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Kazakhstans Rise out of PovertyKazakhstan, a Central Asian country bordering Russia to the north and China to the east, has witnessed tremendous strides in poverty reduction over the past three decades. The nation gained independence after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, and its government became heavily involved in Kazakhstan’s rise out of poverty by reforming the nation’s economic and political state. In 2001, the rate of individuals living below the national poverty line was 46.7%. Since then, the rate has fallen to 4.2%. Health and education conditions have also improved during this time, and as of 2017, the Asian Development Bank reported that 100% of its citizens had access to electricity. Government policies that developed the energy sector, opened the market, attracted foreign investment and provided social services to citizens, greatly contributed to these positive developments.

The “Kazakhstan – 2030” Strategy

In 1997, former President Nursultan Nazarbayev announced the “Kazakhstan-2030” Strategy. The following priorities were delineated for the nation:

  1. Defense of their independent status
  2. Unify citizens both socially and politically
  3. Attract foreign investments and establish domestic profits that contribute to an open, growing economy
  4. Education and health for citizens and sustainability for the environment
  5. Increase energy sector extraction and exportation
  6. Develop communication and transportation infrastructure
  7. Enhance efficiency in the public sector while representing the people

Steps to achieve these objectives were then broken down into segmented plans that addressed the country’s immediate needs in concordance with the goals. For instance, state programs addressing industry growth, education reforms and language standardization were created for the 2010 to 2020 period to increase GDP, human capital and societal unification.

Economic Reforms

Kazakhstan possesses the richest mineral and hydrocarbon deposits in Central Asia. The nation solicited foreign investment and created national companies in order to develop its energy sector after gaining independence. In 2016, the nation ranked seventh globally in coal exportation and one year later it ranked 12th globally in oil production. Profits from this sector have greatly impacted Kazakhstan’s rise out of poverty by contributing to citizens’ financial prosperity and the government’s ability to fund internal development.

The government has also privatized land properties, housing properties and automobiles and made policy adjustments that benefit small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in order to create an open market. These developments, along with reforms in education and pension, have fostered a growing middle class that has contributed to the reduction of poverty.

Foreign Policy

In accordance with economic incentives of attracting foreign investment and maintaining positive trade relations, Kazakhstan operates with a “multi-vector foreign policy” by participating in international organizations and engaging in diplomacy.

Trade relationships with China, Russia and regions of Southern Asia and Western Europe have proved vital to Kazakhstan’s rise out of poverty. Creating conditions for foreign investment has led to relationships with organizations such as the World Bank Group and the Japan International Cooperation Agency that provide critical assistance in developing SMEs, educational systems, transportation, agriculture, medical care and environmental sustainability. Kazakhstan is also a member of the World Trade Organization and the Eurasian Economic Union. Additionally, in 2010 it served as chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Looking Ahead

In 2012, Kazakhstan released a plan for 2050 that builds upon the “Kazakhstan – 2030” Strategy and aims to place the nation among the top 30 developed countries in the world. Innovations in the agricultural and food industries, empowerment of regional authorities and SMEs, increases in renewable energy and diversification in the economy, are among the priorities for this new agenda. Though the nation is focused on developing these areas, Kazakhstan’s rise out of poverty has equipped the country with the financial and structural means to continue making positive strides in all sectors of Kazakhstani life.

Suzi Quigg
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

Common Diseases in KazakhstanSandwiched between Russia in the north, China and Mongolia in the east and Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan in the south, Kazakhstan is a country with many different ethnic communities. Travelers from around the world come to experience the unique history and culture of the 18 million people who call Kazakhstan home. And yet around 14 percent of those living in rural areas face unimproved access to water, and 2.5 percent need better access to sanitation facilities. With this comes a range of communicable diseases in Kazakhstan.

