Kazakhstan has come a long way in its first 20 years of revived national independence. But its leaders and people are not taking their successes for granted. The country’s national development strategy builds on the work of the last two decades with plans for continued progress in the next 20 years to 2030.
Kazakhstan has already emerged as one of the globe’s key suppliers of vital energy fuels including hydrocarbons – oil and natural gas – and uranium. Over the coming two decades, it is also looking to become a global food power and exporter comparable to Canada, Australia and Argentina. And it is already building a world-class, state-of-the-art network of super-highways, rail transportation routes and energy pipelines. It has also drawn up detailed plans to become an advanced industrial nation comparable to Malaysia and The Netherlands to ensure lasting prosperity.
The nation’s long-term development strategy, “Kazakhstan-2030: Prosperity, Security and Improved Living Standards for all Kazakhs,” was adopted by President Nursultan Nazarbayev in 1997, and nearly 15 years later, its success remains on track. The strategy is to serve as the Central Asian nation’s guiding light for the next 20 years as well.
Kazakhstan-2030 identifies seven key priorities for the country’s development.
The first of the priorities is national security. President Nazarbayev has developed and maintained “multi-vector” diplomacy to establish Kazakhstan as the cooperative heart of Eurasia. The former Soviet republic is an active and leading participant in the mix of regional security alliances that have been created since the collapse of communism. It is a member of the 11–nation Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the seven-nation Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
At the same time, Kazakhstan enjoys close relations with the United States and the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Kazakhstan remains a participant in good standing of NATO’s Partnership for Peace (PFP) initiative, and it holds annual military exercises with U.S. military participants and trainers under the PFP’s umbrella.
One such exercise, Operation Steppe Eagle, took place with U.S. and British participants in Kazakhstan in August 2010.
Kazakhstan currently chairs the 57-nation Organization for Islamic
Cooperation, the largest international organization of Muslim nations in the world with a combined population of around 1.3 billion people. In 2010, it successfully chaired the 56-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and it was the first Muslim and Central Asian nation and the first nation east of Vienna, Austria (where the OSCE is headquartered), to do so. To top its chairmanship, Kazakhstan hosted the first OSCE summit in 11 years in Astana on December 1 and 2, 2010, helping to give a new boost to the security and cooperation in Euro-Atlantic and Eurasian areas.
Second, Kazakhstan has set a goal of continuing ethnic and religious harmony among its 130 ethnic groups and more than 40 religions. Kazakhstan has remained one of the very few states which appeared following the fall of the Soviet Union to have avoided any conflict or bloodshed along ethnic or religious fault lines.
To ensure that harmony continues over the next 20 years, Kazakhstan has launched a programme of grassroots democracy, public transparency and public accountability. The 2010 “We are One Team” initiative encouraged the establishment and increased public participation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in identifying social problems at national and local levels. It also encourages partnerships between NGOs and institutions of government.
In his January 29, 2010 State of the Nation address, President Nazarbayev also emphasized the importance of establishing public accountability for political and state administrative bodies.
“We should establish tight parliamentary and public control,” the president said. “Therefore, it is required to improve the system of reporting and estimation of activity of each law-enforcement body.”
The third priority of the Kazakhstan 2030 Development Strategy remains economic growth. The widespread tolerance and optimism which defines Kazakh society rides on a steady wave of improving living standards since the establishment of national independence. To give but one example, the gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in Kazakhstan has grown from $700 in 1994 to $12,000 in 2011 and is scheduled to reach $15,000 by 2015.
Kazakhstan was rocked by the global financial crisis and ensuing economic recession of 2008-9, which saw the collapse of three of its five largest banks. However, the financial system was rapidly stabilized and the government in Astana remains committed to the creation of an advanced industrial and technological base with the best trained work force in Central Asia as the essential basis for long-term prosperity.
In July 2010, Kazakhstan activated a new Customs Union (CU) with Russia and Belarus. It has confounded its critics and gotten off to a successful start. Already, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have announced their intentions to join it as quickly as possible.
