Water Competition and Efficiency in Kazakhstan
Former Soviet-controlled Kazakhstan has come a long way since the end of the Cold War. Despite becoming a more stable nation in the Middle East compared to its neighbors, it still struggles with water distribution and quality to this day. This article shall discuss these chief problems through water competition and efficiency in Kazakhstan.

Competition with China

As far as competition goes, Kazakhstan has a major problem in the form of China. Kazakhstan relies heavily on the Ili River for a good portion of its water supply and both countries connect to this valuable river. At the end of the day, China receives a larger share of the river than Kazakhstan. This is partly because the Ili River begins in China, and that China has 15.7 billion cubic meters of water flow into its borders every year. On the flip side, Kazakhstan only gets around half of that with 8.4 billion cubic meters. China states that it should have a larger share due to it being larger than Kazakhstan and the fact that Kazakhstan exploited the water profusely in the 1960s. In fact, Kazakhstan still does today at a rate of 42.7 percent which is over the 40 percent limit range.

Efficiency in Water Distribution

Kazakhstan has noted that it needs to exploit these waters due to its inability to give its population enough water or water that meets sanitary standards. This is partly due to the lack of efficient water distribution to people in certain parts of Kazakhstan. Meanwhile, Central Kazakhstan only receives 3 percent of the country’s water.

Another problem is that the government has been treating its water as an unlimited resource while it is becoming clear that it is very scarce. This lead to poor management of this water while leading the citizens into believing that the problem is not as dire as it seems.

Sanitation in Kazakhstan

Another issue that Kazakhstan has is that most of its drinking water is unsafe to ingest. Due to the aforementioned poor distribution and supply of the water within the country, the amount of clean water sits at only 30 percent. A key cause of poor distribution is that the water often stops in pipes, which allows it to collect bacteria and disease. These interruptions in water flow can occur 14 days a month and last as long as 12 hours. The fact that the pipes that flow this drinking water are also in the same trenches as sewer pipes, causing cross-contamination and a possible epidemic does not help matters. This only further highlights why water competition and efficiency in Kazakhstan is so important.

Course of Action

Kazakhstan is looking to revamp its water system by not just fixing its own, but also by importing water from outside sources, namely other neighboring countries. The government is also receiving support from the E.U.; it is helping to create policies that can help Kazakhstan better preserve its water for drinking and agricultural needs. The E.U. is also going so far as to provide new technology to better equip the country in preserving this water. This is not surprising since the E.U. also provided $1.5 billion to help with water management from 2010 to 2013. With all of this support, the government of Kazakhstan is hoping to increase its people’s access to clean, sustainable drinking water by 2030.

In this article about water competition and efficiency in Kazakhstan, it is clear that the country is in a rough patch to competition outside of its borders, as well as its poor management of the water it possesses. With the proper restructuring of its water system and outside help, the country should be able to improve this issue. With the E.U.’s continued help and allocated funds and resources to fix the contamination and distribution problems, Kazakhstan should be able to see a great increase in clean water.

Collin Williams
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Kazakhstan
Life expectancy in Kazakhstan has been steadily increasing since the mid-1990s. As the world’s largest landlocked country, Kazakhstan is a Central Asian nation that extends into two continents and is abundant with natural resources. Along with Kazakhstan’s increased life expectancy, the country is in a period of economic growth – its economy expanded by 4.1 percent in 2018 due strong private consumption and a higher number of oil exports. Subsequently, poverty in Kazakhstan has fallen to 7.4 percent. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Kazakhstan.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Kazakhstan

