As we have pointed out before, having the courage to set big ambitions is vital whether you are an individual, business or country. Without such goals, there is a big danger that efforts will be unfocused and results disappointing.
But it is also absolutely critical that these ambitions are backed by the practical and effective steps necessary to achieve them. Otherwise, no matter how well-intentioned, they are destined to remain little more than false hopes with all the frustrations this failure brings.
That’s why the latest World Bank’s Doing Business Index – which shows Kazakhstan has jumped eight places to 28th in the global table – are so important. They confirm that the actions taken to meet the ambition of making the country a world-class place to invest and set up and grow a business are working.
The 2018 World Bank flagship index shows that Kazakhstan for the first time is in the top 30 of the 190 economies surveyed. It means a country, which a generation ago was part of the Soviet system, now stands above some of the leading economies such as France, Japan, Turkey and China in creating a business-friendly environment.
Nor can this year’s performance be seen in isolation as it comes on the back of sustained progress which has seen Kazakhstan climb 25 places in the last five years. It is the prize for a determined effort, first outlined in President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s Kazakhstan 2050 strategy six years ago, to identify and dismantle barriers to businesses, whether home-grown or from outside investment.
What has followed has been a concerted push to cut red tape, streamline regulation and, above all, improve legal protections. How successful this has been can be seen by the fact that Kazakhstan is now ranked 4th overall in the index for enforcing contracts. The new electronic case management system and the decision to improve transparency by publishing court decisions have both contributed to this impressive performance. The report also singles out praise for the steps taken to protect minority shareholder rights.
The World Bank also points to reforms to help Kazakhstan capitalise on its geographical position as a bridge between east and west. The introduction of electronic customs declaration and reduction in fees underlines the commitment to cutting delays and costs. They are decisions which are good for our country and for the global trade and prosperity.
It is not just big established businesses which are benefiting from the steps being taken. The World Bank also commended Kazakhstan for reforms in all the right areas to help small- and medium-sized enterprises succeed. As evidence shows, these SMEs are the firms which drive employment and growth in every economy.
And while Kazakhstan has still a long way to go until it enters the top 10 for start-ups, this category too is heading in the right direction with a rise of five places to 36th. New simplified procedures for registration mean that it now takes just five days to set up a new business, less than half the regional average.
There is more to do, but the fact that the World Bank report found that Kazakhstan is one of a very few economies which has put in place reforms in every area it surveys for the index since it was first published in 2004 shows that there is no complacency. The creation of the Astana International Financial Centre and the work of Kazakh Invest national company are just two examples to accelerate progress. Their efforts will only increase Kazakhstan’s attractiveness as will, in the long-run, its position as a member of the Eurasian Economic Union.
If Kazakhstan is to achieve its overall goal of joining the ranks of the top 30 economies, then it is critical that there is no let up in removing the barriers for investment and business. We must expect our competitors to raise their game in this global race and be ready to continue showing a lead.