Interview was taken by Saule Tasboulatova
On October 14, David Gamble, the first secretary of the US Embassy in Kazakhstan, paid one-day visit to Atyrau. Our meeting took place thanks to the initiative of the American Embassy in Kazakhstan.
David Gamble works in Kazakhstan for the second year and he almost has no accent when he greets in the Kazakh language. But, as he admitted, his 4-year-old son speaks better than him, since he goes to the Kazakh kindergarten. David worked for three years in Moscow, so the ambassador also knows Russian (nevertheless, I used the help of our in-house translator Zeena Urynbassarova).
"AMERICAN CORNER" AND FLYING COWS
– What is the purpose of your visit to Atyrau?
– I arrived to have a look how "American Coner" works here. It is located in Slanov Library. That is the place for meetings and communications. Here you can prepare for tests to enter American universities, to improve your English by self-study, using American books and games, participating in language club, meeting American diplomats during their visits to Atyrau.
– I think it's very useful information for school kids and students, as well as for those who want to learn English.
– How many American companies currently operate in Atyrau Oblast?
– There are about 500 American companies that operate in Kazakhstan. From the moment when Kazakhstan gained its independence, the American companies contributed to national economy about 100 billion dollars. Now they work not only in oil industry, but also are engaged in construction activite. Let's take, for example, a breakthrough project, such as production of locomotives in Akmola Oblast (region). There is also a story, if you remember, about “flying cows": last year 2000 cows have been transported to Kazakhstan by airplanes to improve local breeds.
Agriculture, animal husbandry, mineral resources – these are the industries that we pay a lot of attention. Everywhere where there are good opportunities for business development, the American investors are ready to cooperate.
– What is the volume of American investments into Atyrau Oblast in 2015?
– I don't know exactly, but last year, for example, 70% of investments were made into oil sector.
– Kazakhstan tries to implement a rather serious project in petrochemical sphere – such as the construction of a big petrochemical complex in Atyrau. Are American companies going to participate in this project, do they have specific plans?
– I know that they show a lot of interest, but I don't know about any specific plans. For sure, it is a very important project for Kazakhstan, directed at diversification of the economy when it can produce finished goods from plastic items to shampoos.
“WE ALSO WANT TO SEE THE RISE OF OIL PRICE"
– What are the forecasts of your analysts for oil prices in the near future?
– None of the analysts assume that there will be a sharp rise of oil price. Therefore many companies revise their plans; they all align their strategies with low prices. It is also necessary to consider what is going on in big economies, such as China. The demand is decreasing, but the quantity of produced oil stays the same. Therefore, the pressure towards decreasing oil prices will still remain for a long time. The United States also produce oil, and we are also interested in price jump, but we don't think that it will happen next year, or at lest in the next 2 years.
ABOUT "BOLASHAK" AND CORRUPTION
– How do you assess the situation in Kazakhstan, how favorable it is for investments today?
– Many American companies would like to invest in Kazakhstan, as well as the countries of the European Union, because Kazakhstan is the largest EU's trade partner. America wants to increase the volume of its trade relations, and we shouldn't forget that from the moment of your independence the American companies are the largest investors. I already said that, except oil and gas sector we want to invest into other industries. When we speak about investments, we also shouldn't forget about education. Kazakhstan did a very clever thing when at the beginning of its independence it launched “Bolashak" program and young people had the chance to receive educational grants to study abroad. At that moment the country didn't have big funds for that and that was a big risk. But now, 25 years later, we see Bolashak graduates holding many government positions. For example, Mayor of Almaty, and in Astana there are a lot of Bolashak graduates holding government positions.
If to speak about today, then Kazakhstan has a very talented and educated labor force, is the country that works on improvement of its infrastructure, take for example, “Nurly Zhol" project. The government does a lot to eradicate corruption, introduces liberalization of visa regime. All these things are very important for stimulation of investments. Therefore if Kazakhstan will continue to work hard in this direction, and will simplify laws and create opportunities for business development, then investors will come, of course. But fighting corruption is a very difficult thing. In USDA we also fight against corruption...
– But you cannot, probably, compare its scales with ours?
– It depends what period you look at. If to take the period right after gaining independence, then yes, we had corruption of similar sizes. But the main thing is that there is an understanding that it's necessary to fight against corruption. And the leadership of Kazakhstan clearly states that it won't tolerate corruption. And we are watching for the progress in that respect, as well as investors.
"RUSSIA AGGRAVATED CRISIS IN SYRIA"
– What is your attitude towards the actions of Russia in Syria and, in particular, to missiles launched from the ships of the RF Caspian flotilla?