  1. As of July 2018, the population in Kazakhstan was 18.7 million making it the 63rd largest country in the world. With a life expectancy of 71.4 years at birth, women average 76.3 years for life expectancy compared to men at 66.2 years. There is a high mortality rate for men in the former Soviet Union regions due to alcoholism, alcohol-related incidents, diseases and suicide.
  2. The life expectancy rate in Kazakhstan is higher than in other Central Asian countries like Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan. Kazakhstan even has a higher life expectancy rate than Russia, which borders the nation to the North.
  3. Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country by landmass with a population growth rate of 0.98 percent. The largest population clusters appear in the urban areas, both in the far northern and far southern parts of the nation. The interior region of Kazakhstan is mostly remote and uninhabitable.
  4. Rural areas tend to see slower development and infrastructure. While 99 percent of the urban drinking water sources have improved, only 85 percent of the rural population saw improvement. The 14.4 percent of unimproved drinking water sources in rural areas could be a factor in life expectancy rates due to various communicable diseases that thrive in poor hygienic conditions. Two prevalent diseases that affect Kazakh citizens – diarrhea and hepatitis A – are contracted easily from contaminated water.
  5. In less than two decades, Kazakhstan has transitioned from lower-middle-income to upper-middle-income status, according to The World Bank. The poverty rate in Kazakhstan is relatively low, with only 4.3 percent of inhabitants living below the poverty line. This is lower than the majority of Kazakhstan’s Central Asia and Middle East neighbors.
  6. While life expectancy has increased and child and maternal mortality rates have decreased, the government struggles to provide and balance basic health care systems in Kazakhstan. Hospitals are the keystone in health care delivery, with in-patient care utilizing 45 percent of the public health budget. The number of general practitioners and primary-care physicians in Kazakhstan is relatively low. The long lines and lack of specialists may daunt Kazakh citizens when receiving basic health care services.
  7. Kazakhstan is a relatively youthful country with only 7.9 percent of the population being 65 years or older. The largest age structure in Kazakhstan is the 25-54 group that makes up 42.3 percent, making the median age in Kazakhstan 30.9 years. The median age in the United States is 38.2.
  8. Education and literacy can be a factor in life expectancy due to the lifelong economic benefits of an education. Ninety-nine percent of Kazakhstan is literate and the country offers free mandatory education up to the end of high school.
  9. Lifestyle choices, such as diet, are important to note when understanding the factors that influence life expectancy in Kazakhstan. A traditional Kazakh diet is heavily meat-based. There is an abundance of preserved foods due to the diets of the early Kazakh nomads, which include salted or dried meats, fermented dairy products and pickled vegetables. Fresh vegetables are often deficient in the Kazakh diet.
  10. Economic opportunities help citizens to live longer, happier and more fulfilling lives. The Youth Corps Program in Kazakhstan works to support vulnerable youth by developing community projects. For example, a soft-toy making club for disabled youth in the town of Kapchagai provides young people with disabilities the chance to learn new skills and generate a source of income.

Kazakhstan has made significant progress in social and economic reforms in the decades since its independence from the Soviet Union. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Kazakhstan show that the average life expectancy has improved through a reduction of poverty rates and an emphasis on education. Development in rural regions and improving universal health care are imperative to keep Kazakhstan’s life expectancy on the rise.

– Trey Ross
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in KazakhstanKazakhstan is a fledgling nation striving for prosperity and stability throughout its vast territory. The country established itself as a sovereign nation after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Since then, Kazakhstan’s economy has been on the upswing, but that growth is overwhelmingly based on its vast oil reserves.

As Kazakhstan grows into its own identity, it has been trying to promote prosperity across its many regions. The following top 10 facts about living conditions in Kazakhstan illustrate the ways it is developing as a nation.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Kazakhstan

  1. Kazakhstan is the world’s ninth largest nation. Kazakhstan is vast and at 1,052,090 sq. miles, it is the world’s largest landlocked country. Kazakhstan is also one of only two landlocked countries that reach across two continents, Asia and Europe. Most of the land (77.4 percent) is agricultural. The standard of living in Kazakhstan depends largely on the region. The level of poverty varies widely between states or oblasts. Access to quality housing, education and medical services also vary by oblast.
  2. Kazakhstan’s government is actively working toward reducing inequality and increasing economic opportunities through programs like the Kazakhstan 2050 strategy.
  3. Kazakhstan’s leadership is changing. Since gaining independence in 1991, Nursultan Nazarbayev has been Kazakhstan’s president. Nazarbayev announced his resignation on March 19, 2019, on national television. Kassym-Jormat Tokayev, the chairman of the Kazakh Senate, will serve as interim president until the election in 2020. Nazarbayev, an autocrat, will continue to wield a high level of influence over the government. Nazarbayev’s daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva, will become the new speaker of the Senate.
  4. Most of the population live in urban areas. The rest of the population lives throughout a vast territory. A majority of Kazakhstan’s population (57.4 percent) live in urban centers in the far northern and southern regions of the country, especially in the cities of Almaty and Astana (the capital). Astana has unique and opulent architecture, a memorial to the heavy concentration of oil money in urban centers. The center of the country has a very low population density. The rural areas of Kazakhstan are more likely to have more poverty and less benefit from economic growth.
  5. Kazakhstan’s economy is based heavily on oil production and its economy is over-reliant on oil production. The primary producers are the Tengiz field and the colossal Kashagan field, which just started producing in 2016. The vast reserves of oil in Kazakhstan have helped the country enjoy relatively consistent economic growth since claiming independence.
  6. Kazakhstan is trying to diversify its economy with railroad manufacturing. Kazakhstan is attempting to spend its oil wealth on new industries to offset its heavy dependence on oil. The premier industry is railroad manufacturing. The state-owned railroad empire, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZ), is aggressively expanding with $3.1 billion invested in 2013. Kazakhstan hopes to become a global leader in railroad production. The industry employed one in every 54 people in 2013.
  7. Kazakhstan is Central Asia’s breadbasket. Agriculture in Kazakhstan is less than 5 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) but employs almost one-fifth of its population. As the world’s seventh largest wheat exporter, Kazakhstan is crucial to food security throughout the region. Droughts in Kazakhstan can be devastating, reducing harvests sixfold.
  8. The state owns and controls most of the broadcast media companies in Kazakhstan. The Kazakh government owns almost all of the radio and TV networks. Cellular telephone and internet usage are on the rise, including a vast 4G network.
  9. Overall, Kazakhstan has a low number of people below the poverty line. Only 2.6 percent of the entire population is below the internationally standardized poverty line. However, poverty is still a problem, especially in certain regions. Poor housing conditions affected 28 percent of the population, low education rates affected 11 percent and low consumption affected 15 percent.
  10. Kazakhstan has relied on Russia as a trade partner but is trying to diversify. Kazakhstan exports 78 percent of its oil production. Historically, Kazakhstan has relied on Russia to distribute its oil throughout Europe. More recently it has been trying to grow new trade partnerships, especially with China to counteract over-reliance on Russia.

