At the beginning of his address, the Head of State expressed gratitude to the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev for excellent organisation of the Summit, and welcomed the leaders of Central Asian countries and honoured guests of the event.
– Kazakhstan was the initiator of the UN Special Programme for the Economies of Central Asia in 1997, which has turned into an effective platform for expanding regional cooperation and facilitating our integration into global economic processes. Today’s meeting commemorates the 25th Anniversary of the Special Programme. Last year, under the Chairmanship of Kazakhstan, we strengthened key areas of the Programme and took important steps towards its practical implementation, – Kassym-Jomart Tokayev noted.
According to him, the Republic of Azerbaijan makes a significant contribution to the development of SPECA and strengthening of cooperation between the regions of Central Asia and the Caucasus. The crowning achievement was today's historic first Summit of the Heads of State Parties of SPECA.
– I am confident that the meeting outcomes will pave the way for expanding our multifaceted cooperation based on the principles of openness, mutual respect and trust. Against the background of geopolitical fragmentation and abrupt global economic shifts, the importance of the Special Programme is becoming ever important. Based on our common interests, let me share my vision for the further development of SPECA. The principles of sustainable development have become the basis of the national strategies and programs of our countries. Today in Kazakhstan, 80% of the state budget is already synchronized with the sustainable development goals. Our government's top priority is to ensure universal access to quality education and healthcare. The new Social Code adopted this year has strengthened the protection of vulnerable categories of our citizens, – said the President.
The Kazakh leader noted that our country intends to continue working with the Programme to ensure an inclusive future where all citizens will benefit equally from social, technological and economic progress. Kazakhstan's initiative to establish the UN Regional Centre for Sustainable Development for Central Asia and Afghanistan in Almaty echoes these goals.
– Our countries have great opportunities to expand trade and mutually beneficial cooperation. Already today we see a steady growth of trade turnover between Kazakhstan and the SPECA Member States. Last year, the volume of mutual trade increased by a third and amounted to almost 10 billion dollars. I believe that we can double this figure in the foreseeable future. SPECA countries are able to supply each other with many goods at competitive prices and thus reduce imports from other countries. Kazakhstan is ready to increase export to SPECA countries by 175 additional non-commodity items, worth 2.3 billion dollars. The creation of “green” corridors and the removal of various trade barriers will boost our trade cooperation, including in such areas as construction, chemical, and food industries. We are also open for relevant proposals from our partners, – stressed the Head of State.
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev believes that there is big potential for industrial cooperation within SPECA. In this regard, it looks promising to combine the knowledge and efforts of engineering companies in the development and production of innovative models of machinery and equipment for energy, transport and logistics, agriculture and water management. The President is confident that the implementation of large-scale manufacturing projects on a parity basis will strengthen the global competitiveness of the region's states.
– Kazakhstan tries to make a lot to ensure food security. Over the past five years, we have doubled the volume of agricultural products and now export them to more than 80 countries. We intend to work tirelessly with all SPECA Member States. Special attention should be paid to creating tools to stimulate investment cooperation among the SPECA countries. In this regard, the establishment of the SPECA Trust Fund under the UN auspices for economic development and integration is an important new step. Bearing in mind the importance of the Special Programme Kazakhstan is ready to make financial contribution to the Fund, – the Kazakh leader noted.
In his opinion, the SPECA region today plays a huge role in the development and diversification of international transport and transit routes. The Head of State believes that the countries have become a continental bridge between Europe and Asia.
– This is an immense advantage that we need to fully explore. In this context, we pin great hopes on the development of the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route. I am confident that connecting the Middle Corridor with the Belt and Road Initiative, as well as the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) and the Global Gateway strategy will give a powerful multiplier effect to world trade. Moreover, Kazakhstan is ready for active cooperation in the development of the North-South corridor. Over the past 15 years, our country has invested more than 35 billion dollars in transport infrastructure. Over the next three years, we plan to build over 1,300 kilometers of railways. This will increase transportation capacity towards China, South Asia, Russia and Europe. I invite all partners to expand the capacity of the Caspian Sea ports, as well as to the joint production of transport vessels. We count on active technical and expert support from the UNECE and ESCAP, – emphasized Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
Along with this, cooperation in the field of ecology is of great importance. The leader of Kazakhstan considers it important to start joint research and applied work on environmental and climate issues, as well as management of transboundary water resources. According to him, the tragedy of the Aral Sea, the consequences of which are felt not only in the countries of the region, but also far beyond.
– Next year, as chair of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea, Kazakhstan will focus on strengthening efforts to prevent environmental degradation of what was once one of the world's largest lakes. The environmental situation in the Caspian Sea is another great challenge, where we face shallowing, a sharp decrease in water flow, a reduction in biological resources and anthropogenic pollution. Saving the Caspian Sea should become a priority for long-term international cooperation. I call on all stakeholders to joint efforts and develop a common Action plan to improve the conditions of this unique regional water reservoir. Together we can turn the Caspian Sea into a sea of peace and new opportunities, – the President said.
Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said that Kazakhstan has set a target to achieve carbon neutrality by 2060. He called on SPECA leaders to intensify joint efforts on the transition to alternative energy sources and to support Kazakhstan's initiative to establish a Central Asia Climate Project Office in Almaty.
– Cooperation in the field of digital technologies and artificial intelligence also opens up broad prospects. The rapid development of AI poses urgent challenges for us to transform production, the labor market and the service sector. In our country, more than 90% of government services are provided electronically, and the share of non-cash transactions now exceeds 80%. The volume of exports from the IT industry increased fivefold last year alone. We intend to increase this figure to one billion dollars by 2026, – the Head of State stressed.
The leader of Kazakhstan noted that Astana supports the process of institutionalisation of SPECA, aimed to fully unleash its potential for the effective promotion of multifaceted trade, economic and investment cooperation among the countries of the region.
– Moreover, we would welcome new SPECA participants – representatives of partnering states and UN institutions. I propose our governments to create a special SPECA Working Group. In addition, I propose to hold a special SPECA panel session on the sidelines of the next Astana International Forum, to be held in June 2024. This high-level event is designed to unite the efforts of the world community to find consolidated responses to the unprecedented challenges of our time. I also would like to propose Kazakhstan as a venue of one of the next SPECA summits at a time of mutual convenience, – said Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
At the end of his address, the President expressed confidence that today's Summit will make it possible to work out concrete mechanisms to increase the effectiveness of the Special Programme and further strengthen friendship and strategic partnership between the countries.
The Summit was addressed by Ilham Aliyev, the President of Azerbaijan, Sadyr Zhaparov, the President of Kyrgyzstan, Emomali Rahmon, the President of Tajikistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, the President of Uzbekistan, Irakli Garibashvili, the Prime Minister of Georgia Viktor Orban, the Prime Minister of Hungary, Khojamurad Geldimuradov, Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan, Tatiana Molchan, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe, Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), and Jasem AlBudaiwi, Secretary General of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf.