News Digest: Foreign Media on Kazakhstan as World Middle Power, Government’s New Tasks, Middle Corridor and More

ASTANA – The Astana Times has selected articles on Kazakhstan published in international media. This week’s foreign media digest covers Kazakhstan as a world middle power, new government, the Middle Corridor, and more.

Photo credit: Sapargali Rakhatov.

German think tank ranks Kazakhstan as ‘world middle power’

Kazakhstan has been ranked for the first time as a “middle power” by  the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), a German think tank specializing in international relations and security studies, on par with G20 powers such as India, Türkiye, and Brazil, reported Euractiv on Feb. 14. 

The study, published on Jan. 23, has identified 12 middle powers: Türkiye, Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan, India, Indonesia, Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, Mexico, and Brazil.

As the authors explain, although the 12 states are very different, what they have in common is their focus on economic development, the strong emphasis on security and stability, and the pursuit of strategic autonomy.

SWP singled out Kazakhstan in particular for its balanced foreign policy, its positioning as a Central Asian key player, and its rich resources – and for being a key element of the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route, also known as the Middle Corridor.

“Kazakhstan has a wealth of resources that attracted the interest of the United States and Europe: fossil fuels (especially petroleum), metals, minerals and rare earth. The country has potential for the production of green energy sources (Hydrogen), in which the European Union (EU) has recently shown growing interest,” SWP writes.

Kazakhstan’s new Prime Minister unveils strategic objectives for economic prosperity

BNN Breaking published an article on Feb. 9 detailing the strategic objectives of Kazakhstan’s new Kazakh Prime Minister, Olzhas Bektenov, which are aimed at driving economic growth. These objectives focus on three key areas: financial sector reform, industrial development, and social reforms. 

These initiatives aim to create a prosperous future for the nation by fostering a conducive environment for growth and development.

Bektenov emphasized the need to prioritize budget expenditures, ensuring maximum economic return and eliminating unproductive spending. He called for a comprehensive audit of the national and local budgets to reduce unnecessary outlays and proposed a rewrite of the Tax Code with input from experts and the business community. The goal of this reform is to foster a favorable environment for business growth and stimulate Kazakhstan’s economy.

Middle Corridor: enhancing Central Asia-EU collaboration

Daily Sabah released an article  written by Ryszard Czarnecki, the member of the European Parliament (MEP), about the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR) on Feb. 13.

The significance of the Middle Corridor connectivity, linking Central Asia and the European Union, is underscored by its potential to reshape regional dynamics and foster economic development. The Central Trans-Caspian Network (CTCN), identified as the most sustainable option, spans Southern Kazakhstan and offers a strategic pathway for enhanced connectivity between Europe and Central Asia.

This corridor, envisaged to facilitate transit in 15 days or less, is a testament to the EU’s political and operational commitment to strengthening ties with the Central Asian region through the Global Gateway initiative. By sending a clear signal of dedication, the EU aims to kick-start the implementation of coordinated investments along the TITR. This involves mobilizing investors for concrete projects with realistic timelines and financial commitments.

Kazakhstan sends three container trains to Middle Corridor this month

Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ) Express company has sent three container trains through the TITR this month, Azernews reported on Feb. 12.

Last month, the company sent 10 container trains via the Middle Corridor. 

Kazakhstan shapes an ambitious future

The Times of Central Asia published an article on Feb. 7 after Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the President of Kazakhstan, chaired the extended session of government in new composition to outline main tasks for the coming period. 

“As Kazakhstan continues on its path towards economic expansion and modernization, it has set forth a revitalization and growth vision for 2024 and beyond, underpinned by a series of ambitious reforms and strategic investments. A central part to Tokayev’s vision, which he also detailed in a government meeting, is the development of a sustainable and inclusive economy driven by innovation, strategic foreign investment and proactive engagement with the global community,” the article reads. 

Can Kazakhstan Stay the Course on Economic Reform?

As Astana moves from crisis management to long-term planning mode, the challenge will be whether the government can stick to its economic reform plans, according to an expert article published in The Diplomat on Feb. 8. 

The fresh faces in the economic bloc of Kazakhstan’s new government come as Tokayev pledges to pursue a new economic course, including promises to reduce the state’s outsized role in the economy, boost local production, and create a more efficient, market-led environment. 

The article notes that Tokayev’s economic reform agenda has already begun to take shape this year with a string of new policies rolled out in recent months, including plans to lift state subsidies on gas, utilities, and some food products, develop new infrastructure, and introduce a new, more efficient Tax Code, the report notes. 

Kazakhstan’s government aims for 6% economic growth

In January, Kazakhstan reported an economic growth rate of 3.9%, as announced at a government meeting on Feb. 13, reported the Times of Central Asia. The country’s new Prime Minister Olzhas Bektenov emphasized that the government’s priority task for this year is to ensure growth of no less than 6%.

Bektenov stressed that priority should be given to manufacturing products with high added value, as well as to exporting manufactured products. 

“Financial support should be provided proportionally depending on the level of technological complexity of production. That is, the more complex the production and the more technologically advanced, the lower the loan rate or the longer the loan term,” the Prime Minister said.

Bektenov also announced that there will be no increase in the value-added tax rate. 

“We must look for other ways to replenish budget revenues,” he said.

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