The above top 10 facts about living conditions in Kazakhstan depict both the struggles and the successes of a young nation. With the help of international partners like the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Kazakhstan can continue to manage its economic growth and address regional disparities.

– Peter S. Mayer
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Girls' Education in Kazakhstan
In 2012, Kazakhstan‘s President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced the ambitious Kazakhstan 2050 plan to make this Central Asian nation one of the world’s 30 most developed. Much of the plan revolves around the economic activity, but a crucial secondary function is to bolster and expand the country’s education system. Since Kazakhstan 2050 was kicked off, substantial strides have been made regarding making education and schools more accessible and high quality for all citizens. However, there are still barriers in place that prevent girls from utilizing of Kazakhstan’s growing scholastic offerings. In the article below, the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Kazakhstan are presented.

Top 10 Facts about Girls’ Education in Kazakhstan

  1. The topic of sex is very taboo in Kazakhstan, and as a result, there is no structure in place to educate young people about safe sex and health. State-level plans across the board offer very little, and the national Ministry of Education supplies nothing at all. Without a syllabus for teachers or schools and a cultural inability to discuss sex, the birth rate for girls ages from 15 to 19 years is 28 per 1,000. This rate coincides with a 20 percent decrease in gross enrollment of girls from lower to upper secondary school, where students are typically from 16 to 18 years old.
  2. In January 2017, the Ministry of Education passed a decision that all schools, except for universities, would require students to wear uniforms, and that religious garments of any kind would be banned. In schools across the country, substantial portions of female students refused to attend until the ban is lifted. In one school, 73 percent of hijab-wearing students refused to comply. Dissenters maintain the ban is unconstitutional.
  3. Human Development Indices and Indicators report illustrate problems with education and outcomes in Kazakhstan. The report uses the Gender Development Index that measures inequalities in achievement in three basic dimensions of human development: health, education and command over economic resources, which is measured by Gross National Income (GNI) per capita. The difference between male and female GNI is more than $11,000 and 12 percent more of the male population participate in the country’s labor force.
  4. In 2017, the Kazakhstan government invested $56 million in support of female entrepreneurship in order to improve upon the substantial job increase caused by female-owned small and medium enterprises. Additionally, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) kicked off a Women in Business program in 2015, that provides female-owned businesses with designates credit lines.
  5. Access to primary and secondary school is a constitutional right in Kazakhstan and education is compulsory from 7 to 15 ages, ending before the final two years of secondary school. The last nine years have seen a decline in primary school enrollment, dropping from 90 percent in 2008 to only 86 percent in 2017. However, secondary school enrollment has trended in the opposite direction with net enrollment improving from 90 percent in 2010 to 99.85 percent in 2017.
  6. While primary and secondary enrollment rates for boys and girls are mostly equal, far more women pursue advanced degrees. Around 64 percent of students pursuing masters degrees and 58 percent of doctoral students are women. Women with advanced degrees most often go into education, health and administrative working fields, while men tend towards technical fields.
  7. While there is little gender disparity in the national rate for the attendance of primary school, the regional metrics show that girls in certain locations are more likely to miss out on primary education. In East Kazakhstan, the net attendance for boys is 90 percent while girls attendance is only 72 percent.
  8. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) is a comparative study of the learning outcomes of 15-year-olds in reading, mathematics and science. Kazakhstan’s results show no significant differences between girls and boys, whereas other participating countries on average see an 11 point difference in mathematics. However, PISA does reveal that rural students tend to lag behind their urban counterparts. To stem this tide the Kazakhstan Ministry of Education and Science has partnered with the World Bank to kick off the Modernization of Secondary School. The program will last for 17 years and $75 million will be spent on improvement of the quality of education to reduce the gap between rural and urban schools, and to support inclusive education.
  9. Kazakhstan has entirely closed its gender gap in regards to educational attainment. In September 2018, Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Education and Science announced a collaborative plan to bring better education to women in Afghanistan. In collaboration with the EU and the governments of Afghanistan and Uzbekistan, the unnamed program allocates $2.3 million for training and educating women.
  10. A study conducted by the Asian Development Bank found that the overwhelming majority of college and vocational students in STEM fields were men. In order to overcome the antiquated beliefs that push women towards certain jobs and fields, the International Youth Foundation partnered with Chevron to start the Zangar Initiative. This program is meant to stimulate students interests in STEM fields while in primary and secondary school and establishes after-school clubs for students to combine their math and science lessons with engineering design processes to address real-world problems.

