Kazakhstan was brought to the attention of the world by Sacha Baron Cohen in 2006 when he lampooned the country in his movie Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. The Kazakhstan people were a little uneasy about the film but the government were delighted with the tenfold increase in visa applications from tourists. David Cameron’s visit there on Sunday to cut the ribbon on the opening of the world’s costliest (£89bn) oil project at Kashagan, on the Caspian Sea, may show the country in a more serious light and cement its status on the world stage as a rising economic power.
The Kashagan oilfield was discovered in 2000 and is twice the size of Greater London and estimated to contain 35 billion barrels of oil. However, it is a challenging environment to work in not least because the Kashagan is located in shallow water that freezes for five months of the year. Another problem is created by the large number of partner companies in the consortium which include Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips, Total, ExxonMobil, KazMunaiGas and Inpex. No one company has a big enough stake to take the lead and so the decision making process is slowed down.
The Prime Minister(PM) was accompanied on the two-day visit by a 33-strong business delegation with a mission to secure £700m worth of deals. Not all of the deals are oil related as the hope is to broaden the scope of investment and trade into new sectors, such as education, healthcare, retail and financial services. The PM said
Kazakhstan is on the rise, a dynamic country that is poised to become a high‑income country by the end of this decade. And a country that also wants to play a bigger role in the region and in the world, not just an emerging market but an emerging power. That is why I want to strengthen relations between our two countries to help us both to succeed in the global race.
Under the Bolashak (means future) Program more than 3,000 Kazakhs study in the United Kingdom. The PM talked about extending this and said that he wanted to attract the brightest and the best students to come to Britain.
The PM also wants to encourage Kazakh companies to invest in Britain. To help with visa applications he announced the piloting of a new visa service, called the Business Bridge, in the new capital of Astana for selected companies. Britain still processes visas in the old capital, Almaty, which is 60 miles away.
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