Kazakhstan between Two “Seas”
The government set a goal to turn Kazakhstan into a large logistics hub, connecting Europe as the largest consumer with Asia as the leading manufacturer, and even designated for this specific time frames. The Minister of Transport and Communications of the Republic of Kazakhstan Zhenis Kasymbek shares with our magazine what changes are expected in this regard in the transport and logistics sector.
Today, particularly close attention is paid to the development of the transit potential of Kazakhstan. Will you tell us what performance did thetransport and communication sector showlast year?
In general, the dynamics was positive. The last year the share of transport services in total GDP amounted to some 7%, as it was originally planned.
The volume of passenger traffic and cargo transportation increased by 8.2% and 9.7%, accordingly,compared with a year earlier. As is known, the main transit traffic which is more than 90% goes by railway. I just say that last year the railroad companies had implemented all the transit related tasks. Meanwhile, the airline improved its passenger turnover by 6%.
In this regard it should be noted that the range of measures to improve aviation safety was taken by the Ministry in recent years. All last year, Ministry of transport and communication worked closely with Technical Cooperation Bureau’s specialists of the International Civil Aviation Organization.
By working together, we have made changes in the law, had a re-certification of all airlines, have staffed Civil Aviation Committee by qualified personnel, including pilots. This work has already begun to bear fruit.
As you know, just last month restrictions on the expansion of the frequency and geography of flights to Europe were removed from "Air Astana" by the unanimous decision of the European Commission on the safety. But we do not intend to stop there, and we will continue to improve the activity of the Kazakhstan airlines.
What events of the past year would you outline as important? What, in your opinion, was the most remarkable?
Last year was marked by several milestones for the industry. The work on laying the railway superstructure on the routes Beyneu – Zhezkazgan and Arkalyk – Shubarkul was accomplished. The two branch lines, Zhezkazgan and Saksaulskaya, were connected in the Koskol station, the Shalkar and Beyneu branch lines in the Tassay station, and the Arkalyk and Shubarkul branch lines in the Maibulak station.
Also, 2013 was the first year of operation of the Horgos – Zhetygen section. Moreover, the section of the railway Uzen – Border with Turkmenistan was commissioned, accompanied by a ceremony attended by the President of Kazakhstan.
In addition, the last year marked the active phase of modernization of the road transit corridor Western Europe – Western China, the upgrade of aircraft fleets of domestic companies with planes of new generation, as well as the completion of renovation of the take-off runaway in the airport of Taraz...
Meanwhile, you can not ignore the great misfortune happened in the field of civil aviation – a plane crash near Almaty. This tragedy happened with civil aircraft for the first time in the history of independent Kazakhstan.
At such moments, especially important to understand the responsibility for the decisions taken by the ministry. That is why the Ministry has put a lot of effort to ensure that the safety of passengers has become the main condition for the airlines.
How would you assess the current situation with the development of the national transport and logistics sector?
The mission of the Ministry of Transport and Communications is not just to build roads and airports. Our goal is to make so that the transport sector will fully satisfy the needs of the economy of Kazakhstan in high-quality and safe transportation services. We believe that thanks to the transit involved, this industry can become an independent source of economic growth, and thattransit and logistics can be an entire industry, the same as agriculture, the oil and gas sector or the mining industry. The President of Kazakhstan has given assignments to the government to create in Kazakhstan a unified national operator of logistics. This operator, KTZ Express,is being created today in our country on the basis of the National Company Kazakhstan Temir Zholy. In the future, it will be in charge of the logistics in all segments of the transport sector in Kazakhstan and provide a full range of services in logistics – "from door to door."
Large plans of the government are associated with the increased transit potential of our country. What are the factors that exist for that at the moment?
The President of the country has repeatedly noted in his speeches that Kazakhstan is a land-locked country, which has no direct access to the open seas, although we have two large "seas" around us: China and Europe. Geographical location obliges us to be a transit country, a major logistics hub.
Anticipating this, in the last year, the President gave an assignment to develop a State Program of Development and Integration of the Transport Sector Infrastructure until 2020, and in January of this year it was adopted. This program specifies the key challenges that have to be addressed by the sector during this period. We expect that by 2020 Kazakhstan will make a big step forward to be a major logistics operator in the Central Asian region and a major transit country between these two largest markets.
It is expected that by this time the volume of transit through our country will increase twice. However, we should not forget that in addition to the above-said objectives there are those which that are set before the transport sector as permanent ones: to ensure safe and high-quality traffic.
Such serious plans will face some difficulties. What problems need to be addressed by the Ministry of Transport and Communications to ensure integration of Kazakhstan into the international transport system?
In order to build up an optimal logistic network, we have to overcome some non-physical barriers that arise during the passage of goods through both the Kazakh border and the borders of neighboring countries. Therefore, the state program sets objectives in terms of simplification of customs procedures and the issuance of the necessary documents and permits, licenses and so on. Now we are working on it to automate 100% of public services provided by the ministry, and we are sure this task will be performed. With this, in order to minimize the human factor in the obtaining of licenses, permits, certificates and other documents, we try to automate these processes. As you know, there are certain requirements on the dimensions and weight for the cargo carried through the territory of Kazakhstan. In this regard, we are working to automate transport inspection checkpoints on the roads. Not everyone likes this at the beginning, but such work should be done, because the international practice of developed countries evidences that we are heading in the right direction. We are not going to turn away from this path and will further aspire to maximize automation and minimize physical contact of the Ministry officials with entrepreneurs. I believe that this way we can considerably improve the situation related to the non-physical barriers.
To uncover the transit potential, it is necessary to develop an internal and external terminal network. What steps does your Ministry make today in this area?
Creating the optimal and high-quality network of logistics centers in Kazakhstan, as well as the participation of domestic companies in the logistics business outside the country is certainly a crucial issue. As is known, the transport and logistics centers are primarily aimed at the accumulation of cargo flows and thebettering and improving of logistics. We engage in development of this direction jointly with KTZ Express, which I have already mentioned. We already have a specific layout showing where these logistics centers will be located in the future. Without doubt, these are our largest border crossings Horgos and Aktau, as well as the key points on the map where cargo traffic is formed – Almaty, Astana, and Aktobe.
In general, we expect that the number of terminals will be significantly increased by the year 2020.
At the same time, we have plans to create logistics centers in Kazakhstan, or for the participation of our major companies in logistics-related projects abroad. For example, in the next few days theconstruction of the Kazakh-Chinese project, a terminal in Lianyungang, will start. These are only the first steps.
The country spends considerable funds to develop and maintain the transport infrastructure. So,the issue of attracting private investment into the sector is always topical. What is the progress of things in this direction?
We should realize that the transport infrastructure is primarily a social good. Let us take motorways as an example: regardless of how much cargo is carried by them, they are still needed. With this, many projects related to roads are often of no interest to investors because of their long payback period. Along with that, today we consider the project of building the Large Almaty Ring Road with the participation of large international partners.
In addition, there is already an example of reconstruction of the airport terminal in Aktau under the concession agreement with a Turkish investor.
Besides, now we can say that a new industry, railway engineering, has appeared in the country. Here we actively cooperate with companies such as Alstom, General Electric and Talgo. Jointly with them new large enterprises are created in Kazakhstan.