I think that the result of this session should be creation of working group, based on which we could continue our work. I have a specific suggestion on how we can support the initiative of creating Eurasian financiers club, but it will be state later. And now I suggest giving the flour to Serik Dostanovich (Primbetov – editor’s note), because he is the main professional integrator among us.
I think that there is a need for such club. Based on my experience I know that there is a need to specialists from different countries to come together and discuss common problems.
For example, within the EEC there is a Council on Financial-Economic Policy? Which is headed by German Gref. The council consists of the ministers of finance and economy of the member-states. On their meetings they discuss macroeconomic indicators of our countries, etc. It doesn’t mean yet that we are on our way of creating united financial-economic system of the EEC. Bu tit implies that the member-states aim at conducting coordinated economic policy, keeping a particular level of macroeconomic indicators, such as GDP, inflation, unemployment, external debt, etc. The Council of Transportation Policy discusses the questions of developing Eurasian transportation system and transportation corridors. There is also a Council of Ministries of Healthcare, Council of Customs, etc. However, all of this is the cooperation of government bodies.
On the Eurasian territory there are few unofficial clubs, where every interested person would be able to express himself. Therefore, there is a need for such place. I think the particular questions that will be discussed in the Eurasian financiers club will be suggested by people closer to the topics. An important role can be played by Eurasian Development Bank, which already works in two countries – Russia and Kazakhstan. I think the bank’s importance will increase with time. This bank sees better the problems that emerge between our financial systems.
By the way, the meaning of Eurasian should be defined. If it applies to the EEC, then we are talking about 6 countries and 3 observer countries. If the composition of members is different, that what is it? It is important, because everyone understands it in own way.
What working committees and working groups there are in the EEC that could be the basis for developing solutions?
The closest ones to our topic today are the Council on Financial-Economic Policy, which includes the ministers of finance and economics of 6 countries: Byelorussia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Different experts are invited to sessions of this council. For example, recently there was a big report on developing the strategy and tactics of the EEC. People with interesting international projects were invited.
Besides, there are 18 different councils, such as Council of Customs, Council of Central (National) Banks, Council on Securities, Council of Ministries of Healthcare, Council on Social Development, Council on Equivalent Recognition of Diplomas of EEC Countries. These councils are headed by representative people, who know and understand the problems and discuss the obstacles on their solutions. All of these are advising bodies.
That is, all of these structures constitute cooperation of governmental bodies. They make examinations of legislations and other documents and decide which of them may impede cooperation.
Speaking of the financial sector, there are a lot of impediments for free flow of capital. For example, 10% tax on the incomes of non-residents on the territory of the EEC. Thus, financing projects in the CIS we have to pay extra 10% tax, which we include into the interests. From the point of view of increasing the flow of goods and services between member-states of the EEC, this 10% tax should be abolished. We have been writing to officials about it for a long time, but we haven’t got any reaction.
I think that if we discuss a problem in our club and come to a common opinion, then we will be able to present it on the Council on Financial-Economic Policy in front of Gref or Kudrin. We could say that we had considered these questions and ask for their opinion. There the discussion between the business and the government is possible.
The 5th article of the agreement of customs union implies absence of discrimination among the members of the agreement. However, we still don’t have the access to internal transportation tariffs of the member-states. Then what is the reason for this customs union? During the Soviet era, there was a time when foreigners paid different prices for transportation.
If we create a financial club or Eurasian Association, I won’t emphasise its name, then our goal is not only discussion of the problems, but also their solution. We should also address already existing structures and solve some questions through them.
Yes, I agree with you. Not everybody knows about these problems and obstacles. The people in power don’t talk about these problems, and that’s why in reality the customs union is present only on paper. When they wanted to create UEA (United Economic Area) with Ukraine, when it included 4 countries, the agreement included 38 documents, of which only 23 were approved. After that Ukraine refused to participate, and now there are only 17 documents that our countries should sign. But even this is delayed; there is a small notice that says that the agreement will only take effect after joining the WTO. It raises the question: will there be a need for customs union then?
