Kazakhstan

Since gaining independence in 1991, oil and uranium-rich Kazakhstan has become central Asia's largest economy.

An independent country for almost 25 years, Kazakhstan is currently central Asia’s largest economy. It has experienced enviable economic development with GDP growth at 6% in 2013 and 4.3% in 2014. More recently, however, growth has slowed down a bit, hitting 1.2% for 2015.

A country with vast natural resources rich in oil and uranium, Kazakhstan joined the World Trade Organization in 2015 and recently signed a two-year country program agreement with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which would allow it to leverage the OECD’s expertise and standards in strengthening its institutions and existing policy. It is also in the process of negotiating several free trade agreements.

After gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 and joining the United Nations in 1992, Kazakhstan has done well in eradicating poverty. In 2001, 47% of the population lived in poverty; in 2013 it was closer to 3% as measured by its national poverty line.

In 2015, President Nursultan Nazarbayev approved the creation of the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC), which aims to attract foreign investment, open up the Kazakh banking sector and encourage business in the country. The AIFC is set to launch on Jan. 1, 2018.

BUSINESS ETIQUETTE


1. Pomp and circumstance.
Private business meetings are focused and to the point, but meetings with government officials will include more formalities. They will request a copy of your passport and your resumé in advance of the meeting, for example.

2. Punch the clock.
Kazakhstanis are usually punctual. If you’re going to be late, call to say you’re running behind.

3. Give up your gadget. Upon entering a government building you must leave your smartphone with security. If you meet with private companies, you may bring your phone, but don’t use it.


FACTS FOR INVESTORS


1. Astana is the capital
; Almaty is the financial centre.

2. Kazakhstan ranks 41st
out of 189 countries on the World Bank’s 2016 Ease of Doing Business index.

3. It is the world's 54th
-largest exporter and 63rd-largest importer.

4. Kazakhstan
is ranked No. 57 out of 144 countries surveyed in Forbes’ Best Countries for Business list.


TRAVEL TIPS


1. You get what you pay for.
You’ll find some free Wi-Fi but the quality of your connection may not be great.

2. Parting tip.
Sometimes tips are included on the restaurant bill. Check to see if they are and if not, tip 10% to 15%. You may also add a tip to taxi fares.

3. Linguistic hurdles.
The state language is Kazakh, and Russian is the shared language among the various ethnic groups that make up the population. Both languages are officially used in the state and local self-government bodies, but some younger people speak English. It’s worth checking with your hosts about the need for a translator.

4. Making tracks. Kazakhstan is a big country — it’s the ninth-largest in the world. There are flights between the cities, including Astana and Almaty, the country’s largest metropolis and the capital until it was moved to Astana in 1997. There’s also a good railway system. Two other economically significant cities are Atyrau, which is considered the oil capital, and Aktau, a port city with access to Iran.

 


About the Author

Jennifer Campbell


Jennifer Campbell is a freelance writer based in Ottawa.

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