Good leadership requires a relentless focus on the long-term rather than just responding to immediate events or pressures. It is an approach that has served Kazakhstan well in its first 25 years as a modern country and has been reinforced in recent days.
First over the last week, the President has proposed political reforms to share power, strengthen parliament and boost accountability. It was a signal of Kazakhstan’s determination to ensure the modern institutions and democratic processes needed to move the country forward are in place.
This week also saw an equally comprehensive plan to deliver the third stage of the country’s economic modernisation. Its aim is to set Kazakhstan firmly on track to join the most developed countries within the 2050 timetable, with all the improvements in prosperity and quality of life this will bring to our citizens.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s state-of-the-nation address touched almost every aspect of the country’s economy and the lives of its people. It looked beyond the current difficult global economic conditions to what is needed to prepare the country for the challenges and opportunities in the decades ahead.
There was a commitment to continue reducing state ownership and control of the economy to around 15 percent of GDP. There was new encouragement for private-public partnerships as a way of introducing new funding and ideas. Red tape is to be reduced and access to start-up finance improved to provide the right conditions for start-ups and small businesses – the engines of growth and employment across the world.
What was clear, too, was a determination to strengthen the attractiveness of the economy to foreign investment, a major reason for the country’s impressive economic performance over the last 25 years. The new Astana International Finance Centre is seen as key to this ambition. Domestic companies, big and small, and overseas partners would also all be helped by the commitment to a stable macro-economic climate with low inflation and a rejuvenated banking sector and moves to enhance property rights and the rule of law.
At the heart of the package were measures to accelerate the modernisation of the economy. This went beyond the urgent need to develop new digital industries, such as 3D printing or e-commerce to ensure the technological revolution transformed the productivity and quality of traditional sectors. There was special mention, for example, of the importance of strengthening the energy and mineral industries.
Agriculture, too, was hailed as an important driver of economic growth. With improved productivity, Kazakhstan can become Eurasia’s bread-basket with equally rich potential for the processing of a wide variety of crops for export. Improved transport links to maximise the country’s position as a global bridge will make speedy access to export markets easier.
Successful modernisation across the economy is seen not just as a way to increase economic growth but to provide high-skilled jobs. There is recognition in the plan that many unskilled jobs around the world will inevitably disappear in the decades to come. This reinforced the importance of education so that Kazakhstan produces the labour force equipped for the opportunities of the future.
There was a promise to close the gap of educational attainment between rural and urban areas. The focus on the English language in schools is another example of the way the government is preparing its citizens and companies to compete internationally and investing in the country’s human capital. Older citizens are also to benefit with a significant increase in pensions while health reforms should ensure the population received the affordable, high-quality care expected in a highly-developed nation.
It is, by any standards, an ambitious plan to secure the future prosperity of the country and its citizens. It will be a remarkable achievement if Kazakhstan can join the ranks of the world’s 30 most developed countries. But then few people would ever have predicted a nation which inherited a ruined economy 25 years ago would already be ranked within the top 50. It is a performance which proves how important it is to keep your eyes always on the long-term.