Updated at 5.26pm: Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen on Friday paid tribute to Kazakhstan's progress since it gained independence upon the breakup of the Soviet Union - saying the country had a bright future. Mr Tsang was welcoming Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev at Government House. 'Your official visit to Hong Kong this week further underlines the importance that we both attach to our bilateral ties. Just 10 days ago, I joined the celebrations organised by the Consulate General for the 15th Anniversary of Kazakhstan's independence,' Mr Tsang said. The chief executive said he was impressed by what Kazakhstan had achieved in the past 15 years since independence. Prior to full independence, Kazakhstan was the Kazakh SSR republic in the Soviet Union. Following the demise of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan declared independence on December 16, 1991. It is now a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Since 1991, Kazakhstan has focused on developing a modern market economy and creating wealth from its considerable resources. Mr Tsang said the country had made considerable progress since 1991. 'The various reforms introduced by your government have spurred economic growth and lifted living standards. They have also provided a catalyst for Kazakhstan to engage the world through closer trade, financial and cultural links with external partners,' the chief executive said. He said a good example of this engagement process was a conference held in Hong Kong earlier this month on investment opportunities in Kazakhstan. 'It was a great success, and there is much interest in the business communities on both sides to explore opportunity for further business co-operation. 'I know that a number of Kazakh companies are listed on the London Stock Exchange. Mr President, with the deep liquidity of our capital market, the Hong Kong Stock Exchange offers a very attractive alternative for Kazakh companies interested to raise funds,' he said. 'Apart from fostering closer ties in financial services, there is scope for enhanced co-operation between Hong Kong and Kazakhstan in other areas such as tourism, air services and trade,' added Mr Tsang. As well as agriculture and energy resources - such as crude oil and natural gas, Kazakhstan has abundant supplies of minerals - including uranium, chromium, lead and zinc, manganese, coal, iron and gold. Kazahkstan also exports diamonds. The country's population is estimated at 15.3 million.