Askar, on the SEC Almaty website and in the media there is much discussion about comprehensive support of local and foreign entrepreneurs. However, oddly enough, the number of people informed about the support and assistance programs available is not growing. As the Chairman of the Board, how do you plan to popularize this issue? How can we inform the people of our city about all the support programs provided through the Mayoral Almaty finances?
First of all, thank you so much for this opportunity to participate in EUROBAK Talks. I do hope that when the interview comes out, many more people will hear and read it, and the information will be more comprehensive.
In my opinion, nowadays there is one big systemic problem that both ordinary citizens and the business community are obstructed from clear government information sources. Any information transmitted through government channels, radio stations and other media reaches the public as if through a filter. And it’s not just a problem in our country. It’s a global one. Today, the public is very quick to recycle incoming information, absorbing more visual content. No wonder about the community! Before coming to work at the SEC of Almaty, I wasn’t even aware of all the possibilities the organization had to offer. It is only when I started working here, I realized how much could be done. Perhaps it’s because now it’s the time the government is ready to work more openly.
For example, as long as I have been living in Almaty, I have never heard about an Industrial zone. Now that I know what it is I see all the benefits it provides, including the possibility of starting a joint venture with the possibility of additional financing, exchanging and sharing ideas and implementing ambitious projects. It’s like a breath of fresh air for business!
What have we done first? We’ve increased our presence and activity on social media, making it livlier by using a simpler language of communication with users. We have consolidated everything in one place by establishing an all-in-one call centre easily reached by dialing 2810. Today users can get information in our Telegram chatbot, access FAQ as well as ask their questions, and get pre-prepared answers. Also, we have updated the SEC website again, making it more accessible and convenient for our users. We try to avoid using exclusive language in our content, like professional words, abbreviations and special terms, and we regularly update the glossary in social networks to help our users increase their knowledge and know exactly what the subject is about.
We have started holding open business meetings at which we convey information to interested persons. The pandemic has its specific impact as we switched to an online format that has its limitations – the information is received differently and as the result, we don’t get expected feedback. During the meetings, I don’t filter questions, they can be asked and answered by anyone. I am personally interested in people learning more about our programs and, indeed, persuading people, who still doubt, about the transparency of these programs. On the other hand, because of the pandemic, we have concluded that it is possible to promote information effectively through social media channels. Not just through official pages, but through the leaders of opinion and the influencers, who in practice have become convinced that these projects and programs work, and now they talk about them directly from ‘the horse’s mouth’.
You once noted that “one of the new points of development of SEC is implementing its commercial projects and activities to cover even greater horizons and reduce dependence from the city budget”. How does this work in practice? What tools can the Almaty SEC apply to become a more independent institution, and how soon can it happen? I mean, what would ideally have to happen for this measure to be implemented in the most painless way for the organization? And how realistic is it to reach this goal?
The SEC Almaty is an institution that has been existing for more than ten years. The idea to create such an institution was proposed by Elbasy himself who actively promoted it. Initially, the SEC was always dependent on the state budget. The Almaty SEC has been developing independently for many years, implementing its own and strategic projects using the state budget, such as a stabilization fund. But the SEC does not make any money off it. Moreover, we are obliged to realize all the incoming sums. That is why I have said, and will repeat, that the development of the SEC has to be viewed from a commercial and state budget independent perspective. Today it is possible for us to operate and finance our projects using financial support only from the state budget. And basically, we could go on doing so and carry out projects on this kind of concessional financing basis. But we have gone further.
Last year, we started a project to receive a credit rating. And we have successfully done so for the first time in the history of SEC in Kazakhstan. Today we are the only SEC that has the credit rating of the international rating agency Fitch ‘BBB-’, outlooks stable, which is considered as an investment category. This means that we are stable in our commitments and projects. We have done so to enter capital markets and issue SEC bonds allowing us to gain access to additional funds to run our investment projects. In turn, such a financial expansion will lead to improving access to finance for businesses and differ from those products offered by the banks and other financial institutions. We have already started to move in that direction.
For example, we have planned several meetings with major international investors interested in purchasing SEC bonds. The funds from these deals will be directed to implement social and commercial projects – first of all, to solve the problems with dilapidated housing, improve living conditions and develop social facilities.
Could you tell us about the projects that you are working on with Almaty’s SEC right now, and which ones inspire you and from which ones you wait not just for some material results, but more ideological ones as well?
Well, the first one, of course, is getting credit ratings and issuing bonds as I’ve already mentioned. Today, this is our coolest project, even impacting our entire country.
The second project is the SEC itself. I would like to inform the business community about all the tools to help entrepreneurs develop their businesses. We are open to new solutions and proposals; we consider any project and try to meet the business needs.
The third very important project is a renovation program. Today in Almaty there is the largest concentration of dilapidated housing than anywhere else in the country. For example, there are more than 1,400 of the two-storied, decaying houses of frame-reed, wooden and other constructions built in the beginning and middle of the last century. But we believe there are many more because even houses built within the last few decades need to be upgraded. These are issues that are primary and foremost on the agenda.
And the fourth, in my opinion, a mega-ambitious project is the SEC Draft Bill. And as the Maslikhat’s deputy, I am doing my best to promote this project everywhere. I am pleased that our President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has heard us and brought up a question related to the future of the SEC at the last meeting of the National Council of Public Trust. We are currently working on this SEC development concept jointly with the Ministry of National Economy. We do hope that this concept will form the basis of the bill. I am sure that only the law will allow us to develop a bridge of transparent two-way communication with the business community. Development institutions such as ours should be regulated at the legislative level.
Nowadays, education of all kinds is significant all over the world. In your opinion, what resources can we use in our country to solve the question of human capital? What disciplines do you think should be included in the education program of our youth today?
If we discuss this issue globally, we should start from preschool and primary education. Because that is the very age when the basic concepts of personality, human values, society and behaviour are built into the minds of the youth, laying down the fundamental knowledge and concepts of society as a whole. It is at this very time that a notion should be laid into a child’s mind that we all, society, business, and the state, we are all in this together, united and moving in the same direction. I mean, there is no way that while someone is solving a problem, I am just expecting it to be resolved and do nothing to help.
All of us, at his/her level, solve the same problem. But there is no such concept and notion in our society yet… Everyone is trying to ‘pull the blanket over oneself’, not realizing that only by uniting together we will be able to solve problems and reach our goals effectively and efficiently.
It has, therefore, to be a fully holistic and integrated approach, which needs to be universally implemented at all levels and spread within and across the whole country. Single solutions will not work and will not produce the desired and effective outcomes.Related Topics