Challenging year should strengthen resolve to do better in 2018

As we enter the final few days of the year, turbulence seems the best way to sum up the last 12 months internationally. As this newspaper has said before, in too many cases the divisions sadly evident within the global community have widened. The world seems, too, further away from finding lasting solutions to major challenges, such as ending conflict in the Middle East.

The violence of extremist groups continues to cast its shadow over many millions of lives across the world. Successes in some geographical areas are offset by increased worries elsewhere. It is also profoundly disturbing, as we hare remarked, that the threat of nuclear conflict between states is again a real concern. It has never been more important, as Kazakhstan is determined to help achieve, to re-energise the drive to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

Nor has the need for dialogue and cooperation, which our country has consistently championed, been clearer. Kazakhstan should continue to use its position on the UN Security Council over the next year to help deliver these goals just as initiatives such as the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions are helping promote understanding between the faiths.

But while few would claim that the last 12 months internationally have been positive, here at home there are more reasons to look back on the year with optimism. Thanks to the courage in taking tough long-term decisions, the economy is again going strongly in the right direction.

After the challenges caused by the collapse of global oil prices, growth in the first 11 months of 2017 reached almost 4 percent, and it is projected to reach that number by the yearend. Coupled with steady inflation, this has led to upgrades in the international forecasts for the Kazakh economy for the years ahead.

Importantly, too, for the future, this improved performance extends well beyond the oil and commodity sectors. We are now seeing the results of the efforts and investment to diversify and modernise the economy which has been given powerful fresh impetus over the last 12 months. The Third Modernisation programme set out by President Nursultan Nazarbayev is aimed at accelerating the speed of progress.

Kazakhstan is also reaping the rewards from the indispensable role the country is playing in the modern Silk Road. By investing in transport links and infrastructure, it is creating new jobs and driving economic growth at home as well as supporting global trade and prosperity.

Kazakhstan has signalled strongly, against a background of protectionist tendencies around the world, that it will remain an open economy. The New Silk Road and the wider Belt and Road initiative, put forward by China, along with the other new transport routes in which Kazakhstan is deeply involved, are powerful examples of an international, collaborative approach for shared rewards. There is a strong need for other countries and regions to follow this lead.

EXPO 2017 was, of course, another example of the strong international stance that underlines Kazakhstan’s policies and ambitions. The exhibition was enjoyed by many thousands of visitors every week during the summer and was seen as a success by more than 100 international exhibitors.

In the long-term, the role EXPO played in showcasing the latest developments in future energy will help promote sustainable growth around the world. At home, the knowledge learned and ideas shared will help drive the modernisation of our economy and the higher profile will increase investment and boost tourism.

The exhibition was also carefully planned to leave a lasting physical legacy. Astana’s new rail station and airport terminal are key parts of the plan to improve Kazakhstan’s transport infrastructure while the modern, developed and sustainable site will also house the Astana International Financial Centre. Its launch next year will provide new opportunities for new partnerships in the Kazakh and Central Asian economy.

This is an exciting development which, along with the celebration of Astana’s 20th anniversary, will be extensively covered in our paper next year. So, too, will Kazakhstan’s continued position on the UNSC, which the country will chair next month. It is a heavy responsibility in an era of such division and tension.

But it is more important than ever that the sound values which underpin Kazakhstan’s foreign policy help guide global decision-making so trust can be rebuilt across the international community. This should be all our hope for the happier New Year which we wish all our readers.