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Kazakhstan

Doing Business and Central Asia – After 15 years, how much reform?

Stefka Slavova's picture


This year, the annual Doing Business Report – by far the most anticipated and cited World Bank publication – celebrates its 15th year. Starting in 2003, the fledgling report, which covers about 130 countries, has grown into its teens garnering admiration and criticism in equal measure. Some absolutely love it, while others argue that its flaws outweigh its strong points.

Regardless, nobody can deny that the Doing Business report has been a major catalyst for reforms across the world – 3,200 reforms of business regulation have been counted to date, spurred by the Report and carried out in line with the methodology of its indicators.

After the storm: Time to rebuild faster and stronger

Lilia Burunciuc's picture
With every calamity comes an opportunity: to rebound and rebuild stronger than before. The economies of Central Asia faced such an opportunity following the major economic shock they experienced at the end of 2014. The collapse in commodity prices affected not only oil-producing countries – highlighting the narrow production base on which their prosperity rests – but also oil importers, whose growth depends largely on remittance-fueled demand.

All countries in the region experienced significant welfare losses. In 2015-16, the volume of imports declined 15% in both Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and 25% in Kyrgyzstan – a clear sign that households and firms were constrained.

After the initial shock, however, the economies of Central Asia rebounded. This was thanks to supportive fiscal and monetary policies, namely fiscal expansion and relatively lose monetary policy. Growth has picked-up: for Central Asia, as a whole, it is now projected to reach 4.4% in 2017, against 2.8% the year before. Inflation has returned to manageable levels: in Kazakhstan, it has plummeted down from the double-digit rates seen after the fall in oil prices, confirming that the previous spike was merely a one-time adjustment.

But, have the countries of Central Asia done enough to shift the focus from structural constraints to durable prosperity? According to the recently released Economic Update for Europe and Central Asia, important challenges still lie ahead.

Aktau – the gateway to Kazakhstan

Ato Brown's picture

Almost all the necessary facilities for investors are in place in the region, including the Sea Port Aktau economic zone.

Although Kazakhstan is the 9th largest country in the world, whenever we come to the country we tend to land in just one of two places: Astana (the capital) or Almaty (the former capital). We hear a lot about the oil-rich west, but few of us go there to explore business opportunities – a big mistake in my view. From what I’ve seen, I would claim that Aktau – in the western Mangystau region - is a gateway to Kazakhstan.

Economic diversification: A priority for action, now more than ever

Cecile Fruman's picture

The global economy is stagnating, and uncertainty about its future is rising. These trends weigh heavily on countries that depend on the production and export of a small range of products, or that sell products in only a few overseas markets.  Prices of the minerals and other basic commodities that dominate the exports of many poor countries have also declined sharply. All of this points up the need for diversification strategies that can deliver sustained, job intensive and inclusive growth.

The World Bank Group’s Trade & Competitiveness Global Practice (T&C), a joint practice of the World Bank and International Finance Corporation (IFC), is working with a growing roster of client countries eager to achieve greater economic diversification. This is a worthy goal regardless of economic conditions, but especially so now, as developing countries with sector-dependent economies face mounting pressures.

Chile is an example of a diversified economy, exporting more than 2,800 distinct products to more than 120 different countries. Zambia, a country similarly endowed with copper resources, exports just over 700 products — one-fourth of Chile’s export basket — and these go to just 80 countries. Other low-income countries have similarly limited diversified economies. The Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Malawi, for example, export around 550 and 310 products, respectively. Larger countries that export oil, such as Nigeria (780 products) and Kazakhstan (540 products), have failed to substantially expand the range of products they produce and export.


AJG Simoes, CA Hidalgo. The Economic Complexity Observatory: An Analytical Tool for Understanding the Dynamics of Economic Development. Workshops at the Twenty-Fifth AAAI Conference on Artificial Intelligence. (2011)
http://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/profile/country/chl/#Exports

While the sluggish global economy is creating economic problems for traditional exports, other economic trends offer new routes and opportunities for poor countries to diversify. The trend toward the spatial splitting up of production across wide geographic areas, and the emergence and growth of regional and global value chains, offer new ways for developing countries to export tasks, services and other activities. Value chains offer developing countries a path out of the trap of having to specialize in whole industries, with all of the cost and risk that such a strategy entails.

Equipping Kazakhstan’s future workforce

Aliya Bizhanova's picture
Kazakhstan has embarked on several policy and institutional initiatives aimed at closing skill gaps and improving work force productivity.
Kazakhstan is embarking on several policy and institutional initiatives aimed at closing skill gaps and improving work force productivity. Photo: Maxim Zolotukhin / World Bank

Do you remember how you felt when you graduated from high-school or college? Like me, you probably experienced some uncertainty and anxiety about what comes next, asking questions such as: “Will I get a job, and if so, where? And am I fully equipped to compete in the workforce?”

