Cooperation between Kazakhstan and Singapore from public administration to smart cities

Kazakhstan and Singapore
Collage credit: Kazinform/

Head of State Kassym-Jomart Tokayev pays a state visit to the Republic of Singapore on May 23-24, at the invitation of President Tharman Shanmugaratnam. More than 30 years ago, Kazakhstan and Singapore established diplomatic relations. Since then, cooperation between the two countries has been successfully developing in various sectors of the economy and has been especially dynamic in recent years. Read about the long-term cooperation and the visit of the Head of State to the country of innovation in the review of the Kazinform News Agency correspondent.

What unites Kazakhstan and Singapore

Singapore is an important partner of Kazakhstan in Southeast Asia. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were established on March 30, 1993. The diplomatic mission in Singapore began in 2003, which in 2008 was transformed into the Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Singapore. Kazakhstan and Singapore helped each other and successfully cooperated in several areas and shared experience. As a result, both states achieved leading positions in their regions - Central Asia and Southeast Asia.

Investment boost

Currently, several intergovernmental agreements have been concluded between Kazakhstan and Singapore aimed at deepening trade and economic cooperation. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the volume of bilateral trade turnover for 2023 amounted to $1.6 billion, exports - $1.5 billion. Imports amounted to $75 million.

Kazakhstan and Singapore trade turnover
Inforgraphics: Kazinform

Over the past three years, from 2020 to 2023, the influx of foreign direct investment from Singapore to Kazakhstan amounted to $1.4 billion. It can be stated that bilateral investment cooperation between the two countries has experienced a significant rise in recent years.

“Relations between Kazakhstan and Singapore are developing dynamically. Singapore is one of the world's leading countries in technology and finance. The President’s visit will be useful for Kazakhstan because Singapore and Kazakhstan are creating a new industrial and logistics hub,” says Bauyrzhan Auken, senior expert at the Asian Studies Department of the Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan hosts 149 Singaporean companies, according to the Bureau of National Statistics. These companies operate in sectors such as transport and logistics, education, food and beverage, and digital technologies. Notable companies include Surbana Jurong, involved in urban and infrastructure projects in Kazakhstan since 2012, including a major project for the G4City in Almaty; CrimsonLogic, which developed an e-judiciary system for the AIFC in early 2019; and Quest Ventures, a leading Singaporean venture capital firm that partnered with QazTech Ventures, a subsidiary of Kazakhstan’s Baiterek National Holding, in 2020 to support startups and boost the Central Asia innovation ecosystem.

The project of building cities of the future

In Kazakhstan, work continues on the project for the construction of the integrated city "Alatau" [G4 City - editor's note] together with the Singaporean company Surbana Jurong. The main objective of the project is to create new smart cities in the Almaty metropolis with favorable conditions for intensive business development and a comfortable life for the population.

The megacity will be located along the Almaty-Konaev highway and consist of four districts: Gate District - business and financial center, Golden District - educational and medical hub, Growing District - industrial and logistics hub, Green District - tourism and entertainment. The Growing District will house a trade, logistics and innovation-industrial zone. The future Green District cultural and leisure center will include the construction of a resort complex, gambling industry facilities and theme parks. It is expected that about 2.2 million people will live in the new city, and more than 1 million new jobs will appear. According to the concept of the project, G4 City will become a new economic hub of Central Asia and will give a serious impetus to the further growth of foreign investment in the economy of Kazakhstan. In addition, to attract foreign investors, it is planned to create special economic zones and build a new international airport in the city.

Kazakhstan-Singapore business forum

In May 2023, a Kazakh-Singapore business forum was held in Astana with the participation of the then President of the Republic of Singapore, Halimah Yacob, who for the first time in the history of her country arrived on a state visit to Kazakhstan. The event was attended by more than 200 representatives of government agencies and business circles of the two countries.

Halimah Yacob and Kassym-Jomart Tokayev
Halimah Yacob and Kassym-Jomart Tokayev Photo credit: Akorda

As a result of negotiations between Kazakhstan and Singapore, four documents were signed: an agreement on trade in services and investment, a memorandum of understanding between the governments of the two countries on cooperation within the framework of the capacity-building program for government officials of the C5 countries, a cooperation agreement between the AIFC and Enterprise Singapore, as well as a memorandum of understanding between QazTrade Trade Policy Development Center JSC and Enterprise Singapore.

During her state visit to our country in 2023, Halimah Yacob noted that Kazakhstan is a close partner of Singapore in Central Asia. Collaboration between partners has increased in a variety of areas, from public administration to smart city planning.

“I am confident that Singapore-Kazakhstan relations will progress and rise to even greater heights. Despite the obvious differences in size, Singapore and Kazakhstan are countries with forward-looking policies and a strong commitment to human capital development and sustainable growth. We are also committed to taking advantage of our strategic location in our regions,” said Halimah Yacob during her visit to Kazakhstan last year.

Development of the logistics corridor

Currently, work is actively underway to develop the logistics corridor of the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route and improve transport connectivity with Southeast Asia. These efforts are being carried out in conjunction with companies such as «PSA International» and its subsidiary «Global DTC».

In January 2024, Senate deputies approved the law “On the ratification of the Agreement between the Government of Kazakhstan and the Government of Singapore on the promotion and mutual protection of investments.” The agreement is of an “umbrella” nature and is aimed at securing at the international legal level guarantees of the rights of investors against political risks when carrying out investment activities on the territory of the parties. The law provides for the creation of a legal framework for cooperation - securing guarantees of the rights of investors in investment activities.

Both countries pin serious hopes on the entry into force of the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Government of Singapore on the promotion and mutual protection of investments.

Kazakhstani students receive education in the best universities in Singapore

One of the key areas of cooperation and strengthening of friendship between Kazakhstan and Singapore is education. Every year, about 100 Kazakh students receive education at leading universities in Singapore, including the national educational program “Bolashak”.

Nazarbayev University has long been a strategic partner of the National University of Singapore. The Nazarbayev University School of Public Policy and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy have been working closely together since 2012.

Kazakhstan is also quite interested in Singapore's experience in attracting investments and the effective use of innovative technologies in almost all industries [Singapore ranks second in attracting foreign investment and is always among the first in the ranking of ease of doing business and conditions for investment - editor's note].

In 2016, the countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the Academy of Public Administration under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Civil Service College of Singapore.

A major project in the field of education is the creation of a branch of the Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS) in Kazakhstan together with D. Serikbayev East Kazakhstan State Technical University.

Parliamentary diplomacy

In April, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev received the parliamentary delegation of Singapore led by Speaker in Akorda. According to the Head of State, parliamentary diplomacy plays a vital role in strengthening international cooperation and promoting dialogue between countries.

Seah Kian Peng and Kassym-Jomart Tokayev
Seah Kian Peng and Kassym-Jomart Tokayev Photo credit: Akorda

“We are reliable, time-tested partners. Much has already been done to strengthen our ties, but at the same time, we set ourselves high goals for the further development of our cooperation,” the President of Kazakhstan said during the reception.

The meeting took place in a friendly and productive atmosphere, where the parties’ desire to further expand relations between Kazakhstan and Singapore was discussed.

It should be said that Kazakhstan and Singapore have a lot in common - primarily in the vector of human capital development, as well as in the field of regional leadership.

According to the Akorda press service, the agenda of the state visit of the President of Kazakhstan is very busy and includes a number of meetings between Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and the top management of Singapore, heads of large international companies, as well as participation in the Kazakh-Singapore business forum.

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