There were two scenarios of joining the WTO. First, is when three countries organize the customs union and then join the WTO. Second, is when each of the countries separately enters the WTO and then the countries integrate.
I have a suggestion. On 26 – 27 September there will be Inter-bank Conference in Almaty. If you agree, we can create a working group, develop a plan and discuss our idea on a more general meeting with participation of Russian and Ukrainian central and commercial banks. We could prepare a resolution or a plan of actions and dedicate one of the sessions of the conference for this initiative.
In general, it is interesting. I support this idea.
The Council of Central Banks often discusses currency regulation, system of accounts, etc. There are many topics for discussions. We haven’t signed the agreements yet, because our approaches are different. For example, Russians always suggest using Rubble for international payments, especially after introducing full convertation.
What is full convertation, I don’t completely understand?
The same as in our country – lifting off the limitations on taking currency out, etc. There are no formal obstacles. Well, there are many discussions made. Therefore, I have a suggestion – I think on the initial stage government bodies shouldn’t be included in the creation of Eurasian club. Let the Development Bank be involved, because it is international and is not connected with governmental bodies. After forming the club we could invite representatives of central banks and securities regulators. Market participants should discuss the questions among themselves.
By the way we have Russian-Kazakhstani sub-committee on cooperation in banking industry. It has sessions twice a year, and many trial questions are raised on the sessions. For example, the problem of nominal holdings was discussed, because it impeded the program of depositary receipts, questions on payments and taxes were also discussed. Two deputy chairmen of central banks of Russia and Kazakhstan and commercial banks, which solve many concrete problems through their associations, are usually present on these sessions. That is there are many international structures, thus, I have the suggestion of realizing this idea without involving government.
There is the international structure, but it is week on the market level. If the concept of the club is written, then BTA in Ukraine is ready to distribute this idea in Ukraine; we can approach the Association of financiers of Ukraine, which includes more than hundred banks. Let the Ukrainian banks choose their club members.
In Kazakhstan there is an association of financiers, which was created to facilitate discussion of problems of financial market development and lobby its interests in government bodies. I think that these tasks of the association are completed successfully, and probably it is same for association in other countries. Russia doesn’t have such association of financiers; there are two banking associations, and unions of representatives of other sectors of financial market, that is there re similar structures. Association of Financiers of Kazakhstan is not oriented for integration issues, because it requires particular abilities.
Cooperation of Eurasian financiers should have an organizational form; maybe it is possible to create a union that would include everyone who understands that working only inside own country is not enough and further development is needed. When I asked Serik Dostanovich what structures there already were, I meant that new organization could sign memorandums with the Council on Financial-Economic Policy and Council of Central Banks and develop a program of joint actions. I have attended a session of leaders of central banks and know the work of this organization. This structure prepares solutions that would facilitate integration processes. They come up with suggestions based on their understanding and suggestions of represented member-states. The Eurasian financiers club could suggest agendas for sessions of those of the EEC’s councils that are related to development of economic connections. Then this structure would not just be under the EEC, but it would have a realization mechanism of its own tasks through the corresponding bodies, including the advising bodies of the EEC.
The important questions we have to solve are as follows. First, what is the club created for and what we understand by “Eurasian” club – a club of EEC member-states or something else? Second, the organization should be separate from government; it should be a dialogue between the governments and business on the EEC level. The organization should enable the businessmen to contact people in power in order to inform them of a specific problem and discuss its solution.
I think that the problem is that all of the processes on the post-Soviet territory are pressed from the top. There is no adequate pressure from the bottom, which would be enough to realize something. The government and officials are obviously interested, but if there is no pressure from the bottom, no initiative is completely fulfilled. Now there is a period when the capitals of all of the CIS countries are serious about integration. All of the current international structures were created for political reasons, based on understanding that all of us have to climb out of this situation. I think currently a real support or basis for cooperation is required. Talking about the financial aspect, even the existing structure isn’t bad. I mean the Association of Financiers of Kazakhstan. I think the regulatory bodies feel it, especially when some events are being held. Of course, it has some problems with its budget; we need to resolve this question. I think the financial sector can support the association up to the mark. One international business structure, rather than a political one, is required in order for all the financiers of the CIS to be able to lobby their interests. It would defend its interests in the existing political structure. In that case tomorrow the integration bodies will be improved, while today they are shapeless, because there is no real lobbying structure.
