From left: Kairat Lama Sharif, Ambasador of Kazakhstan, Shaikh Surour Bin Mohammad Al Nahyan, Nurali Aliyev and Ebrahim Al Mahmoud, First Deputy Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Chamber at the meeting on Tuesday. Image Credit: Ahmed Kutty/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Kazakhstan, a major oil producer in Central Asia, is trying to diversify its economy and attract foreign direct investment (FDI) to boost growth as low oil price hurts its economy, according to the Deputy Minister of Investment and Development of Kazakhstan.

“We are extremely dependent on oil prices. About 80 per cent of our exports [are based] on oil and its derivatives. We are losing lot of money due to low oil prices and trying to attract foreign direct investment to boost our economy,” said Rakhim Oshakbayev, speaking to Gulf News in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

He said the country is adopting several investment policy initiatives such as the creation of special economic zones, investment subsidies, a special treaty for FDI as well as tax incentives.

“We are changing our business model to [an] investment-based model to attract foreign companies,” Oshakbayev said.

He did not furnish figures when asked how much money the country is losing due to low oil prices, but only said they were losing a lot.

According to the US Energy Information Administration, the country has the second-largest oil reserves, in addition to being the second-largest oil producer, among the former Soviet republics after Russia.

Speaking about bilateral cooperation between the UAE and Kazakhstan, he said trade ties between the two countries are strong, and that a lot of companies have invested in Kazakhstan in the construction, mining and agriculture sectors.

The Abu Dhabi Plaza being constructed by Aldar Properties is due to be finished by the second quarter of 2017, he said.

“We are very positive about the trade cooperation with the UAE. There is more than $1.86 billion (Dh6.83 billion) of FDI from the UAE to Kazakhstan. We plan to increase this figure.

“Starting from 2016 investors will interact with authorities on the basis of One-Stop Shop approach. Investors who are applying for licenses and permits in Kazakhstan shall no longer need to visit various ministries or government agencies,” he added.

The visiting minister and accompanying business delegation held discussions with the officials from Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Tuesday to further trade ties between the two countries.