Dynamic Kazakhstan Turns 25, Aims For Greater Goals – OpEd
Kazakhstan is a young and energetic nation that turned 25 on Dec. 16. It is a Eurasian country, 90 percent of the territory of which lies in Asia, 10 percent in Europe and is located in Central Asia. This oil-rich country with a vast territory (2.7 million square kilometers) has had many success stories in a short span of time, one of which has an Indonesian angle.
In 1997, Indonesian business tycoon Hashim Djojohadikusumo, the brother of Gerindra Party leader Prabowo Subianto, bought an oil field in Kazakhstan for US$88 million, in partnership with Canadian investors. The chief of Arsari business group, which has interests in paper, palm oil, mining and logistics, suffered heavy losses during the Asian financial crisis in 1998. But his luck changed in 2007.
According to the China Daily Asia, Hashim made the biggest deal in his life in 2007 when he sold his Kazakhstan oil field to the China CITIC group for $1.9 billion.
Like Hashim many investors have invested heavily in Kazakhstan.
“Our country has so far attracted more than $300 billion of foreign investment in just less than 25 years,” Kazakhstan Ambassador to Indonesia Askhat Orazbay said recently during a reception to celebrate his country’s 25th independence anniversary in Jakarta.
This huge investment has come from China, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the UK and the US and many others.
Kazakhstan is a leading exporter of oil and gas, uranium, chromium, lead, zinc, manganese, copper, gold, wheat, textiles and livestock. It is one of the main suppliers of oil and gas to Europe. Its current production is around 1.5 million barrels per day. Kazakhstan is the world’s sixth-biggest source of minerals. Of the 110 chemical elements listed in Mendeleev’s periodic table, 99 of them are available in this Central Asian state.
Kazakhstan became an independent country on Dec. 16, 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
With a population of only 18 million people, Kazakhstan has accomplished many significant achievements in a wide range of fields, including in economics, politics and global peace during the last 25 years and has transformed itself into a dynamic Asian nation. In the beginning, many doubted the ability of independent Kazakhstan to stand on its own.
“In 1991, some observers doubted our ability to survive as a sovereign nation, given our multi-ethnic population, our diversity of religions, and a challenging legacy of nuclear weapons and infrastructure. But we have turned this challenge into an opportunity – and over a quarter of a century have made the journey from a country with no footprint on the political map to a stable nation and a respected member of the international community,” wrote Kazakhstan Foreign Minister Erlan Idrissov recently on the The Huffington Post website.
On the economic front, Kazakhstan’s journey has been astonishing. In 1992, its GDP was a mere $25 billion but today, according to Ambassador Orazbay, it is worth $231.9 billion. In power purchase parity terms, Kazakhstan’s GDP in 2015 was $429.16 billion. Now it is a high middle-income country with a per-capita income of $10,500.
Many developing countries like Indonesia can learn a lot from Kazkhstan’s success story. For example, Kazakhstan has successfully reduced its poverty rate from 47 percent in 2001 to 3 percent in 2013.
Kazakhstan has cleverly utilized the billions of dollars it has received from the windfall profits of its oil and gas industry for the benefit of its people by establishing a sovereign wealth fund. Now this fund, called Samruk-Kazyna, is worth $100 billion.
This fund has helped Kazakhstan a lot in weathering the impact of low oil prices. During the period of 2000 to 2013, Kazakhstan enjoyed, on average, a cracking economic growth rate of 8 percent. Only during the last two years has it suffered some severe setbacks due to the sudden slump in oil prices.
Under the able leadership of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan has positioned itself to become a developed country in the near future. It has set an ambitious target of becoming one of the top-30 economies in the world by 2050, a huge leap from its economy’s present ranking of 43rd.
It has also acquired a higher position on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index.
“This year Kazakhstan increased its ranking to 35th place from the 41st place in 2015 in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking,” Orazbay said.
In another significant milestone in its history, Kazakhstan will be hosting the World Expo 2017 in the capital Astana from June 10 to Sept.17.
“The expo’s theme will address global energy-related challenges and problems. The expo will be very important as it will deal with solutions to tackle climate change, an issue that is high on the agenda of many nations, including Indonesia and Kazakhstan,” Orazbay said.
About 105 countries and 17 international organizations will take part in the exhibition, which will attract more than 1 million visitors. It is the first time for a small former member of the Soviet Union to organize such a huge expo.
Beginning on Jan. 1, 2017, Kazakhstan will officially become a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). It defeated Thailand, Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy, to get the UNSC seat for the Asia-Pacific region. It will retain this position for two years.
“Our progress is, perhaps, best signified by our recent election to join the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member for 2017-2018. Kazakhstan, the first country from Central Asia to sit on the UN Security Council, will use its experience to promote fighting terrorism and extremism, stabilizing our regional neighbor Afghanistan, as well as strengthening nuclear non-proliferation and security,” Idrissov said.
“Our election is an important sign of the trust the international community places in Kazakhstan to be a firm advocate for peace, stability and justice in the world”.
This small state, which is a world leader in the movement to ban nuclear weapons, played a big role in designing the Universal Declaration for the Achievement of a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World, which has been supported by 35 countries. The UN General Assembly adopted it on Dec. 7, 2015.
Another of President Nazarbayev’s major initiatives is to promote religious tolerance. For this, he has launched the process called the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia. Astana has also hosted the triennial Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions.
Kazakhstan has stamped its mark on sports, science, education, technology, arts and many other aspects of global life. It is very clear from all these achievements that Kazakhstan is a country that intends to continue to punch well above its weight to achieve its goals in the future.
“The people of Kazakhstan can be proud. Our country has achieved a great deal in a short time. But we remain ambitious to build on what has been achieved at home and to step up our role in promoting peace and prosperity globally,” Idrissov said.