, Inñ. is actively researching new investment projects in Kazakhstan, and I hope to take part in their implementation.
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