Kazakhstan: 25 years of Independence

This year Kazakhstan will celebrate 25 years of independence.

A quarter of a century – a relatively short period in the grand scheme of history – but a source of great pride to the Kazakh people. This is just the beginning. So much done, but so much still to do…, reports.

Perhaps the most important, and most impressive project has been the development of the city of Astana. A small town that began its life in 1830, as ‘Akmoly’, has now become a hub of international business and culture, and in an incredibly short time.

Astana was chosen largely because of its geographical location in the heart of the state, making it not only an ideal transport hub, but also in recognition of its potential as a catalyst for urbanization in the region.

Since independence, the population of Astana has now passed one million. The city has generated such a high level of economic activity that it is now a net contributor to the Kazakh economy.

Politically, the new capital of Kazakhstan is attracting serious respect. The city itself is now recognised as a separate, independent player on the world stage.

The Kazakh capital has hosted international forums and summits, such as for the OSCE, and indeed talks on the situation in Syria and Iran have also been held there.

Since independence, Kazakhstan has striven to engage in global politics at the highest level. This determination was rewarded in June of this year, when the 193 members of the United Nations General Assembly elected Kazakhstan to serve as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for a period of two years, starting from 1 January 2017.

On a national, and indeed global level, these achievements are impressive. But what do they mean for the citizens of the country?

The basic economic indicators, which assessed the viability of the state, and hence the standard of living of the citizens of this country, show astonishing progress since independence.

In 1992 the country was experiencing hyperinflation at an astonishing level of 2,500%.


In 1993, this level had subsided to 60%, which was still an unmanagable level. By the year 2000, however, the authorities, thanks to a realistic and balanced monetary policy, managed to curb this figure to 9.8%.

Today, the President of the country, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has set a target of maintaining inflation within the range of 6-8%.

Regarding Gross Domestic Product, we see a similar success story: In 1993 the figure was -9.2%. Just two decades later, by 2013, this negative figure had been transformed to a healthy and impressive +6%.

Whilst living conditions in some parts of Kazakhstan may not yet be the easiest, those who were born in the Soviet era still remember long queues and hardships, and are experiencing the benefits of the current economic growth on a daily basis.

Kazakhstan is no longer dependent on traditional sectors of the economy such as agriculture, oil production etc. Over the years the government has succeeded in developing areas such as industrial processing, construction, and a growing service industry.

The Information Technologies and Communications sector is also expanding and developing, and whilst Kazakhstan has a long way to go to catch up with Japan or South Korea, even those highly developed economies started somewhere.

In the area of high technology new horizons are opening up. For the first time since the founding of the cosmodrome Baikonur, the world’s largest operational space launch facility, Kazakh specialists have begun a new programme of work on the launch pad.

Another ambitious project is the development of the nuclear industry.

Kazakhstan plans to build a full nuclear cycle chain, under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and in cooperation with international energy companies from China, Europe and the US.

The country has a long history in nuclear technology. In 1991 the Soviet-era nuclear testing site at Semipalatinsk was officially shut down, and by 1995 Kazakhstan had reliquished all its nuclear weapons, thus becoming the world’s first State to voluntarily and unilaterally disarm. The Semipalatinsk nuclear test site was officially closed in 1991.

Social indicators are not just statistics, but real facts: there has been a cultural change in shopping habits amongst Kazakhstan’s citizens. There has been a significant shift in preference from shopping in markets and bazaars, towards supermarkets. Domestically produced brands sit comfortably alongside imported goods, and tastes reflect growing levels of income.

According to National Office statistics, one in every three Kazakh citizens will buy a domestically manufactured car. This particular statistic reflects not just the increasing affordability of private vehicles, but also the availability of credit, which is now within the reach of working people.

Although not a member of the G20, the global community has come to regard Kazakhstan as having one of the most advanced economies in the Central Asian region.

The authorities have achieved much since first attracting foreign investment into what was a largely unknown post-Soviet economy suffering hyperinflation and terrifying levels of unemployment, to building a nation with the status a non-permanent UN Security Council member.

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