* Kazakhstan seeking to diversify economy
* Investors exempt from corporate, land tax for 10 years
* Incentives include visa-free regime for investors
By Raushan Nurshayeva
BOROVOYE, Kazakhstan, June 12 Kazakhstan will
suspend corporate and land tax for 10 years for foreign
investors setting up businesses outside its oil industry in new
incentives meant to diversify the economy, President Nursultan
Nazarbayev said on Thursday.
A vast steppe nation of 17 million, Kazakhstan is Central
Asia's largest economy and the second-largest ex-Soviet oil
producer after Russia. It has received more than $170 billion in
foreign direct investment since 1993, but the bulk of this sum
was absorbed by the oil and gas sector.
Nazarbayev, who has kept a tight lid on dissent but has
overseen the opening up of markets, wants to sustain economic
growth which accelerated to 6 percent last year from 5 percent
But in order to do so, Kazakhstan needs to diversify the
economy away from hydrocarbons and metals to reduce its
dependence on commodity price fluctuations on world markets.
"We want to create a new type of industry in our country.
Historically, we were a raw materials-producing appendage of the
Soviet Union, which only brought raw materials out of here but
built nothing," Nazarbayev told a meeting of foreign investors
in the northern resort town of Borovoye after signing the law
allowing the incentives.
In addition to suspending land and corporate tax for 10
years, foreign investors will be exempted from paying tax on
non-land assets for 8 years and be reimbursed 30 percent of the
costs of building new plants.
The land-locked country would also allow non-oil investors
to bring in foreign labourers without any quotas or permits to
work for one year after the launch of a new business.
The 73-year-old former steelworker and member of the Soviet
Communist Party's decision-making Politburo, whose rule spanning
more than two decades has been marked by Western criticism of
his authoritarian methods, said he would appoint an investment
ombudsman to protect foreign investors' rights in the country.
Nazarbayev also suspended the requirement for visas for
business executives from countries that have invested steadily
in Kazakhstan, including the United States, the Netherlands,
Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Malaysia, the United Arab
Emirates, South Korea and Japan.
(Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by James Macharia)