The Customs Union, in fact, plays a crucial role in fulfilling one of Kazakhstan’s national development goals over the next 20 years – to become a prosperous and successful industrial power. Kazakh economists say the CU will generate hundreds of thousands of well-paying industrial and agricultural jobs by protecting initially vulnerable domestic industries from a flood of cheap foreign imports. At the same time, the Customs Union will open up the Russian domestic market of 150 million people to exports from Kazakhstan. To add even more momentum to the three-nation integration, on the basis of the Customs Union Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus will introduce the Common Economic Space as of January 1, 2012.
“Industrial development is our chance in the new decade, bringing new possibilities for the development of the state,” Nazarbayev told the people of Kazakhstan in his 2010 State of the Nation address. “Kazakhstan will be a successful industrial power. I am absolutely certain of that.”
The government also remains committed to the fourth national priority – health, education and welfare for the citizens of Kazakhstan.
As of 2009, 85 percent of all Kazakhs from ages five to 24 were enrolled in educational institutions. This figure was the highest in the nation’s recorded history. It also far outstripped the figures for the other nations of Central Asia and the Commonwealth of Independent States.
Kazakhstan rated first in the Norway-based “Education for All” development Index in 2009 out of 129 countries listed. The United Nations Development Programme ranked Kazakhstan 15th in the world for literacy in 2009. And Kazakh students in 2009 ranked 11th in the world for science achievements and fifth for mathematics achievements. These advances testify to the success of developing a scientifically and technologically literate work force for the 21st century.
Kazakhstan also celebrates its first two decades of national independence this December with a new a Unified National Health System. It is the most comprehensive and advanced in Central Asia and will reimburse health care organizations for the cost of in-patient care and hospitalization.
The fifth national priority of the 2030 strategy is the continued development of energy resources. Well over $100 billion in foreign direct investment has already been invested in Kazakhstan’s energy extraction and transportation industries, of which $15 billion has come from major U.S. corporations alone. In its first 20 years of national independence, Kazakhstan has attracted a colossal total of more than $126 billion in FDI. That comprises 85 percent of the total FDI in the five former Soviet republics of Central Asia.
And after numerous delays, progress appears on track to bring the Kashagan super oil field to full production by 2017-18. The continuing growth in the demand for oil, especially in China, indicates likely growth in that sector the coming decades.
In addition, Kazakhstan has surpassed Canada as the world’s leading annual exporter of uranium oxide, and in June this year it signed a major agreement with China to provide high grade uranium oxide for the 500 nuclear power stations China plans to build by the year 2040.
Kazakhstan is also pouring $25 billion into upgrading the nation’s road and rail infrastructure over the next 20 years to fulfill the sixth national priority of the 2030 Development Strategy. Turkish and South Korean construction companies are prominent in this endeavour, which will make a living reality of the rhetoric about creating a new Silk Road across Asia.
When the vast web of new road and rail links, as well as oil and gas pipelines, is completed, container goods will be able to cross from China’s east coast sea ports to Rotterdam on the western edge of Europe in only 18 days.
Finally, Kazakhstan is pushing ahead with efforts to professionalize its national administration and create the efficiency and transparency indicative of a well functioning state, which was defined back in 1997 as the country’s seventh most important priority.Kazakhstan’s chairmanship of the OSCE in 2010 proved to be a milestone in that effort. Many Western leaders, diplomats and observers praised what they referred to as the professionalism of Kazakhstan’s diplomats and foreign ministry officials in working with the diplomats of other nations and with other international organizations to ensure the success of their chairmanship.
The government of Kazakhstan has also invested heavily in sending thousands of its most promising students to work and study throughout Europe and North America as a key part of its Bolashak (Future) programme to create a class of highly-skilled, internationally-minded professions.
In his 2010 State of the Nation address, Nazarbayev stressed this element of creating an efficient, truly professional modern state. “Quality of higher education will meet the highest international standards,” he said. “Universities of the country should strive to enter the ratings on par with the leading world universities.” One such university is the new Nazarbayev University, established in 2010, which has been introducing innovative teaching methodologies into the country in partnership with major international universities.
As Kazakhstan enters its third decade of national independence, the 2030 Development Strategy remains on track to deliver continuing progress over the country’s next 20 years.