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Kazakhstan marks 27th anniversary of independence

By Hussei Chaihanoe | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2018-12-20 16:24

Marking Independence Day, Astana capital. [Photo/KazInform]

Each country in the world has its own national holiday, which is associated with the formation of its statehood or is important for the nation. It is called different things in different places, like Republic Day, Liberation Day, and Country Day. In Kazakhstan, it’s Independence Day, celebrated annually on 16 December. This year is the 27th anniversary of the holiday.

It should be noted that independence, which the Kazakh people had dreamed of for centuries, took Kazakhstani people by surprise. Then, in 1991, with the collapse of the USSR, sixteen newly formed independent states were clearly not ready for independence. Development strategies needed to be adjusted on the move, as in the case of Kazakhstan.

The idea that this state, where almost all the factories shut in the early 1990s, where electricity supply was intermittent, was able to achieve any results in such a short time is commendable, particularly considering the the great skepticism the state faced from both citizens and experts abroad.

Few believed in the success of the country. Besides problems in the economy, the country faced other internal challenges. One of them, according to Sovietologist and consultant to US president Lyndon B Johnson, Zbigniew Brzezinski was poly-ethnicity and potential “disintegration due to ethnic instability”.

Contrary to even the most optimistic forecasts of that time, in just two decades, Kazakhstan has become a developing and deeply integrated state in the international community. Today this country demonstrates to the world the lessons of inter-ethnic peace. Representatives of more than 100 ethnic groups live in peace and harmony. Today it is a stable state with strong economic potential.

This considered Zbigniew Brzezinski later said: “I admit that I didn’t pay too much attention to Kazakhstan. But at that time I did not think that Kazakhstan was a new reality in Central Asia. And there is no doubt that since independence, Kazakhstan has shown great progress in terms of economic development, searching for its place in the region, as well as in establishing friendly, good-neighborly relations with the outside world.”

In a relatively short timeframe, Kazakhstan can point to a number of achievements. What are the reasons for these successes?

Arguably the most important driver has been state strategy. President Nursultan Nazarbayev has said that for the development of state and society need, two things are needed: a positive image of the future, and a realistic plan for moving towards it.

Kazakhstan knew where it was going since the beginning of the 90s. In 1992 the Strategy for the Formation and Development of Kazakhstan as a Sovereign State was published. The blueprint for development had been defined.

In 1997 the state adopted Kazakhstan 2030, a document outlining a long-term vision of what the country should become and what milestones needed to be achieved. The majority of the work was achieved by the beginning of the 10s. For 16 of the planned 33 years, the state managed to fulfill major tasks.

In 2012 it was announced that almost all of the goals outlined in Strategy 2030 were fulfilled and in the same year a new document was presented to the country with a vision for 2050. Those skeptical of achieving of the goals in Strategy 2050 have have numbered fewer than with the document’s predecessor.

Publishing strategic plans puts states at an advantage. It is also important to note that the Kazakhstan’s strategic documents are constantly supplemented with more detailed documents, kind of clarifying action plans.

The second important driver of Kazakhstan‘sbreakthrough, has been a bet on education. Investment in the country’s education system is already showing results.

Let's go back to the early 1990s. The situation in the country is close to dire. President Nazarbayev decided to encourage young people to attend the best universities in the world, paid for by the state. The policy’s goal was to train people for prioritized sectors in the country's economy. At the time, not everyone understood the value of the policy, not because there was next to no money in the country!

Twenty-five years have since passed. Thanks to this policy – called Bolashak (the future) – almost 11,000 people have been trained and are now implementing global best practices in a number of areas in the country. This program is just one aspect of education policy.

Analysis shows that education have always been a priority of state policy. The amount of funding in this area continues to grow. State-of-the-art schools and universities run across the country, Nazarbayev University, a world-class university operating in accordance with international academic standards and principles of academic freedom, perhaps prime among them. With such an emphasis on education, the country has a great future and productive present. Thirdly the country is open to business and investment.

The desire to enter the top 30 developed countries in the world encourages Kazakhstan to constantly improve its laws and create conditions for the active participation of business in the development of the country. This makes it more and more attractive to a foreign investors. Over these 27 years, more than $300 billion of direct investment has come to Kazakhstan, almost 70 percent of total investment in Central Asia.

These are perhaps the key components of Kazakhstan’s success, in which Nursultan Nazarbayev has played a leading role.

As for development in Kazakhstan, with particular regard to the economy, it is key to remember that the country is gradually moving away from commodity dependence, and almost 10 years ago bet on industrial and innovative development. This is despite the fact that, according to experts, the country is sixth in the world in terms of natural resources. Of the 110 elements of the periodic table, 99 are identified, 70 are explored, and 60 are extracted and used in Kazakhstan. In many ways, they have helped Kazakhstan in its formative years, but now capital city, Astana, has moved away from raw-material dependence, replacing it with the development of the manufacturing industry. This sphere is becoming the main driver of growth in industry in the republic.

Kazakhstan is also active internationally. It’s a member of nearly all the world’s leading international organizations, including the UN, OSCE, OIC, WTO, SCO, CIS, CSTO, and OECD. Its held successful chairmanships of organizations, such as the OSCE, OIC, EAEU, SCO, CIS, CSTO, CICA, the Turkic Council and the UN Security Council. The country independently organizes congresses of the leaders of world and traditional religions, and acts as an effective mediator in resolving international conflicts.

Considering all this, it would seem that 27 years of independent development is only the beginning of a great future.

The author is a commentator on Central Asian affairs, based in Beijing.

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