Wednesday, 19 December 2001

KAZAKHSTAN CELEBRATES TEN YEARS OF ITS INDEPENDENCE

Published in Field Reports

By Marat Yermukanov, Kazakhstan (12/19/2001 issue of the CACI Analyst)

Many foreign analysts believe, and not without reason, that Kazakhstan is one of the most politically and economically advanced countries in Central Asia. The tenth anniversary of the Independance day, marked on December 16, gives good cause to Kazakhstan’s citizens to look back to what has been achieved in post-communist years.

Even the irreconcilable opponents of the reforms cannot deny the economic progress made in ten years of independence.

Many foreign analysts believe, and not without reason, that Kazakhstan is one of the most politically and economically advanced countries in Central Asia. The tenth anniversary of the Independance day, marked on December 16, gives good cause to Kazakhstan’s citizens to look back to what has been achieved in post-communist years.

Even the irreconcilable opponents of the reforms cannot deny the economic progress made in ten years of independence. Chronic non-payments, inter-enterprise debts, huge wage arrears, widespread barter trade, and the practice of sending factory workers on unpaid leave for months, now belong to the past. In his anniversary speech on Sunday, the president of the country, Nursultan Nazarbayev, stressed that Kazakhstan has reached economic and financial stability, and accomplished economic reforms. According to the President, these achievements were largely due to the strong centralized power.

At the same time, he pointed out that a liberalized economy is inconceivable without building an open society. He nevertheless stated that the society should not blindly follow everything foreign, and that the concept of democracy should correspond to the mentality, spiritual values, and traditions of every nation. Outlining his visions of Kazakhstan for the coming years, he singled out combating poverty and overpopulation, further economic liberalization, and fostering the middle-class stratum of the society as the primary objectives to be attained in the next ten years. “We are in the right direction” Nazarbayev added.

Kazakhstan should above all develop a close partnership with Russia and the Central Asian countries. Symbolically, the festivities in the capital city Astana were attended by Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev. The heads of the two countries used this occasion to sign a border agreement. 

Figures released by the National Statistical Agency indicate some encouraging signs of economic recovery registered since 1999. Compared with the firs half of the last year, the average per capita nominal income of residents grew by 16,5% in 2001. There was a 13% increase in GDP, and industrial output rose by 13,5%. It is predicted that by the end of the year, the inflation rate will be brought down to 6% and will remain at about that level throughout 2002.The Government promises a 25% increase of the salaries for civil servants, medical workers and teachers, the lowest paid sections of the population.

Critics are not too optimistic about the ability of the government to keep up the current pace of economic growth and to radically improve living standards of the population, 13% of which, according official sources, live below the poverty line. Foreign aid money channeled to alleviate social problems is used ineffectively. In nine months of this year alone the country received a net foreign investment of US%1.6 billion. Attracted by enormous oil reserves, foreign companies keep pouring in money into the oil and gas sector. Proceeds from the sale of oil make up 20% of budget revenues. Yet ordinary citizens feel they benefit little if it all from the oil business. Impoverished residents from rural areas have already inundated big cities in search of work. Government functionaries constantly tell people to fend for themselves and do too little to create workplaces for them.

Marat Yermukanov, Kazakhstan
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