One of the most significant achievements of independent Kazakhstan was the birth of the new capital. Transfer of the capital opened a new page in Kazakh history, which marked the beginning of the economic growth and prosperity of the country.
The advantages of Astana as the capital are determined by a number of factors, which include among others the beneficial geographical location in the central part of the country at the intersection of communication, transport, rail, road and air routes. In addition, the city has significant resources for future urban development because of a large free area for settlement, as well as personnel and labour and industrial potential.
Compared to other world capitals, Astana is still very young and has just started its development, but today there is no doubt that the future of Kazakhstan is embodied in this city.
Since the transfer of the capital, Astana has significantly expanded the geography of foreign economic relations and risen its trading and export potential, as clearly evidenced by the steady growth of foreign trade turnover in the city.
Currently, Astana is in a phase of stable economic growth. Volumes of industrial production have increased as well as investment in capital construction, housing, work on landscaping and gardening, collecting taxes and payments to the budget.
According to statistics, in 2013 the growth of industrial output in current prices reached 276.2 billion tenge ($1.5 billion). Positive dynamics are observed in attracting investment. In only the first nine months of last year, investments in fixed assets amounted to 409.5 billion tenge ($2.2 billion), which is 16.4 percent higher than in the same period of 2013. Astana-New City, a special economic zone, is responsible for attracting profitable investments. It acts as a “free economic zone,” used globally as a tool to stimulate investment in the region.
The introduction of economic incentives to encourage economic and business activity has led to a sharp increase in the construction industry. In 2013, about 1,100,000 square metres of housing was commissioned in Astana. High rates of development in the city provided a significant portion of work not only for the local population, but also for specialists from other regions of Kazakhstan.
The transport and communication complex is developing steadily in Astana; for instance, cargo turnover amounted to 110.2 percent in 2013 compared to 2012, whereas passenger turnover was 122 percent.
Small business has been developing quite rapidly. The number of active small and medium businesses in Astana reached 46,970.
In general, we observe that products and services in Astana today are being produced, built and consumed more intensively because of the growth of incomes. In 2013, the average nominal wage of employees reached 159,537 tenge ($862) per month, which is 7 percent of growth compared to 2012 and significantly exceeds the nationwide average.
Development of the new capital and improvement of its socio-economic situation has led to significant population growth. At the beginning of 2014, the total population of the capital exceeded 814,000 people, which is 36,000 more than in 2013.
In a short time period, Astana, the rapidly growing modern city of the country, has already contributed a chapter in the history of the young independent state.
Today, the capital city is a symbol of the progress and prosperity of the Kazakh people. Constructing and equipping the new capital has created a strong impetus for the revival of industry, improvement of the competitive environment in the domestic market, increased investment attractiveness, revitalising small and medium-sized businesses and the formation of the new way of the country’s economy. The rapid transformation of Astana is a visible symbol of the whole country as well as the evidence of the ability of Kazakhstan to become one of the most advanced countries in the world.
The state capital is not just a “main city” which concentrated the levers of power. Astana’s development is inextricably linked with and symbolises the development of modern Kazakh statehood. Astana, always being in the forefront of social and economic reforms in the country, has become the personification of the sovereignty of the state and the pride of every citizen of Kazakhstan who cares about the fate and progress of the country. There is no doubt that the rapid development of Astana now and in the future will be one of the most important factors determining the competitiveness of Kazakhstan in the international arena.
A distinctive feature of the city, besides the fact that Astana has recently rapidly increased its socio-economic indicators, is that the capital has already been officially recognised as a cultural, intellectual, information and innovation centre of Kazakhstan.
Astana is becoming a major cultural centre in Eurasia, too. The city’s cultural life is represented by such artistic institutions as the State Philharmonic Hall, Congress Hall, Museum of Modern Art, Palace of Peace and Harmony, Kalibek Kuanyshbayev Kazakh Music and Drama Theatre, Maxim Gorky Russian Drama Theatre and the ethno-memorial complex Map of Kazakhstan – Atameken. In 2013, the State Opera and Ballet Theatre Astana Opera was opened, the architectural excellence and technical capabilities of which are on a par with world famous opera houses. In addition, since last year the Library of the First President of Kazakhstan, modelled on the presidential libraries in the world, was opened.
There are more than 20 national and cultural centres in the formation and strengthening of ideas of spiritual unity, friendship of peoples, education of Kazakhstan patriotism and interethnic and interreligious harmony. The new capital is the heart of Eurasia, a place where cultures and traditions intertwine, where peace and harmony between people of different backgrounds and faiths strive.
Since 2003, Astana has annually hosted the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, thus demonstrating a high level of tolerance in the country. Hosted at the Astana Palace of Peace and Harmony, it became a symbol of inter-ethnic and inter-confessional stability and a high level of harmony and friendship between the peoples of Kazakhstan. Reflecting the unity of religions and ethnic groups and cultures, the pyramidal shape represents a high and noble idea – a dialogue of civilisations and rapprochement between people of different cultures and religions.
In the post-Soviet space, Astana is the only example of a newly-built capital. This is a step that represents the willingness to take on track the achievement that speaks about our successes better than words.
We are now witnessing how the new capital opens up new opportunities for economic development and welfare growth.
The author is a PhD in political science and an analyst at the Library of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Leader of the Nation.