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Kazakhstan’s Snow Leopard Economy Roars Ahead

Kazakhstan has long positioned itself as the “snow leopard” economy, aspiring to compete with the Asian Tigers. So today’s news will be warmly received in Astana: Kazakhstan has topped an international rating of the world’s business climates – not overall, but in terms of efforts over the last year to improve business regulation.

“Kazakhstan improved conditions for starting a business, obtaining construction permits, protecting investors, and trading across borders,” the overview to the World Bank and International Finance Corporation’s Doing Business 2011 report says. 

That’s pushed Kazakhstan 15 places up in the overall rankings for ease of doing business to be the world's top reformer: the business climate ranks 59th this year, out of 183. 

In Kazakhstan, the number seven is traditionally considered lucky, but the number 15 must be close behind: This is the second time in two weeks that the country has leaped 15 places up an international ratings table. In late October, Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index rated Kazakhstan at 105th, up from 120th last year – and a whopping 45 places up from 2007, before Astana launched its war on corruption.

These are two welcome pieces of good news as Kazakhstan seeks to woo investors with a 5.4 percent economic growth forecast this year. But is there bad news lurking? 

The goal set by President Nursultan Nazarbayev for the country to become one of the world’s 50 most competitive economies has disappeared from headlines, and perhaps not surprisingly: Kazakhstan has been steadily slipping down the ranks of the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report in recent years, from 61st in 2007-2008 to 72nd in 2010-2011. This has apparently prompted administration officials to forget all about a policy that was once on everyone’s lips.

But never mind – when it comes to luring business and fighting corruption, the snow leopard has shown that it’s roaring ahead!

Kazakhstan’s Snow Leopard Economy Roars Ahead

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