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30 years of Kazakhstan-Singapore Partnership: Analyzing Trade, Investments, Key Projects, Future Prospects

President of Singapore Halimah Yacob paid an official visit to Kazakhstan on May 21-23, in what was a historic milestone in the diplomatic relations, as it became the first visit of the Singaporean leader to Central Asia. As the two countries mark 30 years of diplomatic relations, more about the milestones over these years and what stands next in the partnership between Kazakhstan and Singapore is in the latest article of Kazinform.

During her visit to Kazakhstan, Halimah Yacob met with President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. They thoroughly discussed the current development and prospects of Kazakh-Singaporean relations focusing on strengthening the political dialogue, deepening trade and economic cooperation, and expanding cultural and humanitarian ties.

Diplomatic relations between Kazakhstan and Singapore were established on March 30, 1993. The diplomatic mission of Kazakhstan was set up in Singapore in November 2003, and since December 2008, it operates as an embassy.

«The 30th anniversary is a major milestone. I am happy to be the first Singaporean President to make a state visit to Kazakhstan to mark this important bilateral milestone. Singapore values our warm and longstanding friendship with Kazakhstan, which is built on a strong foundation of trust, good faith, and mutual respect over the years. There have been regular visits between both countries. I visited Astana in 2017 when I was the Speaker of Parliament for the opening ceremony of the Astana Expo and met President Tokayev, who was then Chairman of the Senate. We had met a year earlier when he visited Singapore,» Halimah Yacob said in an interview with local media.

In Kazakhstan, she also met with Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov, attended the Kazakh-Singaporean business forum and addressed the students of Nazarbayev University, with whom the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy has had a long-standing partnership.

Fluctuating trends in trade and economic cooperation

Trade, economic and investment cooperation plays a key role in Kazakh-Singaporean relations, said President Tokayev during the meeting.

The trade turnover between Kazakhstan and Singapore in 2022 reached a record $1.92 billion, growing by 65.1 percent compared to 2021 ($1.2 billion), according to the Kazakh Bureau of National Statistics.

Exports from Kazakhstan to Singapore for 2022 increased by 67.8 percent to $1.87 billion. Growth in Kazakhstan’s exports to Singapore was due to an increase in oil supplies by 68.6 percent or $761.6 million, as oil remains Kazakhstan’s main export commodity.

Imports to Kazakhstan from Singapore in 2022 increased by 0.5 percent and amounted to $47.1 million, consisting mainly of computer products, various measuring equipment and chemicals.

The data from the Singaporean Ministry of Trade and Industry says top exports to Kazakhstan include turbo jets, petroleum oils, lubricating preparations, turbo propellers, and electrical machinery.


Between January and April this year, trade turnover amounted to $667.9 million with exports reaching $628 million and imports – $39.9 million. In comparison, in January-April 2022, trade hit $628.5 million.

Singaporean companies working in the country

Overall, Kazakhstan is home to 149 Singaporean companies, data from the Bureau of National Statistics shows. Their activities range from transport and logistics, education, food and beverage to digital technologies. Key companies are Surbana Jurong, which has been involved in urban and infrastructure projects in Kazakhstan since 2012, with a large project in development management services for the G4City in Almaty, CrimsonLogic, which developed an e-judiciary system for the Astana International Financial Centre in early 2019, and Quest Ventures, a top Singaporean venture capital firm, which signed an agreement with QazTech Ventures, a subsidiary of Kazakhstan’s Baiterek National Holding, in 2020 to support startups in Kazakhstan and drive the Central Asia innovation ecosystem.

Meeting his counterpart, Tokayev invited more Singaporean companies to explore opportunities in Kazakhstan.

«We will encourage our people to go to Singapore as tourists. And, of course, our gates will always be open for your tourists and businessmen from your country. So once again I would like to underscore that Kazakhstan is seriously committed to having close relations with your country,» said Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.


Investments from Singapore

In the period from 2010-2022, the inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Kazakhstan from Singapore exceeded $1.4 billion, according to the Ministry of National Economy. The data indicates gross FDI inflows from Singapore in 2022 were $400 million, increasing six times compared to 2021.

Singapore’s share of total FDI is 1.4 percent. Yet, data shows that FDI volumes are fluctuating. For instance, FDI inflows in 2016 compared to 2015 increased 19-fold to $180 million, before falling to $21.6 million in 2018.

A similar case was in 2019-2021, with $169.5 million in 2019 and $67.2 million in 2021.


New agreements worth $275 million

The business forum attended by Halimah Yacob in Astana saw the signing of a number of bilateral agreements and memoranda aimed at strengthening cooperation in the areas of trade, investment, logistics and training of civil servants, as well as commercial documents worth $275 million. The forum brought together over 200 representatives of government agencies and business circles of the two countries.

One of the major outcomes of Yacob’s visit to Kazakhstan was the signing of the Services and Investment Agreement, a legally binding agreement between Kazakhstan and Singapore. It offers mutual benefits for businesses from both countries which in turn will generate mutual opportunities in a range of sectors, according to Singapore’s Ministry of Trade and Industry.

«This agreement will support efforts to enhance our economic engagement and create more favorable conditions for our businesses through the easing of regulations and lowering the barriers for entry. It will also provide access to contractual service suppliers, increase global exposure for our talents, and provide stability and predictability for our investors via investment protection disciplines. This is a reflection of the deep reservoir of trust that exists between our governments, businesses, and peoples,» said Halimah Yacob.

