The government of Kazakhstan recently released its National Development Plan Through 2025, which complements the government’s primary objective of becoming one of the world’s 30 most developed nations by 2050. Overall, the plan is a continuation of Nur-Sultan’s current strategy of economic diversification, which includes heavily investing in technology; increasing exports of manufactured goods; and the development of “new” industries like transport and logistics, aerospace services, engineering, information and communications technology (ICT), and even medical tourism.
The 2025 Plan, which describes itself as a “medium-term development plan for the implementation of the long-term strategy ‘Kazakhstan 2050,’” is divided into 10 points, with seven reform proposals and various priority issues.
Digitalization and developing ICT opportunities are a priority for the government, such as the acquisition and usage of “3D printers, automated drones, and sensors” to modernize factories and private businesses. The flagship digitalization project is the so-called Astana International Smart Technologies hub, to be headquartered in the Expo 2017 facilities. The objective of the hub is to attract “venture investors, business angels, private equity funds and other investors interested in investing in startups [and also] innovators [who are] looking for funds to commercialize their ideas.” The country already has other similar entities, like the Astana International Financial Center.
Kazakhstan has relaxed regulations, making it easier for international companies to open facilities in the country. Thanks to these policies, Kazakhstan now ranks 25th in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings, between Ireland (24th) and Iceland (26th), and ahead of Russia (28th) and China (31st).
The country is also looking to develop green technologies including “the use of new instruments for financing green projects and the creation of an International Center for the Development of Green Technologies and Investment Projects,” also located in the Expo 2017 facilities. Kazakhstan wants to decarbonize its economy, develop alternative energy sources, and decrease its reliance on oil, gas, and mining as the pillars of its economy. Hence developing green technologies is in line with the government’s overall strategy. Anecdotally, the release of the plan occurred almost parallel to a March 9 announcement by the Kazakh investment agency KazakhInvest that the Italian conglomerate Eni plans to construct a solar power plant in Turkestan region, which will hopefully “create about 200 jobs.”
Kazakhstan has been looking to attract more tourists. One recent initiative is the establishment of a tourist corridor that will link the Arystanbab mausoleum in the Turkestan Region of Kazakhstan with the Khawaja Ahmed Yasaw mausoleum in the same region, followed by the Hakim-Ata (Suleiman Bakyrgani) mausoleum and the Zangi-Ata mausoleum in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. New railways to improve tourist travel between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are also planned. Similarly, Nur-Sultan is also looking to develop ecotourism by attracting tourists to areas like the Kolsay Lakes. Since the world is still wrestling with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is debatable how many tourists the country will attract from outside the region in the foreseeable future.
As for more obscure projects, the plan mentions the potential of developing medical tourism, specifically regarding the largely experimental National Medical Holding in Nur-Sultan. The document does not mention which medical services foreigners may want to travel to Kazakhstan for.
The plan does mention some specific milestones regarding Kazakhstan’s international image as an “open economy.” For example, Kazakhstan should, by 2025, reach the top 55-60 nations in the Rule of Law Index, “in line with the level of comparable OECD countries.” According to the World Justice Project, which manages the Index, Kazakhstan currently ranks at 62. Similarly, Kazakhstan aims to be “among the top 55 countries in terms of the index of the complexity of the economy” by 2025. The country ranks at 93, as of 2018 data.
One interesting aspect of the plan is that it admits the lack of equality in terms of development across the country. For example, regarding the gross regional product (GRP), the largest share is occupied by Almaty city (over 20 percent), while the smallest is the entire North Kazakhstan Region (2 percent). Unfortunately, towns like Zhanatas, in southern Kazakhstan, continue to suffer from high levels of poverty and unemployment due to a lack of industries, infrastructure and job opportunities.
In a 2012 speech, then-President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced his government’s strategy for the country to become one of the 30 most developed nations by 2050, with a focus on both development and economic diversification. By prominently mentioning the “long-term” 2050 strategy in the introduction of the plan, we can deduce that Nur-Sultan’s objective remains steadfast and the National Development Plan Through 2025 should be regarded as part of a larger strategy on the road to 2050.