Therefore I have the following understanding: there are associations of financiers or similar organizations in the EEC member-states, but they are not united. They should have a common body.
We say that EEC consists of 6 countries, but often some countries participate in communities just because they feel it should be done. For example, we want to enter Uzbekistan’s market, but we are not allowed. Thus, we could influence such situation.
Wait a second, we are not talking about the CIS countries, rather we are talking about Eurasia, about Eurasian financiers club. It should include people from Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine. According to geography, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia and, of course, Kazakhstan are included into Eurasia. This club should be informal, people from both Saakashvilli and Yushenko should be invited, and we need to work with everyone. In Ukraine we successfully work with both the orange and white-blue, and don’t have any problems.
Serik Akhmetzhanovich (Akhanov – editor’s note) does a big job about AFK. His office always showers us with papers, 5 – 10 papers daily. Saying that we can also do a job of quasi-minister is, at least, not serious. Of course, we should ask him, but I think that people or structures that really work in Ukraine or Georgia and other places should be the engine of this idea. We are ready to finance this structure and invite required, interesting and significant people into such structures. In my opinion, if everybody present here invites people they work with in these countries, the club will generate ideas, innovations and perspectives.
By the way, we see that when business suggests some ideas to the governments, they are pushed forward in a month or two, maybe in a different form but still, and are considered. Why do we think that the government of Georgia is less intelligent that the government of Kazakhstan or Ukraine? In my opinion, very intelligent governments have been formed on the Eurasian territory (I mean within its geographical boarders) within the last 3 – 4 years. These governments understand whom they rule and what directions they need to take. Recently I visited the European parliament and found out that European banking standards were successfully introduced in Japan and China. Thus, due to globalization the financial rules are becoming similar, and in 5 – 10 years we will be working under common rules, and these odd 10% taxes will disappear. By the way, there are some stupid rules in Ukraine also. For example, to re-insure in Russia they pay up to 12% taxes, which is also ridiculous in my opinion…
We are benefiting from the rule, because for re-insuring in Kazakhstan they don’t pay any taxes.
I suggest creating a social structure that would unite the interests of financial sector, initially in the CIS. Within the CIS the presidents come together and discuss problems, whatever condition their relations are. We need to bring up the initiative of creating Eurasian club to all of the large banks of the CIS, or initially the associations that unite them, there are such structures in every country.
There are people in Ukraine with whom we can discuss this topic. However, many of the initiatives are stuck, because there are not enough people to work on them.
If the association helps us to make up the necessary documents and gives us the mandate, then we can undertake the organizational work in the countries where we are present: Kyrgyzstan, Byelorussia, Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Georgia and others. We have all necessary infrastructure and we can quickly resolve the questions of creating the club.
Of course, we can include CIS, Georgia, Azerbaijan and even China and South-East Asia into the geography of the club, because they are also within Eurasia. The question is where are we going to discuss our issues there? After all, the EEC already has some infrastructure for this.
I don’t say this because I work for the EEC, rather because I know how hard it is to gather everybody together.
True, all necessary infrastructure already exists on the inter-governmental level. Another issua is that it doesn’t function efficiently. Being a representative of Kazakhstan’s banking structure that works abroad I don’t feel any protection from Kazakhstan. Except for the help I get due to my personal connections. The embassy doesn’t do anything at all on this matter. They still cannot find the list of representatives of Kazakhstani business in Ukraine, with whom we could cooperate.
Maybe it is good!? It would have been bad if they told you how to work.
I don’t need to be told how to work, I need channels of information access. Moreover, I see that Ukrainian businessmen are interested in what is happening in Kazakhstan very much. I sometimes consult the businessmen, when it should be done by government bodies, such as Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Where are they?
