We have delegations from all over the world who are very interested in investing in Kazakhstan, and Astana specifically
Q: What is the significance of Expo 2017 to Astana and to the development of the city’s special economic zone [SEZ]?
A: Expo 2017 is placed inside our special economic zone – it is now a new part of the city. And the main attraction of Expo is that it will bring in up to 3 million tourists, just in three months, who will come and visit our capital. And they will not only visit the Expo site, but will also spend several days visiting other cultural events. There will be more than 3000 events happening within this 90-day period. And after that, after Expo is finished, the site of Expo will be transferred to become the headquarters of [the new] Astana International Financial Centre.
Q: What kind of interest are you receiving from foreign companies for the special economic zone?
A: We have received quite big demand from foreign companies. Every week, we have several meetings, we have delegations from all over the world who are very interested in investing in Kazakhstan, and Astana specifically. [This is] because of its geographic position, because of its dynamic growth, because of its rising power in the region, and because of the stability Kazakhstan has shown since gaining independence. We do roadshows for all of those delegates; we show them our industrial parks, our Left Bank. And all of them are very happy, and many of them return with real, concrete projects… So interest is rising, day by day.
Q: What impact will the creation of the Eurasian Economic Union have on your zone?
A: It will have a big impact, because [without it] Kazakhstan would only have 17 million customers for products that will be produced in our industrial zones, and in our SEZ. Now, producers who set up in our industrial park have a market of more than 180 million people, because there are no customs and no borders between the five countries which are members of our customs union. And the membership of the customs union is increasing every year – already countries such as Vietnam and Mongolia are signing documents and memoranda [with a view to] joining this customs union. Our Eurasian Union also has free labour force movement, so if you don't have special professionals in specific fields, in Astana, they can easily come from Russia or from other countries within our Eurasian zone.
Q: What is your general outlook for the future growth of both Astana and the SEZ, and what can we expect in the next five to 10 years?
A: The SEZ will, by the president's decree, last until 2027. After that, it can be prolonged for another 25 years, which will probably happen. Astana will [undergo a] dynamic development. I expect more than 1 million people to be living here by 2017, when Expo will be held here. I would expect 3 million to 5 million people to visit Astana in 2017. To cope with such a high tourist demand, there will be new investors, who will be setting up new projects, new amusement parts, entertainment centres, new hotels and restaurants to cater for this huge influx of tourists. And our municipality will do everything possible to meet this demand.