– You know that Americans bombed the targets on the territory occupied by ISIL. And when American military planes fly, it is important for them to know the situation. But when missiles are launched from the ships of the Caspian flotilla, it is, of course, a very dangerous situation for the American pilots and pilots of other countries involved in the coalition fighting with Daish.
– Did these attacks worsened the Russian-American relations?
– If to speak about actions of Russia in Syria, then they aggravated the situation. Because the majority of targets that are destroyed by Russian aircrafts are not ISIL. And if these actions impact those Muslims who aren't extremists, then there is a probability that they will side with ISIL and become extremists. 54 countries participate in the anti-terrorist coalition, and they have the plan of fighting against ISIL. The steps of Russia aren't coordinated with steps of those 54 countries.
Therefore, if Russian rockets hit the targets of moderate Muslims, then nobody will be able to predict the consequences.
– Russian opposition to president Putin already compare actions of RF aircraft and fleet in Syria to the Soviet invasion into Afghanistan, meaning the consequences …
– I am not ready to make such comparison, but the situation is very difficult and it needs to be resolved.
– Rocket attacks on ISIL facilities were made from ships located in the Caspian Sea, i.e. in close proximity to Kashagan and Tengiz. Does it somehow impact American interests in the region? Will additional security measures be taken at the oil fields?
– Well, those fields also belong to Kazakhstan. Kazakhstan, of course, takes some security measures, the USA can't especially participate in this case. We attentively watch the situation.
– Can you comment the results of investigation made by the Security Council of the Netherlands about circumstances of passenger Boeing crash over Ukraine?
– It was a long-awaited report. And firstly for the families of the deceased who learned more information. The United States was not the member of group that was engaged in investigation, but as the member of the Chicago convention –we received the copy of that report. The report says that the rocket that shot down the plane was launched from land. Of course, the report doesn't specified who was responsible for that. But the Netherlands report is the result of one of two investigations, the second report – the criminal investigation (which has to define those who were responsible for rocket launch). The second investigation is conducted in parallel, but so far we don't have the materials of the 2nd report. The position of the USA that the missile was launched from the territory occupied by rebels was voiced earlier by the Secretary of State John Kerry. It is important that families of the deceased received information about what actually happened, and we are taking all steps that such tragedy is not repeated.
"THE USA IS REDUCING FINANCING OF NGO"
– What is the amount of financing made by the USA to Kazakhstan non-governmental organizations (NGOs)?
– I don't know the total amount of government investments made into this sphere, but I know that draft project on changing of that sum has been prepared now. We annually supply reports to the government about the organizations that received financing. But our purpose is to make your country to support NGOs. By the way, Kazakhstan is now creating its own version of USAID and it supports NGOs in Afghanistan, trains Afghan students, and also tries to take a leading position in the region and provide help to its neighbors. We closely work with the government of Kazakhstan, we share our experience with non-governmental organizations.
– For what purposes do you spend your funds? The public feels a little apprehensive about NGOs, they are often criticized that their work is allegedly paid by the Americans, and, therefore, directed by them. You've, probably, heard that?
– Yes, of course. We support non-governmental organizations that work on protection of motherhood and child, providing children with vitamins, we support NGOs that fight tuberculosis, ecological organizations that work on how to find new sources of drinking water. Last week we, for example, allocated funds to NGO to support journalistic activity. We do the model work of the UN in Kazakhstan, we arrange role-playing games where students represent different countries. This year the deputy secretary-general of the United Nations came to our role-playing games to show to Kazakhstan students how the United Nations operates. We provide training to doctors, there are non-governmental organizations that work on prevention of HIV. After all, what is the purpose of NGO's existence? To introduce changes. And if you support NGO that works on reducing infantile mortality, tries to prevent the birth of children with diseases, does everything to prevent companies from polluting air and water that you drink, you teach people of Kazakhstan to take its worthy place in the world. In every NGO you can find people who are very optimistic and work hard to make Kazakhstan a strong country. Nazarbayev set the goal to include Kazakhstan into 30 top countries in the world, but in each of those 30 countries there is a very strong presence of NGOs. Foreign powers don't create NGOs, they are created here, in Kazakhstan, and people working in non-governmental organizations are the people who work on improving the life in Kazakhstan. They need support and, as I already said, NGOs receive assistance, both from the USA and Kazakhstan. But now financing from the American side decreases because Kazakhstan is gaining strength and does this work independently.
– Thank you for your interview.
Photo taken by the author
October 19 2015, 17:23