Kazakhstan’s aspiration to be one of the world’s most developed nations seems very likely considering the progress the country has made in recent history. By investing in and rethinking the educational system, Kazakhstan shows the importance of education for the country’s future and that, in order for the country to realize its potential, so must its citizens regardless of their gender. Educating women is a must when achieving the status of a prosperous nation.

– Nick Sharek

Photo: UNICEF

Top 10 Facts about Poverty in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan, a country of 18 million inhabitants located between Russia and China, has been battling poverty since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. The following top 10 facts about poverty in Kazakhstan show that despite the country’s independent economy being so young, there is a lot to be hopeful for about the future of the Kazakh economy.

This hope, in turn, leads to more programs and opportunities that help to alleviate poverty; however, Kazakhstan’s economic infrastructure still remains a somewhat volatile environment — despite booming energy and agricultural industries — due to corruption and over-dependence on global energy markets.

Top 10 Facts About Poverty in Kazakhstan

  1. Kazakhstan has a large agriculture market and is the sixth largest wheat producer in the world. The agriculture industry employs nearly 18 percent of the nation’s working population but only yields between 5-7 percent of their GDP. Nearly 80 percent of cultivation is done with machinery near the end of its lifecycle — local production of tractors, combines and other farm machinery are mostly non-existent, causing a large tab for importing expensive farming equipment mostly from Russia. This low return on investment (ROI) for Kazakh farmers leaves little to pay a significant percentage of its workforce; this lack can then leaves employees in the agricultural industry near or below the poverty line.
  2. Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Agriculture launched a $158 million initiative to establish cooperatives to support small to medium-sized farms. These coops aim to help offset the low ROI for small, rural farmers by helping with buying new machinery, storage and transport products, veterinary services and other business costs.
  3. Kazakhstan is the world’s third largest producer of oil. Oil sales account for roughly a quarter of Kazakhstan’s GDP and about 60 percent of its total exports. The nation also has massive reserves of natural gas, coal and uranium. Astana, Kazakhstan was host city to EXPO 2017 for Future Energies. Due to Kazakhstan’s over-dependence on sales of oil and material reserves, its economy is still largely at the mercy of worldwide energy prices. The sharp decline of oil prices in 2014 had such a widespread effect on the Kazakh economy that its currency — tenge — was devalued by 23 percent by 2015.
  4. Chevron invested $36.8 billion for an expansion to Kazakhstan’s Tengiz oil field. The massive Kashagan field also began production in October 2016 after years of delays and $55 billion in development costs. Kazakhstan had a 10.5 percent increase in oil production in 2017, helping the economy climb back after the spike in oil prices in 2014.
  5. The poverty rate in Kazakhstan is actually quite low. Those living below the $1.90/day rate in Kazakhstan was estimated to be 2.6 percent in 2016, and the unemployment rate was estimated to be 5 percent in 2017, according to the CIA World Fact Book. These numbers, though promising, are quite deceptive. Kazakhstan’s annual income per capita in 2017 was only $3,010, which equals about $8.25 per day.
  6. Corruption is rampant in Kazakhstan. Companies cite corruption as being the number one constraint for doing business in Kazakhstan, according to a 2016 GAN Business Anti-Corruption report. Earlier this year, former Kazakh Economy Minister, Kuandyk Bishimbayev, was sentenced to 10 years on corruption charges. This comes just three years after a case was brought against 21 Kazakh public officials on corruption-related charges.
  7. Kazakhstan suffers from a complex form of regional poverty disparity. Since Kazakhstan is quite young, the government is still underdeveloped in rural areas. The U.N. is working with Kazakhstan to address this phenomenon. Developing infrastructure and education opportunities in poor, rural areas is just a few examples of how they are addressing the problem.
  8. Kazakhstan has achieved nearly 100 percent literacy rate. Kazakhstan has an estimated 99.8 percent literacy rate and a school life expectancy (the total number of years a student can expect to go to school) of 15 years — from primary schools to tertiary educations (such as universities) and trade schools. Kazakhstan currently has a $67 million loan from the World Bank Group for modernizing education. The objectives of this loan are to improve curricular standards, increase learning outcomes in rural and disadvantaged schools and increase citizen engagement.
  9. The World Economic Forum ranked Kazakhstan 57th out of 144 countries in its 2017 Global Competitiveness Rankings. This ranking represents a falling of four spots from the previous report. The cause of this decline in ranking, and the “most problematic factors for doing business” with Kazakhstan, according to the report, include lack of access to funding, corruption and an inadequately educated workforce.
  10. Kazakhstan has a thriving NGO sector. One such NGO is Wonder Foundation, based out of the U.K. Wonder is a charity dedicated to helping girls, women and their families access education and support needed to defeat poverty. The organization is currently working on helping young women gain access to skills, educations and rights in Almaty and the surrounding area.