I’d like to suggest two media projects, which would improve the promotion of the idea to create Eurasian club. The first of the projects is for the mass audience of the CIS. Together with Russian holding RBK we have discussed the possibility of creating a new TV programme “Eurasian Financiers Club”. It would publicly discuss questions that are interesting for every person, bank and insurance company in Kazakhstan and Russia. The second project is oriented to the state bodies. It could incorporate conferences on achieving harmony in legislation and on other issues of integration. There also maybe other formats of the work. Besides we could organize such awards as financial award of the CIS. The issue of creating and promoting the club is first of all the issue of promoting its idea.
After each discussion we should have something substantial as a result. Let’s decide on the circle of members. Geographically Eurasian continent includes all countries in two parts of world – Europe and Asia. Currently Kazakhstani business and the business of other countries are conducting mutual integration, which raises questions that cannot be resolved by local associations. In order to lobby something in the governments, the governments should be ready for it. Members of the EEC are governments, which have already declared their intent to change legislation to ensure expansion of integration connections. Nobody says that some countries are inferior to others. It is just that the governments of other countries have not expressed such intentions. Uzbekistan, even after becoming a member of the EEC, always sticks to its separate opinion. It declared political support to the organization, but there are no real further decisions. Thus, the suggestion is that everyone can participate, but the club will concentrate on the countries, where the governments are ready.
I think it is correct. After all, the EEC has its model – associated members, observers, etc; and there is a business council of the EEC. However, the financial sector is quite large, therefore, I think it should be emphasized within the EEC. It should be done by private initiative, rather than governmental. True, the EEC is more prepared, it has the structures and channels that can be used to solve problems. Thus, Bolat Bidakhmetovich is probably right. Maybe we should position the club as a structure in the EEC countries that is open to everyone.
The issue is not whether our AFK will cope with the job or not. AFK will be like an administrative office, which will call, write, connect and monitor. It will do the job without which it is not possible to ensure approval of a document by a large number of participants. We can consider associations like our AFK to be the working bodies of the Eurasian club.
We can do it even simpler; we can announce creation of a structure with members joining voluntarily. After all, there are many banks within the associations and not all of them would be interested, many of the banks work locally. We need to work with people who wants to participate.
One small addition. We definitely need some kind of driving force – annual membership fee. Because it is not clear yet, whether the existing banks will be able to conduct this work, they already have a lot of projects.
I suggest appointing a person who will be responsible for writing the concepts and collecting the suggestions we discussed today.
We cannot decide it without him. Let’s offer this to him. By the way, we can ask CRMEK (Center of Research and Monitoring or Economy of Kazakhstan) to undertake the coordination of the project and development of basis document.
Before we load the association of financiers with any more tasks, we should ask them are they ready for it or not. And I think after than we will need to finance it, and have a Kazakhstani bureau of this Eurasian club within the association. I think we need to work through the associations. If lobbying the interests in front of the government, one of club’s tasks, consists of changing legislation, then the work should be coordinated by one centre. Because it is difficult to consider everyone’s interests when different players on the market make different suggestions regarding the same regulations. While people in the AFK can already handle it.
There is governmental capitalism in Russia and a large share of financial sector belongs to the government. They decided in a centralized manner that they will develop into the CIS countries. It includes Sberbank, Vneshtorgbank and others, except for Gazprom. Their participation in the structure will provide good opportunities of lobbying our interests in Russia.
The participants decided to discuss the organizational questions of the club together with the AFK in the nearest future. Depending on the result of the discussion they will either promote the idea through the association or by themselves. The common opinion is that the initiative should be seized by the institutions that are interested in business development within the CIS and EEC. While the government bodies will have only the advisory role. There are still some questions to discuss – what is meant by “Eurasian”, will the club be an independent informal structure or be a part of more general business circle, etc. However, it is important that all participants agreed with the need to activate contacts with their colleagues from the post-Soviet countries in order to lobby common interests.