This year marks the end of the first phase of the five-year State Program of Healthcare Development, also known as Salamatty Kazakhstan.

This ambitious program aims to enhance and improve the health of the people of Kazakhstan, by strengthening and improving the development of the Unified National Healthcare System. This undertaking is not cheap—between 2012 and 2015 3.8% of GDP was spent on the development of public health.

The successful implementation of the program entails the achievements of several key indicators: increase the life expectancy of the population to 70 years by 2015 and, at the same time, reduce the maternal mortality rate to 24.5 per 100,000 live births. According to the government's plan, infant mortality will be decreased to 12.3 per 1000 live births by the end of the year. Several indicators confirm the successful implementation of the Salamatty program. Healthcare data from January 2014 revealed that there were 773 hospitals and 2,163 short-stay clinics operating in the Republic. Meanwhile, 25 emergency stations and 277 casualty departments lend their assistance to the population. State authorities forecast that hospital accommodation capacity will reach 102,773 by the end of 2015.

The development of the National Healthcare system is offering opportunities for pharmaceutical companies and distributors of medical equipment. In Kazakhstan, the medical equipment market has witnessed remarkable growth in size over the last few years.

In Kazakhstan the pharmaceutical market is inchoate, having only opened in the mid 1990s. But making up for its late entry to the party, the pharmaceutical industry in the country is ranked as one of fastest growing sectors of the national economy. Nowadays the sector is one of the most developed, not only in Kazakhstan, but also in the CIS, and since 2000 it has expanded by 500%.

Over the past years, international pharmaceutical companies have invested more than $100 million in the sector as well, buying and modernizing existing factories in the country. The major foreign investors in the Kazakhstani pharmaceutical field are the Turkish Abdi Ibrahim, Nobel Pharma, and Sanofi. Alma Pharm and Abdi Ibrahim Global Pharm LLP have recently inked an agreement to build a pharmaceutical plant in Almaty region, creating an additional 270 jobs. The capacity of the plant will be 1,200 million tablets, 250 million capsules and 9,000 vials of lyophilized drugs per year. The plant will meet the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) standards. Investments in the project may reach $60 million. 60% of shares belong to Abdi Ibrahim Global Pharm, the market leader in the pharmaceutical sector in Turkey, and the remaining 40% of the shares are owned by Alma Pharm, a leading Kazakhstani pharmaceutical company.

A special place in Kazakhstan's pharmaceutical sector is occupied by a Polish company Polpharma, that acquired Khimfarm JSC in Shymkent. The company employs 1,300 Kazakhstani staff, and is the largest employer in southern Kazakhstan, making it the largest employer in the country's pharmaceutical industry. The company has invested about $100 million, and is actively represented in the local market. On example of these strategies are long-term investments in the production of solid oral dosages by “Khimfarm," in the construction of a modern warehouse and up-to-date research laboratories.

The government still wants to expand domestic pharmaceuticals production and exports. However, it recognizes that full access to foreign markets will only be possible after reorganizing domestic production in accordance with international standards.

According to the government's official website, in 2014 representatives of the World Health Organization noted that the benchmarks of the Salamatty Kazakhstan State Program have been already reached. The government is now planning the implementation of the second phase of the Salamatty program. This second stage of the program is expected to cost $11.5 billion from 2015 to 2017.