Kazakhstan Seeks External Partnership To Boost Its National Economy – OpEd


Kazakhstan, former Soviet republic with a huge economic potentials, has embarked on several initiatives to diversify its economy, systematically adopting western-oriented models of management and development. None of the five former Soviet republics in Central Asia, (Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) traditionally viewed as part of the Kremlin’s sphere of influence, publicly backed the February attack on neighbouring Ukraine. 

Since the Russia-Ukraine crisis began, those Central Asian republics have kept their neutral position and are pursuing their own geopolitics without much ties to the dictates of Moscow. Kazakhstan has welcomed tens of thousands of Russians fleeing from the military call-up (mobilization) since last year. 

Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev spoke on the phone with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy several times since Russian troops rolled into Ukraine in February 2022, calling for a diplomatic resolution of the conflict in accordance “with the U.N. charter and commonly accepted norms of the international law.”

Concerned about diversifying it economy, Kazakhstan is steadily opening its doors for a broader external expansion. Given its geographical location and combined with current political reforms aim at transforming the economic from the Soviet-styled system to a more modernized system infused with western culture of life, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has chosen multi-vector policies.

“I believe that given our geopolitical situation, given the fact that we have over $500 billion involved in our economy, given that there are global companies operating in our market, we simply have to pursue a multi-vector, as they say now, foreign policy,” Tokayev said, long ago, in the context of the growing geopolitical confrontations, contractions and the emerging new world order.

With the emerging new world order, Kazakhstan has been developing relations with many external partners. Late February, Tokayev underlined during a meeting in Astana with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the country was steadfast ready to develop strategic cooperation with the United States.

“We have built a very good and reliable long-term partnerships in so many strategically important areas like security, energy, trade, and investment. So we are ready to further develop this cooperation. I would like to take this opportunity to express our appreciation to the continuous and firm support of the United States for our independence, territorial integrity, and sovereignty,” Tokayev told Blinken.

Tokayev noted that the United States was one of Kazakhstan’s largest investors, with more than $62 billion in total investments. The Kazakh leader also welcomed US efforts to expand cooperation in the C5+1 format (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and the United States), noting the importance of the Astana meeting of Central Asian and US foreign policy leaders.

Declaring that the creation of a fair Kazakhstan as its main goal, Tokayev has emphasized that the foreign policy course must also aim at protection of national interests, strengthening of mutually beneficial cooperation with all interested states, international peace and security.

In pursuit of sharing fresh experience of nation building, the president noted the importance of better quality education and the implementation of best global practices in domestic higher educational establishments at a meeting with Almaty students and young researchers, according to the presidential press service.

“Academic cooperation with the leading foreign universities is increasing on my orders. Branches of higher educational establishments from the UK, Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, South Korea and the United States will open in Kazakhstan shortly. The integration into the global education space will bolster the competitiveness of our higher educational establishments and will raise the appeal of Kazakh higher education,” the press service quoted Tokayev as saying.

Interestingly, English language is gaining popularity among younger generation since the collapse of the Soviet Union. It, however, projected that the people of Kazakhstan in the future will speak three languages (Kazakh, Russian and English). As part of promoting multi-cultural and friendly society, Kazakhstan has seriously made in-bound tourism as one of its priority spheres, so it has established a visa-free regime for citizens of 54 countries, including the European Union and OECD member states, the United States, Japan, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand.

At the start of 2023, it has changed rules for entry and stay for immigrants. The new resolution has amended the rules of entry, stay and departure for immigrants in Kazakhstan. It was published in the database of laws and regulations on January 27, 2023.

The document changes the allowable period of immigrants’ presence in Kazakhstan. For instance, immigrants without a visa will be allowed to stay in Kazakhstan for up to 30 days from the day they cross the border, and a total of 90 days during each 180-day period.

That however, citizens of member states of the Eurasian Economic Union will be allowed to stay for up to 90 days from the day they cross the border, and a total of 90 days during each 180-day period. Previously, there was no 180-day limit for persons arriving in Kazakhstan without a visa.

With it’s primary aim is to raise development to an appreciable level, therefore currently seeks to stratrgically engage highly-skilled foreign professionals and specialists for considerable long-term in the country.

The Kazakh Labour and Social Protection Ministry has approved a list of in-demand professions in the spheres of science, healthcare, industry and IT with which foreigners can receive residence permits in Kazakhstan under facilitated procedures, the ministry’s press service said in late February. The list includes more than 20 in-demand professions in various spheres including science, engineering and medicine.

“Foreigners who have in-demand professions can receive in interior affairs agencies residence permits using facilitated procedures without confirming their solvency,” the press release said. Residence permits will be issued for ten years or for the period in which a foreigner’s passport is valid.

In March 2020, the Concept of the Foreign Policy of Kazakhstan for 2020–2030 was announced. The document outlines the following main points:

An open, predictable and consistent foreign policy of the country, which is progressive in nature and maintains its endurance by continuing the course of the First President – the country at a new stage of development; protection of human rights, development of humanitarian diplomacy and environmental protection; promotion of the country’s economic interests in the international arena, including the implementation of state policy to attract investment and maintaining international peace and security.

Development of regional and multilateral diplomacy, which primarily involves strengthening mutually beneficial ties with key partners – Russia, China, the United States, Central Asian states and the EU countries, as well as through multilateral structures including the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Commonwealth of Independent States, and a few others.

Kazakhstan is the world’s largest landlocked country, located in Central Asia and partly in Eastern Europe. Nursultan Nazarbayev became the country’s first President, and now was replaced by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

Kazakhstan was the last Soviet republic to declare independence after Soviet’s collapse in 1991. With approximately 20 million population, Kazakhstan strictly recognizes its political freedom, national interest and territorial sovereignty, and is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Kester Kenn Klomegah

Kester Kenn Klomegah is an independent researcher and a policy consultant on African affairs in the Russian Federation and Eurasian Union. He has won media awards for highlighting economic diplomacy in the region with Africa. Currently, Klomegah is a Special Representative for Africa on the Board of the Russian Trade and Economic Development Council. He enjoys travelling and visiting historical places in Eastern and Central Europe. Klomegah is a frequent and passionate contributor to Eurasia Review.

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