The Concert Whistle of the AIFC

On July 2, 2020, President of Kazakhstan Kossym-Jomart Tokayev held an online extended conference of the Astana International Financial Centre Management Council. Discussing the revival of the country’s economic growth and the AIFC’s role in this process was the key issue of the agenda.

We have commented on this, in our opinion, brilliant stunt of Kayrat Kelimbetov and his team of henchmen a number of times (see here and here). Our conclusion is that the stunt is going to fail. The only question is when it going to happen and what the it is going to cost to the Kazakh taxpayers.

With that, we are more than certain that Kelimbetov himself is not going to bear any responsibility for his actions. For is he being marketed as an executor of the First President’s will and, if anyone tries to hold him responsible at least from the political standpoint, he can always say that he acted on Nursultan Nazarbayev’s orders. As for the latter, recall that the First President cannot be held responsible under the Kazakh law ad vitam.

In these circumstances, the rest can either envy those who can settle in life as lucratively as Kayrat Kelimbetov and his people or try and get a job at the AIFC or silently wish for this project to fail.

The problem, however, lies in the fact that, in this instance, we are not talking about Kayrat Kelimbetov’s and even the current President’s reputation. We are talking about the reputation of the Republic of Kazakhstan. This is why the state is doomed to continue promoting the project. On the other hand, the question is how the state can do it. And the current problems including the financial ones caused by the revenue contraction and the increase of the state budget spending may play the crucial role in the matter.

Although, in Kazakhstan, blowing hot air has always been more important than money, nonetheless, we hope that the AIFC’s feeder will be steadily closing. The usual Kazakh phenomena – a) the intra-clan fighting, b) a clan’s desire to replace Kelimbetov with one of their own kind, c) the necessity to present the people with yet another “scapegoat” responsible for the reduction of the quality of life may take a certain part in this process.

In our opinion, all of these things can happen. This is particularly evident from the AIFC’s 2019 annual report that can be found on the organisation’s website in two versions, a full and a short one.   

The thing is that it is not really a report but a promotional brochure and a useless piece of paper at the same time. It does not contain the data on how much the organisation had earned, how much it had spent and where it got the money for the covering of the losses.  

By the looks of it, this outstanding work of concert whistle is primarily intended for two Kazakh citizens (Nursultan Nazarbayev and Kossym-Jomart Tokayev) as well as for the outside world. If anyone still wishes to read the report, we recommend downloading it here

Personally, we had a lot of fun reading this document. Forgive us, Kayrat Kelimbetov and your henchmen, but it does look like fraud. Albeit quite a brilliant one indeed. Something that reminds us of the legendary attempts to sell the Eiffel Tower to foreign investors who, for some reason, thought money can get them anything they want.

It is hard to say whether Kossym-Jomart Tokayev understands this. On one hand, the attitude of state officials towards both the project and Kayrat Kelimbetov is more negative than positive – everyone knows what’s going on but can do nothing about it. On the other hand, the number of the project’s opponents is going to grow, particularly among state officials, and, at some point, the quantity is bound to transform into quality.

So far, however, if we are to believe Akorda’s official press-release of July 2, the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan thinks that the AIFC must take an active part in the realization of the current economic agenda.

Let us quote what Kossym-Jomart Tokayev said at the extended online meeting of the AIFC Management Council (text in bold by

“Obviously, a single country may not be of interest to big investors but the entire region of the Eurasian Union and Central Asia with its commercial and economic ties is hard to ignore. I am certain that, in the current environment, any competition among the countrys belonging to this region must be viewed through the lens of mutual growth and motivation for further development. Investors’ attention to one of the countries will invariably influence the success of others. Therefore, the AIFC, with its unique capabilities, may serve as the universal platform that unites the countries of the region”.

We are hopeful that the other states of the region aren’t going to be sold on Kayrat Kelimbetov’s stunt and, if they do take interest in this project, they start with the elementary things – an inspection of the financial side of the matter and an independent external assessment of what has been done and what can be done in the future.

Finally, it would be wonderful if the Accounts Committee of the Republic of Kazakhstan (a structure that has at least some interest in uncovering violations and even has a constitutional mandate to do so) got involved in the matter.



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