ASTANA – The construction of Astana was one of the most significant events in the history of independent Kazakhstan, said President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on July 5 during the Twin Cities Forum in the run-up to the 25th anniversary of the capital, reported the Akorda press service.
Tokayev expressed in his speech sincere gratitude to everyone who “made a great contribution to the transformation of a provincial Soviet town into a modern metropolis.”
“The decision to move the capital was not an easy one. A lot of work was done. It was a very difficult period for the country: the economy was in decline, people were not ready for market relations. (…) The chronicle of the country’s main city is very closely intertwined with the history of independent Kazakhstan. Undoubtedly, the initiative to move the capital was the right step from a geopolitical point of view,” Tokayev said.
The President mentioned renowned architects such as Kisho Kurokawa, Norman Foster, Renato Archetti and Manfredi Nicoletti, who designed stunning structures in Astana, transforming it into a modern and fascinating place.
Astana is known for hosting major international events. The Kazakh capital serves as a platform for interreligious dialogue and spiritual diplomacy, said Tokayev, referring to the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions held once every three years in Astana.
Addressing goals moving forward, Tokayev reiterated the country’s aspiration towards sustainable development and implementation of the idea of a green city.
“The Kazakh capital should, first and foremost, become a comfortable city for its inhabitants to live in. In addition, Astana is the largest financial center in the region. Over 2,000 companies from 75 countries have chosen the Astana International Financial Centre to run their business,” he said.
Capitals and large metropolises drive the development of political, economic and cultural life, playing the role of flagships of the countries’ steady progress. They accumulate powerful creative potential, attracting investments, innovative technologies and, most importantly, human capital.
“People, their creative energy, unique knowledge, creative ideas and patriotism are key to the success of nations. Effective city management and systematic study of current trends in urbanism are becoming strategically important for every country looking to the future, including for Kazakhstan,” he said.
President Tokayev noted the rapid development of Astana.
“Over the past quarter century, the territory of our country’s main city has tripled, the population has quadrupled. According to expert forecasts, the population will reach two million by 2030,” he added.
Tokayev emphasized that impressive figures do not always indicate balanced development. He called for a human-centered approach, equal opportunities for all, accessibility of urban infrastructure for citizens with special needs, efficient public transportation and the use of new technologies for better urban management.
“To be honest, we still have to improve our work here. We have to systematically eliminate imbalances in the development of urban areas. The situation when the central streets are being polished while slums are growing on the outskirts is incompatible with the idea of a just society,” Tokayev noted.
Focusing on the role of technologies that provide new opportunities for better city management, he said the implementation of the smart city concept is the most urgent task for Astana.
“It will make it possible to provide new digital services to citizens, significantly improve the energy efficiency of buildings, optimize traffic and improve safety on the streets,” he highlighted.
Tokayev reiterated large-scale institutional reforms taking place in the country, noting, however, that all the reforms do not make sense without a reboot of society’s value system. The sustainable progress of Kazakhstan requires a profound change in the mental paradigm, updating the models of people’s behavior.
“I place special hope on our youth, the young residents of the Kazakh cities and capital. Astana is a young and ambitious city, where people from across the country want to go. The capital has already given a ticket to prosperous life for many young people. Astana is a city of great opportunities, where every citizen can fulfill his/her potential, build a career, realize their ideas and dreams,” he noted.
Mayors of twin cities worldwide, former akims (mayors) of the capital, honorary citizens of Astana, veterans of labor, cultural and sports figures, scientists, teachers and civil servants attended and spoke at the event.