The terms of the agreement envision improved market access for Singapore companies venturing into Kazakhstan in 15 sectors, including specialized medical services, dental services, research and experimental development services on natural sciences, residential and nonresidential property management services on a fee or contract basis and services related to management consulting, among others.

Partnership with Surbana Jurong and G4 City project

The partnership with Surbana Jurong on the large-scale G4 City project in Almaty region is a key initiative in promoting sustainable and smart city development.

Surbana Jurong is a leading urban and infrastructure development company based in Singapore. They specialize in providing consultancy services for urban planning, design, and development. Commissioned by the Caspian Group, a private developer in Kazakhstan, the Singaporean firm conceptualized the master plan for the G4 City project in 2020 and since then, the firm was appointed the development manager to run start-up projects and promote the G4 City project to international investors.


G4 represents a remarkable endeavor comprising four distinct and interconnected modern smart cities situated along the Almaty-Konaev highway. They include Gate City, which is a business and financial center, Golden City – a city of education, sport and health, Growing City as an international transport and logistics hub and Green City as an entertainment city offering beach vacations, amusement park, aquarium, and golf fields.


The primary aim of this initiative is to establish novel smart cities within the Almaty metropolis, fostering an environment conducive to rapid business growth and providing a comfortable lifestyle for residents.

A special economic zone will be created in the area that offers exemption from corporate tax, land tax, property tax, and simplified foreign labor employment procedure.

Promising projects

Other projects with significant potential to advance bilateral ties are cooperation with the world’s leading Indorama manufacturing group and the agreement between Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ) and PSA International to create a joint venture that will accelerate the development of the Middle Corridor, formally known as the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR).

The business forum in Astana witnessed the signing of a memorandum of mutual cooperation between Indorama and Zhambyl region of Kazakhstan.

Indorama, which has more than 150 production platforms in 37 countries of the world, including 10 fertilizer plants in 8 countries, plans to build a phosphate fertilizer manufacturing plant with a total capacity of 150,000 tons of granular superphosphate.

Zhambyl region is rich in phosphate ores concentrated mostly in the Karatau-Zhanatas basin. Forty-eight phosphate deposits were discovered in the region, while the explored reserves are estimated at 13 billion tons.

Representatives of Indorama visited Kazakhstan in August 2022 with the support of Kazakh Invest national company. According to Kazakh Invest, the project will have three stages implemented from 2022 to 2031.

The first stage of the project will establish the extraction of phosphorite ore and the production of simple superphosphate, with investments in the first stage reaching $100 million. Upon successful implementation, the second and third stages of the project have the potential to attract investments surpassing $1 billion. Additionally, it is projected that these stages will generate over 1,300 jobs.

In the meantime, KMPC, a joint venture with PSA International, is meant to promote the development of TITR, enhancing connectivity and trade flows from Southeast Asia and China, through Kazakhstan, and beyond to Europe.

PSA International (PSA) is a leading global port operator, and its ports and cargo solutions portfolio comprises over 60 deep-sea, rail and inland terminals across 160 locations in 42 countries – including two flagship port operations in Singapore and Belgium.

«This joint venture is a milestone moment for PSA, as it expands our global footprint into Central Asia and reflects our continued commitment to enhance global connectivity and enable sustainable trade. By partnering with KTZ to develop a holistic physical and digital ecosystem for the users and stakeholders of the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route, we seek to create a seamless and efficient logistics network that offers cargo owners a vital and valuable option to improve the agility, resilience and sustainability of their businesses,» said Tan Chong Meng, CEO of PSA International.

Given the growing geopolitical challenges, the project opportunities «contribute to the diversification of the economies of both countries,» according to Halimah Yacob.

«In this context, Singapore continues to be open to an expanding partnership. Kazakhstan, with its vast resources and strategic location in the heart of Central Asia, is an attractive place for investment from the perspective of various countries and companies,«said President Halimah Yacob at the business forum.

Cooperation in education

According to Singapore’s President, education is a promising area of cooperation between Kazakhstan and Singapore. The partnership between the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy of the National University of Singapore and the Nazarbayev University’s Graduate School of Public Policy since 2012 stands out as a bright example of ample opportunities in the education sector.

«I am happy that many Kazakh students were able to visit Singapore as part of their program. Such exchanges have helped to deepen mutual understanding and strengthen the friendship between our countries and peoples,» said Yacob.

While for many people Singapore is a story of success, the Singaporean leader believes «there is no one single recipe for successful development and much depends on the unique circumstance of each country.»

Singapore, a tiny island nation in Southeast Asia, has defied the odds and emerged as a shining example of economic success and development. Over the years, this city-state has transformed itself from a fishing village to a global powerhouse, captivating the world with its remarkable achievements.

«For Singapore, our small size and the lack of natural resources have provided a major impetus for us to diversify our economy through attracting foreign businesses and investments. It is therefore crucial for Singapore to create an open, stable, and welcoming environment for businesses, local and foreign alike, to thrive,» said Yacob.

Over 30 years, from humble beginnings, the two nations, each on its own path, have forged a strong bond, achieving milestones in trade, investments, and key projects. As they look ahead to the future, opportunities are promising if they leverage their respective strengths and continue to foster deeper ties.

With the new agreements, including in civil service and public administration, hopes that some of Singapore’s success can be adopted in Kazakhstan. Yet, strong governance will still remain a key challenge to be addressed by Kazakhstan.

Source : Kazinform