  1. Diarrhea is a gastrointestinal infection caused by ingesting bacteria, viruses or protozoa. These microorganisms are commonly spread by poor hygienic and sanitary practices and contaminated food and water. Symptoms include abdominal pain, fever, bloody or watery stool, bloating and nausea. Diarrhea and lower respiratory infectious diseases contribute 25 of every 100,000 annual deaths.
  2. Hepatitis A is prevalent in areas that lack proper sanitary conditions. It is primarily transmitted via the fecal-oral route or through contaminated food (such as shellfish, uncooked vegetables or fruit prepared by infected handlers). It is typically acquired in childhood, when the virus is asymptomatic but still communicable. Those who show symptoms experience malaise, nausea, jaundice and abdominal pain, and it is especially dangerous for the elderly population. The illness can last from one to two weeks to multiple months, and there is an annual mortality rate of around .058 per 100,000.
  3. Hepatitis B can cause acute or chronic liver infections caused by the HBV virus and is passed through infected blood, unprotected sex, contaminated objects such as razor blades or medical equipment and childbirth. Most of the time those infected are asymptomatic, but symptoms can occur anywhere from 30 days to six months after exposure.  Symptoms include fatigue, dark urine, nausea and, more severely, liver cirrhosis or cancer. The annual mortality rate for the HBV virus is around .317 per 100,000 in Kazakhstan. Travelers getting tattoos or piercings abroad, sharing needles or undergoing medical or dental procedures should remain wary of risks.
  4. Leishmaniasis is a parasitic infection spread through the bite of infected sandflies. Sandflies are common in forests, stone and mud structures and animal burrows, and remain active from dusk to dawn. It is categorized as a Neglected Tropical Disease, meaning it is chronic in low-income countries and prevents affected individuals from going to school or working and so contributes to the cycle of poverty. Symptoms of a cutaneous infection include skin lesions that can further be infected by bacteria. The infection can spread, causing sores and blood loss in the nose, mouth and throat. If the infection is visceral, the parasite attacks the liver, spleen, bone marrow and skin, and causes fever, weight loss and enlargement of the liver. This type can be fatal, especially if present alongside tuberculosis or pneumonia.
  5. Meningitis is a bacterial infection that affects the meninges, membrane covering the brain and spinal cord. The bacteria is transmitted through respiratory secretions, that come from sneezing, coughing or kissing. It can result in mental retardation, deafness and epilepsy and is fatal in 50 percent of untreated cases. More common symptoms are stiff neck, fever, sensitivity to light and disorientation, but five to 10 percent of patients can die within 24 to 48 hours. In Kazakhstan, the average annual mortality rate due to meningitis is 1.4 per 100,000 cases.
  6. Tick-Borne Encephalitis (TBE) is a risk especially in eastern and southern parts of Kazakhstan. Transmission seasons can vary, but ticks are most active from early spring until late autumn. Humans are infected by one of three types of TBE, which can cause fatigue, appetite loss and muscle pain. Around one-third of those infected develop severe symptoms, where the virus can cause meningitis and/or encephalitis upon first phase. Second phase symptoms include stiff neck, fever, disorientation, seizures, paralysis and even long-term effects such as memory loss, speech and language issues, mood disorders or epilepsy.
  7. Tuberculosis (TB) is an airborne bacterial infection contracted through air droplets from infected persons’ coughs or sneezes. It can also be ingested in unpasteurized milk products that contain bovine tuberculosis. The most common form is pulmonary TB, affecting the lungs, but it can also affect the lymphatic or central nervous system or urogenital areas and bones. Ninety to 95 percent of those with TB have latent TB and do not exhibit symptoms, but those who show symptoms face excessive coughing, chest pain, weight loss and weakness. Many times TB patients are wrongly and dangerously misdiagnosed with bronchitis. The annual TB mortality rate in Kazakhstan is around 15 per 100,000 cases, which has actually increased 14.1 percent from measurements in 1990.

Though Kazakhstan is considered a developing country, the government is indeed making strides in pushing for earlier vaccinations against these common diseases in Kazakhstan. In its future the country will need proper funding and support to improve citizens’ access to proper water and sanitation facilities in rural areas.

– Zar-Tashiya Khan

Photo: Flickr