A Young, But Mighty Nation 

These top 10 facts about poverty in Kazakhstan prove that poverty is not an insurmountable problem for the Central Asian state. The country’s GDP is steadily climbing while the nation works to be a major player in the oil and raw materials markets.

Kazakhstan also works to diversify their trading portfolio, enacting state programs to bolster secondary industries in the country and improve working and living conditions for their residents.

Economic sustainability is a slow and steady process, and Kazakhstan is heading in the right direction. At just 27 years old, these top 10 facts about poverty in Kazakhstan are indicative of a young country that has the potential to be at the forefront of world oil and agriculture markets and, someday, a significant participant in the global economy.

– Nicholas Hodges
Photo: Flickr

 

Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan, with a population of almost 19 million and territory measuring in at four times the size of Texas, is the largest of the landlocked Central Asian republics. Equally commensurate is its debt problem; credit access in Kazakhstan has been unstable, and the nation’s financial institutions have been similarly debilitated. Widespread individual and corporate debt have weakened the national economy and exacerbated poverty.

The Banking Crisis In Kazakhstan

Today’s banking crisis is hardly new to Kazakhstan. The global recession hit hard in 2008, and the government bailed its financial institutions out by reaching into its reserve funds valued at $43 billion. Nonetheless, even with a state-sponsored safety net, many of Kazakhstan’s largest banks are resorting to mergers in order to maintain operations.

The symptoms of the declining credit access in Kazakhstan are evident in the number of defaulted loans and the country’s tepid economic growth. Two of the main issues are the banking system’s lack of meaningful small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) interactions and its subsequent inability to maintain reasonable capital adequacy ratios in the face of financial hurdles.

In developed nations, SMEs contribute a significant share to the national GDP and employ a large majority of the workforce, from 60 to 70 percent on average. Among developing nations, those numbers fall drastically. But, Kazakhstan is behind even its peers in Central Asia in terms of homegrown competitiveness. Giovanni Capannelli, the Kazakhstan director at The Asian Development Bank, noted that “the Kyrgyz and Uzbeks have SMEs which are more competitive than SMEs in Kazakhstan in a number of sectors.”

SMEs in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan’s SMEs are held back by high-interest rates (up to 14.3 percent) and an unwillingness on the part of major banks to provide loans. Categorized by the system as high-risk debtors, many SMEs have nowhere to turn to except to microfinancing institutions (MFIs). The ones that do manage to get loans from the banks often fail to pay on time, if at all, due to an unfriendly business climate and a lack of government support. A vicious cycle of borrowing money to pay back loans commences, and as SMEs either sink further into debt or shut down with their loans transition into non-performing loans – loans that have not been paid back after a certain period of time.

