Kazakhstan is set to launch an investment residence programme that will offer multi-entry visas to foreign investors and their families when they invest in the country as well as additional tax privileges.
It is envisaged that potential investors will have several options to invest their funds, including securities traded on Astana International Exchange, the newly created stock exchange operating in the AIFC.
At the same time, it is contemplated that program participants may opt to become tax residents of Kazakhstan on and will be eligible to for tax exemption of their income received from sources located outside of Kazakhstan in return for paying a fixed annual fee. Income generated within the country will be taxed in accordance with the tax code.
We want to be an entry gateway for individuals who wish to operate in Kazakhstan or in the region and want a flexible entry/exit permit along with certain tax benefits"
The programme is currently being discussed in Parliament and should be available for investors in the second half of 2020.
"We want to be an entry gateway for individuals who wish to operate in Kazakhstan or in the region and want a flexible entry/exit permit along with certain tax benefits," Timur Onzhanov, managing director of Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) told International Investment during an interview in London.
"Right now these details are still being discussed in Parliament, including the thresholds for investment and annual fixed fee amount," Onzhanov added.
Bordered by China to the east, Russia to the north and with European markets just hours away to the west, Kazakhstan is well positioned to take advantage of any economic developments taking place in Central Asia.
One of the biggest investments set to hit Kazakhstan is China's Belt and Road Initiative. Several large-scale infrastructure projects are already underway, looking to connect Beijing with markets in Europe, using Kazakhstan as a transit country.
Outside investors are paying attention. "There has not been as much opportunity to trade in this region since the Silk Road was active centuries ago," Alan Wolff, World Trade Organization deputy director-general, told the FT.
"Given our geographical and cultural proximity, we naturally expect interest from Russian and Chinese investors, people from neighbouring countries who would like to get access to the regional Central Asian market and want to do business there," Onzhanov added regarding the investor visa programme.
The Kazakh government has pushed for a new roadmap outlining legislative and executive measures to attract foreign investment.
"Economic development is directly related to attracting investment. It is necessary to look for new niches, create mechanisms for attracting investments and provide all support measures. The main task is to double the volume of investment in the economy," Kazakh prime minister Askar Mamin, has said.
The Astana International Financial Centre was launched in July last year and is at the forefront of attracting investment to the ninth-largest country in the world.
Already, around 300 companies have registered with the financial centre, including firms based in more than 30 countries, such as the UK, US, China and Russia.
The government's push to bolster Astana - renamed Nur-Sultan in honour of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev - as a financial hub has seen the city make swift progress in areas like regulatory standards, infrastructure and human capital.
To answer the demand from international companies, the country is also building a financial talent pool.
"Within the AIFC we have the Bureau for Continuous Professional Development. It works as a satellite Academy that supports the growth of the talent pool and they have a centralised database of all alumni from both local and international universities," Onzhanov said.
As the AIFC joins a long list of global financial centres, it's already off to a good start: it has secured the top spot in the Eastern European and Central Asia regions according to the Global Financial Centres Index.