Kazakhstan: Government Presses Forward on Hazy Growth Strategy
Kazakhstan’s government has approved a development strategy blueprint to be implemented by 2025 that it hopes will begin propelling the country on its way toward the world league of top 30 most developed nations.
As far as has been reported, the plan approved on November 28 envisions, in highly vague terms, the full exploitation of modern technology and an increase in the role of non-commodity exports in the economy. That’s about it.
National Economy Minister Timur Suleimenov said that the aim is to see annual economic growth over the coming eight years reach no less than 4.5 percent. Meanwhile, gross domestic product per capita is to rise to $46,100, he said. That is up from the $25,000 reported by the government earlier this year.
Kazakhstan is again feeling confident these days, what with oil output up and the price of its energy exports gradually creeping back to former heights. In the first half of the year, oil and gas output rose by around one-tenth compared to the same period in 2016. And over the first seven months of this years, the economic grew by 4 percent, according to the National Economy Ministry.
But the fact that this resurgence is attributable to energy exports is precisely the problem, as officials willingly concede.
So the government’s big picture is to wean the economy off oil and gas — a long-elusive goal. Accordingly, the “2025 Strategy,” as it has unimaginatively been dubbed, envisions the share of non-raw material exports edging up from 44.6 percent to 50 percent. And the contribution of small and medium enterprises to the economy should increase from one-quarter to more than one-third.
And how will this all happen?
The Cabinet’s plan has a three-pronged approach. Boost productivity by embracing high-tech and green technologies. Develop the added-value export goods sector. As for the final element, it is worth quoting Suleimenov directly here: “The third driver will be the creation of new highly productive sectors of the economy,” he said at a public discussion on the planned reforms on November 27.
The vapidity of such pronouncements makes it hard sometimes to shake the feeling that all the talk of plans for the future are so much hot air and that there is a belief in Astana that simply peppering any statement with the word “strategy” amounts to an actual, well, strategy. Consider a line from an early government declaration, from November 2016, on plans to thrash out details for Strategy 2025.
“The strategic plan for the country until 2025 has been conceived with the goal of implementing the address given by the Head of State on ‘Kazakhstan Strategy-2050.’ The strategy consists of five strategic priorities and comprises 20 strategic initiatives,” the statement of strategic intent announced.
It is the stated goal of Strategy-2050, named after the year it will reach its culmination, to see Kazakhstan enter the gang of top 30 most developed nations.
Ultimately, hopes of this surge forward are being placed on what President Nursultan Nazarbayev referred to as the "third modernization of Kazakhstan.” The septuagenarian deployed the improbable buzzword in a televised address in January that most people only remember for the wild speculation then circulating that the president might step down.
This is pure tautology: The economy will become more modern and efficient because it will modernize.
Almaz Kumenov is an Almaty-based journalist.
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