This cycle feeds into the wider narrative of the recent year’s banking crisis. A high percentage of Kazakhstan’s loans were non-performing in 2017, spiking at nearly 13 percent after a year of averaging at less than 8 percent. For reference, an under-6 percent ratio is considered healthy. As these loans proliferated, banks became unable to maintain a solid capital adequacy ratio.

Capital adequacy ratio is referenced as the minimum ratio of assets and capital to its risk-weighted assets a bank must have. A too-low ratio implies that a bank does not have enough capital to absorb the losses of nonperforming loans and other financial woes. This is precisely what befell Kazakhstan’s financial sector. With inadequate capital and deteriorating credit portfolios (summaries of diverse investments and debts), banks began charging ever-higher interest rates to compensate, reducing credit access in Kazakhstan to a fraction of its former amounts.

Hope for Kazakhstan’s Financial Future

Despite last year’s grim tidings, however, the Kazakhstan government has staved off some of its worst financial woes with a large stimulus package. It aided the ongoing merger of Halyk Bank and Kazkommertsbank, two of the largest banks in Kazakhstan, by injecting $7.4 billion in capital towards writing off accumulated bad loans of the latter bank. The two banks each have now a capital adequacy ratio of above 21 percent.

SMEs have not been forgotten either. The European Union launched its Regional Small Business Programme in 2018, which supplies Central Asian financial institutions with SME banking know-how and employee training designed to foster more stable relationships with local businesses. The World Bank’s 2015 initiative, The SME Competitiveness Project, aims to boost productivity and increase ease of access, “regardless of size or sector,” by 2020.

More can still be done. Kazakhstan’s GDP, to which the oil industry contributes a large portion, needs to be diversified to free the country from fluctuating global energy prices. A more stable economy would result in higher consumer confidence in the government and the banks associated with them, which is something they both lack.

Ongoing efforts in the SME domain could be ramped up further, and a market-orientated reform of Kazakhstan’s business laws has long been overdue. International and domestic collaboration on the issue of credit access in Kazakhstan may yet equip a faltering financial sector with the tools it needs to build a future of national financial growth.

– Alex Qi
Photo: Flickr

developmental aid around the Aral Sea
The Aral Sea was once a large saltwater lake located in Central Asia. With Kazakhstan in the north and Uzbekistan in the south, both countries bordered the body of water. Fishing communities in the countries prospered for years, yet a decisive change in the 1960s led to the demise of these towns. The two countries experienced drastically different outcomes, all due to developmental aid around the Aral Sea.

Causes of the Aral Sea’s Water Loss

In the 1960s, the Soviet Union decided to redirect the water in the Aral Sea for agriculture, predominately for cotton. Previously, the sea was replenished by the water that rivers returned, making it a reliable source of income for neighboring fisheries. Over the past four decades, the sea has retreated about 93 miles, losing a surface area the size of Maryland. With salinity levels continuing to rise to more than seven times the normal amount, a once plentiful resource has run dry.

As the sea dried up, so did jobs. A reported 60,000 jobs disappeared in direct relation to Aral fishery shutdowns. Dust storms that swelled within the barren seabed contained various chemicals from the agriculture in the surrounding areas and caused irrevocable harm to citizens. Diseases related to poor air quality were rampant. Even the food produced in the area contained hazards for consumers, which forced thousands from their homes. Those that chose not to leave, despite the water and air pollution, were left living in poverty.

Intervention in Kazakhstan Improves the Lives and Livelihoods of Residents

In 2005, the World Bank intervened with a plan for developmental aid around the Aral Sea and partnered with the Kazakh government to install a dam. The plan cost $86 million and was designed to improve irrigation along the rivers and restore the sea. The dam primarily prevented water in the northern regions from flowing south. Additional measures to improve irrigation along the Syr Darya River made sure enough water flowed back into the North Aral Sea. Previously, as much as 40 percent of water was lost due to poor irrigation.

In 2006, the Kok-Aral Dam was constructed and saw quick success. As the surface area of the sea expanded, fish stocks were reintroduced. The replenishment of local resources meant that the economy, once built on fishing, could flourish and grow to its previous grandeur. The water and air quality also improved, meaning that residents no longer needed to move away from the area.

In 2006, the ports handled around 2,000 tons of fish and houses in the area were no longer empty; about 17 homes were occupied as opposed to eight. As the local fish diet improved, so did the ability to grow vegetables. The changes to the ecosystem led to more rainfall and fewer sandstorms. Life was reintroduced to the region.

