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Kazakhstan Grapples With Reform of Sovereign-Wealth Fund

Men string up a banner celebrating 110 years of the Kazakh railroad at the Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZh) headquarters in Astana last month. Samruk-Kazyna, Kazakhstan’s sovereign-wealth fund that accounts for 45 percent of the country’s economy, controls the vast Kazakh railway system, among many other state-owned businesses. (Photo: David Trilling)

When Astana launched its sovereign-wealth fund in 2008, authorities asserted that Samruk-Kazyna would modernize Kazakhstan’s economy and help attract foreign investors. Six years later, critics say the fund is bloated and lethargic, and privatization plans are stoking concerns among employees and analysts.

Modeled after Malaysian and Singaporean funds, Samruk-Kazyna is a central pillar in President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s economic and political system. The fund exerts influence over almost 600 state companies involved in, among other things, oil and gas (KazMunayGaz), railways (Kazakhstan Temir Zholy), telecoms (Kazahtelecom), energy (Kazatomprom), the state air carrier (Air Astana) and the postal service (Kazpochta). Last year it announced approximately $3.5 billion in profits. Overall, Samruk-Kazyna accounts for roughly 45 percent of Kazakhstan’s economy, Larissa Zyamzina, an advisor to the head of the fund, told business magazine Delovoi Kazakhstan in June. 

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Alisher Khamidov is a writer based in southern Kyrgyzstan.

Kazakhstan Grapples With Reform of Sovereign-Wealth Fund

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