Marat Sharshekeev, President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Kyrgyz Republic, discusses the Chamber’s activities and projects.
European Times: What is the Chamber’s mission?
Marat Sharshekeev: The Chamber of Commerce and Industry is a non-profit, non-governmental organisation made up of a team of optimistic experts. Pessimists do not belong here. Over the past 18 months since I became President, we have almost doubled the number of our members and now we have almost 500, as well as 20,000 associate-member companies, which is around half of all the companies in the country. Our membership includes consultancy firms, universities, banks and companies from all sectors. Membership in the Chamber is voluntary but our members understand that working together in this organisation is the best way to achieve results. The Chamber also serves as a platform for making connections between local companies and foreign investors and partners. To promote international ties, we regularly organise meetings, trips and exhibitions. Our mission is to promote and support the local private sector and to play a leading role in forming partnerships between local and international companies.
European Times: What are some of the Chamber’s current projects?
Marat Sharshekeev: One of our main projects is to develop an innovative sports centre, the Issyk-Kul International Olympic Centre, a €264.2 million investment. One of the goals of this centre will be to promote drug-free athletics in response to the huge doping problems we are currently seeing in sports around the world. Many experts believe that the answer to this problem is new training methods in mountain climates. Sports training in higher altitudes can definitely boost athletes’ performance naturally. In many countries, artificial mountain environments are being created for sports training, but the Issyk-Kul area allows for ideal sports training in natural rather than simulated conditions.
European Times: What makes the Issyk-Kul area special?
Marat Sharshekeev: Issyk-Kul has great natural beauty, a mountain climate, pure air and no risk of natural disasters. Issyk-kul lake is located between the ridges of the northern Tien Shan mountains at an altitude of 1,600 m. The lake covers 6,236 sq km and does not freeze in winter. It also has rich deposits of medicinal mud and peat. Moreover, it is sunny around 80% of the year. It is suitable for both summer and winter sports activities, including skiing on the 4,000 m peaks nearby as well as water sports. The area has long been known for its convalescence centres. The planned new sports facilities will be on the lake’s south-east coast in Karakol, which is around 400 km from Bishkek or 45 minutes by air.
European Times: What kind of facilities will it include?
Marat Sharshekeev: The development will focus on training centres, rehabilitation, and opportunities for practicing around 15 sports. It will be an international sports centre covering around 100 hectares at a mid-mountain altitude of 1,600 m. It will include two indoor universal sport complexes for team sports and martial arts; an indoor swimming pool for training sessions in swimming and water polo; two full-size football fields meeting FIFA training standards; open and indoor athletics arenas; a bicycle track; outdoor courts for tennis training and tournaments; playgrounds; boathouses; a sailing centre; an outdoor concert hall seating 400 people; an administrative building with meeting rooms; an employee residence; five hotels at different comfort levels; a shopping and entertainment complex; and special centres for sports medicine, rehabilitation and recreation.
European Times: What are your other major projects?
Marat Sharshekeev: We are also involved in the new World Trade Centre, a cutting-edge development in downtown Bishkek. Featuring striking contemporary design, the centre has some 4,000 sq m of exhibition space on two floors, state-of-the-art conference facilities, rooms for smaller meetings, underground parking, restaurants and a hotel next door. Everything has been equipped with the latest technologies.
European Times: What else is the Chamber doing to promote Kyrgyzstan’s private sector?
Marat Sharshekeev: Our main focus is to support small and medium-sized enterprises, which make up around 92% of all businesses in the country. Another of our priorities is to foster public-private partnerships because we believe business development cannot take place without such partnerships. The Chamber initiated the concept of public-private partnerships here and serves as the main liaison between the business sector and official government bodies concerning these initiatives. Now the Kyrgyz Republic has 18 public-private-partnership projects underway. To support these projects, we created the Department of New Projects within the Chamber that includes eight committees of experts in major sectors, from agriculture to tourism. We are also representing the Kyrgyz Republic at Expo 2015 in Milan, and we often represent the country in discussions with international organisations.
European Times: Why should foreign investors target the Kyrgyz Republic?
Marat Sharshekeev: The Kyrgyz Republic enjoys rich natural resources, a skilled labour force, a strategic location and a supportive government. We welcome foreign investors. They will find outstanding opportunities here.