Uzbekistan’s Focus on Cotton Deprives the Fishing Industry

A very different story played out in neighboring Uzbekistan, where government leaders are still insistent that cotton production is their “white gold”. The country ranks 12th in highest value of cotton exported in 2017. The enterprise brings in around $850.4 million and accounts for 1.6 percent of total exported cotton.

However, similar health risks and impoverishment are seen in areas previously home to fisheries. Many people migrated to agricultural regions to make a living farming and picking cotton. Conditions around cotton production in Uzbekistan remain questionable, with allegations of forced labor becoming rampant.

The Effects of Developmental Aid Around the Aral Sea on Poverty

Although both countries experienced high levels of poverty at the height of the Aral Sea’s reduction, the current state of poverty in the two countries is quite different. In 2005, 31.6 percent of the country lived in poverty in Kazakhstan, while in 2016, only 2.6 percent of the population lived in poverty. This reduction is directly related to developmental aid around the Aral Sea.

In Uzbekistan, the decline is much slower. From 2012 to 2016, poverty decreased from 15 percent to 12.3 percent. This progress is promising, yet slow compared to its neighbors. When the World Bank asked the Uzbek government if it wished to participate in developmental aid around the Aral Sea, like that in Kazakhstan, it declined.

The Future of Development in Central Asia

In partnership with World Bank, the Kazakh government provides an example of successful developmental aid around the Aral Sea. Currently, the World Bank is working with the Uzbek government to implement projects around horticulture. As new enterprises are explored, such as oil drilling in the south Aral Sea by Uzbekistan, avenues to combat poverty will vary. For Kazakhstan, working to reinvigorate a previously plentiful resource was the key to poverty alleviation.

This triumph in poverty reduction provides a hopeful message to those wanting to see a drastic drop in poverty through developmental aid.

– Taylor Jennings
Photo: Google

Girls’ Education in KazakhstanKazakhstan is a land-locked Central Asian nation located to the south of Russia and to the northwest of China. Over two decades, they have transitioned from a lower-middle income country to an upper-middle income country. After 2015, Kazakhstan’s poverty and unemployment decreased significantly as the trade and the oil industry improved. The government has also been expanding into other industries in order to improve the economy and move away from a reliance on oil production. One area Kazakhstan has been growing successfully is in diversification in education.

In Kazakhstan, primary school enrollment is almost universal. The school life expectancy for all children is 15 years. This achievement also includes girls’ education in Kazakhstan. The net enrollment rate for girls in primary school is 99.9 percent, and the progression of girls from primary to secondary school hovers around 100 percent. In fact, educational attainment for women in Kazakhstan is greater than that for men.  In 2014, a study revealed that 28 percent of women went on to tertiary education as compared to 23 percent of men.

Difficulties with Girls’ Education in Kazakhstan

Despite the achievements in girls’ education in Kazakhstan, significant disparities begin to appear when looking at other factors.

  • Children who live in poverty or live in rural areas are less likely to move on to higher education and often receive an inadequate education due to unqualified teaching and outdated curricula.
  • There is also a high prevalence of early marriages for girls. Girls who are married young are unable to complete their education and are deprived of the qualifications necessary for their own employment and independence.
  • In the recent years, the rate of suicides among girls has begun to increase. The group most affected is young women in rural communities for reasons including early marriages, a lack of societal acceptance of reproductive rights, and pregnancy outside of marriage.
  • Recently, a ban on wearing religious symbols in school has had a strong impact on women as the majority of Kazakhstan practices Islam. Many people have protested the ban on religious wear in schools because girls would not be allowed to wear head-scarves. Some girls eventually stopped going to school because of this ban.

Inequality in the Benefits of Education

Though education in Kazakhstan is available to boys and girls equally, the benefits of their education are not. In 2015, it was recorded that only 66.1 percent of women participated in the labor market. This is 10.9 percentage points lower than male participation. That same year, the gross national income per capita based on the purchasing power parity of women was 16,264 international dollars, as compared to the male gross national income per capita at 28,226 international dollars.

Women also predominantly work in traditional areas like education and hospitality while men have greater participation in higher-paying job industries. A significant portion of women are self-employed or working in minor managerial jobs within larger businesses.

It is evident that there is a large gap between how girls participate in education and how their participation translates to opportunities after they enter the workforce.

A Brighter Future for Girls in Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan continues to move forward in providing equal opportunity for women through education. In 2009, a law was passed that establishes gender equality in many areas, including education. Beyond that, the government implemented a policy in 2016 geared towards decreasing discrimination through gender education. This is an attempt to teach children, both girls and boys, about gender stereotypes in order to end gender discrimination.

