TBY talks to Nursultan Abishevich Nazarbayev, President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, on economic progress in the country, plans for industrial diversification, and developing vectors within the foreign policy sphere.
TBY Esteemed Mr. President, how would you assess the success of the implementation of Kazakhstan’s accelerated industrial-innovation development plan? What has been achieved and what remains to be done?
NURSULTAN ABISHEVICH NAZARBAYEV Accelerated industrialization is a step forward; one of the main thoroughfares of Kazakhstan’s journey into the 21st century. The whole of Kazakhstan is overlaid with this idea. The industrial might of the country is growing stronger before our eyes.
At this moment, in the framework of the Industrialization Map, by 2015 some 469 investment projects worth $56.7 billion are planned. There will be more than 300,000 jobs created. In 2010 we opened 152 facilities worth $5.5 billion, and 23,000 Kazakhstanis found permanent employment.
In the first half of 2011, 75 investment projects worth $778 million were implemented. More than 6,000 Kazakhstanis found a stable source of income. By the end of the year, some 130 projects worth $4.2 billion will be completed.
We are already observing the positive effects of the measures we have taken. According to the statistics, over the first half of 2011 Kazakhstan’s GDP grew by 7%. Industrial production is up by 5.8%, while growth in the manufacturing industry stood at 8.7%. Unemployment decreased to 5.4%. With the entry of new businesses at full capacity, many more socio-economic indicators will improve.
In your state of the union address at the beginning of 2011 you announced a comprehensive social modernization program. What work is being done in this direction?
The main criterion for assessing the success of a country is the wellbeing of its citizens. Therefore, for us, achieving a European standard of living constitutes the main task of social modernization. We will enhance the quality of the education system, health care, and employment. The living standards for all of Kazakhstan’s citizens will be improved.
Over 2011 the pensions, allowances, and salaries of civil servants increased by 30%. Soon we will hold the first “People’s IPO”. The general public of Kazakhstan will be able to purchase shares in national companies and invest in the domestic economy.
Social modernization will enable us to significantly improve the quality of our human capital. By 2016, spending on education will reach 5% of GDP. Across the country, we will build 400 new schools. There will be 350 new healthcare facilities. By 2020, the population will be close to 18 million and the life expectancy of Kazakhstanis will increase to 72 years. We will build 6 million square meters of housing each year.
Across the entire country, new schools, hospitals, stadiums, and housing facilities are under construction. Since 2010 in Astana, Nazarbayev University has been successfully operating. It is the largest science and education complex in Central Asia.
Can the last presidential elections and the upcoming parliamentary elections be considered as additional steps in the modernization of Kazakhstan’s political system?
Holding free and fair elections is one of the most important features of a democratic state. Kazakhstan, from the very beginning, has been following this path, acting according to a formula of “stability through tolerance, modernization through liberalization”.
The last presidential election was held in the year of the 20th anniversary of our independence. Observers and journalists came from all over the world. The electoral process took place at the highest level.
I am convinced that the upcoming parliamentary elections will be held in a similar fashion. After these elections, at least two parties will be represented in the Majilis. Such are the requirements of our legislation.
The further modernization of the political system is designed to expand the powers of the government and the parliament. We are improving the quality of the judicial system, as well as local and central state organs and authorities. We are enhancing the role of political parties and the mass media in the public interest. I have recently approved the concept of a new public service model. The administrative apparatus will undergo serious reform. Emphasis will be placed on implementing the principles of corporate governance and accountability.
Mr. President, you are the author of many initiatives of international worth. In 2010, Astana hosted the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit, while in 2011 Kazakhstan is the chair of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). What measures do you think will help to bring together the East and the West?
Kazakhstan chaired the OSCE and OIC thanks to its tremendous contribution in strengthening international stability and the high level of confidence it has
received from the global community. Our country is the locomotive of integration in Eurasia. Since ancient times, trade routes have intersected on Kazakh soil, and the interaction of different cultures and religions took place. Today mosques, synagogues and churches peacefully coexist alongside each other. Every three years we organize a congress for the leaders of global and traditional religions.
In modern day Kazakhstan, the representatives of 140 ethnicities and 46 confessions live in an unbreakable unity. All of them are involved in the construction of Kazakhstan’s statehood. The peoples of many different origins glorify the Republic of Kazakhstan with their achievements. Strengthening intercultural dialogue is one of the biggest challenges of our times. All peoples have the right to freely develop their own language and culture. Any attempt to provoke conflicts on ethnic or religious grounds should be severely punished.
Peace between different peoples does not occur by itself. It is a result of thoroughly thought out and balanced policies.
In 2011, the Seventh World Islamic Economic Forum (WIEF) took place in Astana. Kazakhstan became the first Central Asian state to organize the “Islamic Davos”. At this meeting, issues concerning global economic development were addressed. I believe that the mutual adaptation of the economic systems of the East and West can provide a solid foundation for dialogue between the two civilizations.
What is your vision for Kazakhstan’s future?
We are living in exciting times, when the distance between the most audacious ideas and objective reality is shrinking at an incredible speed. It almost seems like yesterday that there was no sovereign Kazakhstan. And yet, in December 2011, the Republic will celebrate 20 years of independence.
We started to create a country from scratch, and have never been afraid to set ourselves the most ambitious objectives. Over the years, we have built a prosperous nation and a dynamic economy. Kazakhstan enjoys the respect of the international community. The prosperity of our citizens is growing. Our young capital, Astana, has become one of the most beautiful cities in Eurasia.
In 1997, we adopted the Kazakhstan Development Strategy for 2030, and since then we have consistently been achieving the objectives set down in this strategy. Our strategic priority is to diversify the economy. Within five years the share of the manufacturing sector in the structure of the country’s GDP will be no less than 12.5%. The share of non-oil exports will increase to 40%. Labor productivity will increase by a factor of 1.5 in manufacturing, and by a factor of two in agriculture.
We will carry out a fundamental modernization of the economy. We have all the necessary natural, infrastructural and, most importantly, human resources to achieve this.
In Kazakhstan the new generation born since independence has grown up. Our successes and achievements are helping to raise the self-confidence, desire for change, new victories, and achievements of Kazakhstan’s youth. Our youth are ready to continue the great cause of building a prosperous Kazakhstan.
© The Business Year