Economic news in brief

Kazakhstan advanced seven spots to 44th place in the Brand Finance annual ranking of 100 national brands. The country sits between New Zealand (45th) and Iran (43rd) and ahead of European countries such as Hungary, Portugal, Romania and Slovakia. Kazakhstan also entered the top ten in national brand value growth, as the cost increased 41.9 percent, the eighth indicator among all countries included in the rating. Kazakhstan had a 4.1-percent economic growth rate in 2018, more than the world average of 3 percent per year. The country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018 reached 61.8 trillion tenge (US$158.66 billion).

At the end of September, 16,500 foreign-owned enterprises were operating in Kazakhstan, a 17.4-percent increase. The number of legal entities increased 9 percent to 299,500. The share of foreign companies in the country has been gradually increasing in the last five years, growing from 5.1 percent to 5.5 percent in 2018. At the same time, 97.4 percent of all foreign companies are small enterprises. The number of medium-sized foreign companies increased 3.4 percent to 243 in a year, while the number of large foreign enterprises decreased 6.2 percent to 183.

Despite the instability of the global economy, American companies continue to show interest in the Kazakh market and U.S. investment in the country has increased 17 percent per year, reported ranking.kz. In the first half of 2019, the gross inflow of U.S.-originated foreign direct investment (FDI) reached $3 billion, an increase of 7 percent year-on-year (yoy). In 2018, gross FDI inflow was $5.3 billion, a 44.7-percent increase for the year. The United States has invested more than $28 billion in the Kazakh economy in the past ten years. As of the end of September, 382 companies using American capital operate in Kazakhstan, including 335 small, 19 medium and 28 large enterprises. In recent years, companies such as McDonalds, Netflix, Primus Power, Spancrete, Starbucks and Uber have entered the country.

In October, the Kazakh subsistence level was 32,200 tenge (US$82.70), a 12.4-percent increase, reported finprom.kz. Prices for goods and services rose 5.5 percent in 2019 year-on-year (yoy); the food basket was 17,800 tenge (US$45.70) and non-food goods and services were 14,500 tenge (US$37.20). The Mangystau Region has the highest cost of living at 39,500 tenge (US$101.40), 22.8 percent more than the national average. The lowest indicator is in the Pavlodar Region – 28,300 tenge (US$72.70) – or 11.9 percent lower than the countrywide average.

According to a Standard &Poor’s study, life insurance in Kazakhstan continues to evolve, growing by an average of 18 percent from a very low base in the past three years and maintaining high rates of profitability. In the last five years, the country had a 1.4 percent average population growth and an increase in life expectancy. The indicators offer very good prospects for developing the industry. As Kazakh insurance companies receive nearly one-third of their assets from funds placed in Kazakh banks, however, they are particularly exposed to credit and market risks associated with the banking sector.

Services, sports, art, cinema and show business production had a noticeable decrease in the first half of the year. Sports, recreation and entertainment activities fell 7.1 percent; film and audio recording, 6 percent. The trend is the first downturn after two years of positive growth. In 2018, for example, the cinema and recording sectors grew 41.8 percent and show business by 14.5 percent. The decrease indicates the entertainment and educational event industries are highly dependent on state support, reported energyprom.kz. State-owned creative, art and entertainment companies represent 59 percent of the total.