Nearly every child in Kazakhstan is able to receive an equal education, but educational reform continues to push for greater equality for girls so that they will have more opportunities in their future.

– Lindabeth Doby
Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents KazakhstanKazakhstan, located in Central Asia, has long been viewed by the world as a post-communist, backward state — politically oppressive, economically regressive and socially intolerant. This image is an example of how the media misrepresents Kazakhstan, displaying it as a totally different world from that of developed Euro-American countries.

How the Media Misrepresents Kazakhstan

A close examination of the lives of people in Kazakhstan and of its actual political and economic situation, including the perspectives of diverse sources, reveals how the media misrepresents Kazakhstan, fueled by the after-effects of the Cold War. Many people, especially in the U.S., received misrepresentative information about Kazakhstan from the American comedy film “Borat,” a parody of Kazakhstan’s culture rather than an accurate portrayal.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s long-advocated approach of “economy first, political reforms later” is described by British human rights advocate Hugh Williamson as a visage of “economy first, political reforms never” instead. Williamson claims that Kazakhstan is moving politically backward with “no free elections, little permitted open speech and the government significantly represses human rights.”

Current Developments in Kazakhstan

However, slow but apparent democratic progress in Kazakhstan has been recorded. It has been previously hindered because of the state of total economic collapse after the breakdown of the Soviet Union in 1991. Since then, however, its economy has flourished and Kazakhstan is now an upper-middle-income country, according to the World Bank.

Democratic development in Kazakhstan includes the Secular Constitution established in 1995, which outlines a separation of powers of the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Elections were also delivered in a multiparty parliament in 2012.

Further Progress in the Nation

In early 2016, Kazakhstan launched the Fostering Productive Innovations Project in cooperation with the World Bank. This is where ongoing science commercialization projects based on international standards of scientific excellence and high commercialization potential were developed.

In addition, Kazakhstan launched its first ever five-year program for Digital Kazakhstan 2020 which aims at creating the “Digital Silk Road.” This will provide support for the development of digital infrastructure and invest in human capital.

How the media misrepresents Kazakhstan extends to the nation’s political, economic, social and technological development. It is easy to dispel these cultural myths about Kazakhstan after looking into this exotic land through the lens of objective historical and social analysis.

– Heulwen Leung
Photo: Google

The Success of Humanitarian Aid to KazakhstanHumanitarian aid is one way neighboring communities help each other grow and advance. When a country experiences difficulties socially or economically, others will reach out in the form of financial assistance, medical assistance or help rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. Kazakhstan is a country riddled with tribal conflict, border rewrites and ethnic diversity and a place constantly undergoing significant change in economic and cultural success. Humanitarian aid in Kazakhstan is crucial to the growth of the nation, and the success of humanitarian aid to Kazakhstan is reliant on many factors.

 

A Middle Income Country

According to the European Commission (EC), Kazakhstan is now considered a middle-income country, which means that it is self-sufficient enough to maintain a stable economy. However, this also means that the rest of the world has less influence and can offer less assistance to the Kazakh people. The EC worked from 1991 to 2014 to help turn Kazakhstan into a less corrupt state through an increase in their judicial efficiency, healthcare reform, more inclusive education and public administration.

 

Decreased Poverty, Increased Gender Equality

Despite the continuation of growth and economic prosperity in Kazakhstan, there is still need in the region; many countries still attempt to eradicate poverty completely and increase gender equality. Norway is one of those countries. According to the Norwegian government, it is working to stop the influx of illicit and criminal actions, as well as building on existing maternal health in the area.

Until poverty is eradicated (hopefully by 2030), and maternal death rates fall, Norway will not be satisfied with the success of humanitarian aid to Kazakhstan.

 

Success of Humanitarian Aid to Kazakhstan

Now that Kazakhstan is growing into a strong and independent country, it is time for the success of humanitarian aid to Kazakhstan to be translated into humanitarian aid for others. According to an article by the Astana Times, Kazakhstan, with its strong history of ethnic and religious diversity, provided humanitarian support to Syrians ravaged by civil war.

Kazakhstan is also known to support many other countries, such as Myanmar, Ukraine and parts of the Caribbean. Kazakhstan contains many natural resources, such as oil, mineral and metal reserves, and now with the help and success of humanitarian aid to Kazakhstan, the country has the potential to spread its stability to others.

– Molly Atchison

Photo: Flickr