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KAZAKSTAN


 

 

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 29,749 24,205 22,400 60
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,780 1,510 1,350 119
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Update No: 333 - (26/09/08)

Kazakhstan is the centre of Central Asia
If there is one country that really matters to Russia in the FSU it is Kazakhstan. It is vast in itself and has vast resources, for instance 60% of the FSU's mineral reserves.

But Kazakhstan has a particular significance. It is the most promising country of the entire FSU, likely to be a super-power in no time at all. 

People get an entirely wrong take on Kazakhstan who just look at it on an atlas. Tucked away beneath Siberia it looks a small under-belly of the same. It is in fact the size of Western Europe and Scandinavia combined.

It has a small population, it is true, 16m. But who is going to deny that this may turn out, in a grossly overpopulated world, to be anything but a massive advantage.

The Astana-Moscow axis
Of course Russia is the country that matters most to it. There are seven million Russians in the population, who, nevertheless, are as keen as the Kazakhs to remain independent of Russia. Why not keep the jam for a total population of barely 15 million, instead of over 150 million?
“Kazakhstan and Russia can shift to a new stage of innovation of development of bilateral relations between the two countries,” the President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, said at the 5th forum of heads of the border regions of Russia and Kazakhstan on 22 September, which was broadcast in the direct ether of Vesti television. 

According to him, trade turnover between two countries grew four times in the last twelve months, presumably in value terms due to the jump in oil prices (rather corrected of late). “An increase in trade turnover occurs due to global crises. While other countries suffer difficulties from the economic crises, the economies of our states are stable,” said Nazarbayev.

IMF qualifies growth forecast downwards 
Nevertheless, the International Monetary Fund cut its 2008 and 2009 economic growth forecasts for Kazakhstan on September 26, but said the medium-term prospects for Central Asia's biggest economy were still good. 

A global credit crisis has squeezed Kazakhstan's financial system since last year, causing economic activity to slow and forcing the government to introduce a $6 billion buyout fund to prop up the sector. 

Tim Callen, head of the IMF mission to Kazakhstan, told Reuters in an interview the IMF had cut its growth forecast for Kazakhstan for 2008 to 4.5 percent from 5.0 percent, and to 5.3 percent from 6.0 percent for 2009. 

'What's likely to happen is that the recovery previously expected in the middle of next year will be pushed towards the end of the year,' he said. 'All in all, we anticipate certainly not an easy year coming up but medium term prospects are still fundamentally very sound.' 

The government of the oil-rich nation has slashed its 2008 forecast to 5.3 percent this year after years of averaging 10 percent growth due to booming commodity prices. 

But, with oil accounting for 60 percent of all exports, high global prices are seen offsetting the impact of volatility on Kazakhstan's highly leveraged economy.

Bizarre Austrian-Kazakh developments
The regime in Astana is of course repressive along the usual Central Asian lines. Its elite are doing the obvious thing, enriching themselves like crazy. 

Austrian authorities said they are investigating whether a foreign government has tried to kidnap Kazakhstan's former chief of intelligence, now a critic of the Kazakh government living in exile in Vienna. Prosecutors said a group of armed men attempted to abduct Alnur Mussayev and his female interpreter on a Vienna street in mid-September. A spokesman for the Austrian federal prosecutor's office said they are trying to determine whether a "foreign power" was attempting forcibly to extradite Mr. Mussayev.

Mr. Mussayev fled Kazakhstan last year along with his onetime deputy, Rakhat Aliyev, who is also the former son-in-law of Kazakhstan President Nazarbayev. Both Mr. Mussayev and Mr. Aliyev have publicly accused the Kazakh government of widespread corruption and of the receipt of payment of millions of dollars in bribes by Western oil companies to Mr. Nazarbayev. Mr. Aliyev aired many of his assertions of corruption in a story in The Wall Street Journal in July.

Since fleeing their country, both Mr. Mussayev and Mr. Aliyev have been convicted of crimes in absentia by the government in Kazakhstan.

The spokesman for the Austrian prosecutors said they have identified a suspect in an earlier attempt to abduct Mr. Mussayev, on July 17. He declined to name the man, but when asked whether he was from Kazakhstan, the spokesman said, "He's from the region. " No one has been charged. The government of Kazakhstan, through its embassy in Washington, didn't respond to questions about the incidents.

Kazakhstan's foreign minister is slated to visit the U.S. soon for meetings with Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

In an official statement to police at the time of the July attack, Mr. Mussayev said several Russian-speaking men attempted to force him into a car on a Vienna street. In a telephone interview, Mr. Mussayev said that in the recent attempt, four men carrying pistols attacked him and his interpreter, Lidia Eickmeyer. He said he struggled with the men before passers-by began to scream and the men fled. Ms. Eickmeyer, in a telephone interview, gave a similar account, and said she was knocked unconscious and treated for trauma after the attack.

The tensions between the Kazakh government and the high-profile dissidents have complicated efforts by the U.S. to cultivate good relations with Mr. Nazarbayev. Kazakhstan is important because of its strategic location between Russia and China and its mineral riches, which include uranium, copper and iron ore as well as oil.

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