Indeed, these are important questions for many graduates entering the labor market in my country, Kazakhstan, where strong economic growth over the last decade has exposed some major skill gaps in the workforce.

Chart: High-Tech Exports Gaining Ground in Kazakhstan

Erin Scronce's picture

Over the past two decades, high-tech exports from Kazakhstan have been increasing steadily. The World Bank Group has been working since 2008 with the Kazakh Government and scientist groups to further expand the country’s high-tech exports in a number of sectors. Through the Technology Commercialization Project, 65 new startups received grant funding and business training to get their innovations out of the lab and into markets. The startups operate in a wide variety of industries including agriculture, health, medicine, gas, oil and robotics. Already 40 of these businesses have reached first sales.

Find out more about the project and how it energized innovation in Kazakhstan
 

The “human scale” in public urban areas

Judy Zheng Jia's picture

Slideshow: Reimagining a park, a river, and other public spaces in Seoul (Photos by Judy Zheng Jia / World Bank)

"If you lose the human scale, the city becomes an ugly place," said Joan Clos, Executive Director of the UN-HABITAT at the Habitat III Conference last month. But more than being "ugly," the lack of good public urban spaces, such as open spaces, parks, and public buildings, often contribute to low livability in many of the world's congested and polluted cities. In fact, the importance of the issue received recognition in SDG 11, Target 7, which calls for the provision of “universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green, and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons, and persons with disabilities,” by 2030.
 
Global experience shows that disconnected, underutilized areas in urban settings can, instead, be opened up to a variety of uses to allow for improved social inclusion, social mixing, civic participation, recreation, safety, and a sense of belonging, ultimately contributing to urban prosperity. Well-designed and well-managed public spaces also offer benefits to environmental sustainability, transport efficiency, and public health improvements, and can equally serve women, the disabled, and people of all ages.

The importance of good urban spaces was the topic of an international workshop—“Vitalizing Cities with Public Space”—held in Seoul on November 14-17, 2016 and co-hosted by the Korea Research Institute of Human Settlements and the World Bank’s Urbanscapes Group. Eight cities from around the world—Seoul, Singapore, Buenos Aires, Chongqing, Kakamega, Zanzibar, Astana, and Tashkent—participated to discuss challenges and opportunities for better urban planning and design.

People’s living standards – do numbers tell the whole story?

Giorgia DeMarchi's picture
Numbers don’t lie. That’s why, in our day-to-day lives, we rely heavily on numbers from household surveys, from national accounts, and from other traditional sources to describe the world around us: to calculate, to compare, to measure, to understand economic and social trends in the countries where we work.

But do we perhaps rely too much on numbers to gain an understanding of people’s lives and the societies in which they live? Do numbers really tell us the whole story, or give us the full picture?


 

Guess how many private infrastructure projects reached closure in 2015 in the poorest countries?

Laurence Carter's picture
 

Just fourteen projects in energy, transport and water/sanitation.  In only eight countries. Totaling $2.7 billion.
 
There are 56 IDA countries (excluding three “inactive” and a few rich enough to count as “IDA blend”) defined as having per capita income under $1,215.  This 2.7 billion in IDA countries compares to total private infrastructure investment commitments of $111.6 billion in all emerging markets in 2015 per the recently released Private Participation in Infrastructure database.
 
In recent years, the number of projects and investment amounts of private infrastructure in IDA countries hasn’t increased.  If people living in the poorest countries are to get better access to energy, transport and water services, and if we believe that the innovation, management capacity and financing of the private sector working together with governments is essential to help make that happen … well, then we need a step change.
 
We know to make a difference requires dedication and a long term vision.  One part of that ambitious change is the Global Infrastructure Facility (GIF).  The GIF is a global open platform to help partners prepare and structure complex infrastructure public-private partnerships (PPPs) in emerging markets, and to bring in private sector and institutional investor capital.  The GIF platform integrates the efforts of multilateral development banks (who as Technical Partners choose which projects to submit for GIF funding), private sector investors and financiers, and governments to bring infrastructure projects and programs to market.  No single institution can achieve these goals alone.  The GIF’s Advisory Partners, which include insurers, fund managers, and commercial lenders, and which together have $13 trillion in assets under management, provide feedback to governments on the bankability of projects.

Oil price impact is felt beyond borders

Donna Barne's picture

Oil pumps in southern Russia © Gennadiy Kolodkin/World Bank

Two recently released World Bank reports — one on commodities and the other on remittances — lend insight into an unfolding dynamic in the world today. As oil prices dropped from more than $100 per barrel in June 2014 to as low as $27 in the last few months, the money sent home from people working abroad in oil-producing countries also fell. This drop is a major reason remittances to developing countries declined in 2015 to their lowest growth rate since the 2008-2009 financial crisis.


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