Kazakhstan's 20 Years of Independent Development: Proactive Engagement with International Community Key to Success
*Yer zhan Kazykhanov Minister of Foreign Affair s of Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan is a young nation with a vibrant society and dynamic economy. Yet, 20 years ago in December 1991, when Kazakhstan had just regained its independence, it wasn't at all clear that, two decades later, itwill be like that. I have been fortunate enough to be a witness to some watershed developments that have turned an obscure constituent republic of the former Soviet Union into a fast growing economy, a recognized leader of the Central Asian region and a reliable international partner. We have demonstrated the efficiency of our public administration, implemented market reforms and established an institutional framework of an open democracy. Preserving peace and stability in a multi-ethnic and multireligious society has always been our priority. Establishing inter-faith dialogue and tolerance, we tried to follow a classical principle of democracy: expressing the will of the majority while safeguarding the interests of the minority. With more than 130 ethnic groups living in the country, representing 46 confessions, each having its own cultural codes and traditions, we have opted for a controlled pace of social changes and thus we have managed to avoid serious inter-ethnic or inter-religious conflicts. Kazakhstan's practices of inter-confessional interaction gained approval of leaders of world religions attending triennial Congresses of World and Traditional Religions held inAstana. The first such Congress took place inAstana in 2003, becoming a significant contribution to intercivilization and intercultural dialogue. We strongly believe that the liberalization of social systems can be successfully achieved only on the solid basis of economic development. Poverty, being a bad partner for democracy, often becomes the first precondition for society's fragmentation and the triumph of instability. The intrinsic connection between liberal economy and open society is quite clear to us. Following the major liberalization of the economy in the 1990s, Kazakhstan has seen its economy doubling in size by 2008, compared to 2000. With solid foundations and sound economic policies, Kazakhstan managed to prevent the recession, seen in many countries due to the global economic crisis, and in 2010-2011 our economic growth was as high as 7 per cent. Today, we conduct the strategy of economic modernization and post-crisis industrialization. Our efforts to transform Kazakhstan into one of the world's top 50 most competitive economies include opening up the national economy to international investors. Foreign direct investment into Kazakhstan account for about 80% of all capital inflows into the Central Asian economies, with EU countries being the most important source of investments. The highly developed banking system, stable institutions and investment- friendly government policies further encourage foreign investment. Kazakhstan continues to deepen its integration into the global economy. The treaty founding the Eurasian Economic Community ( EEC) was signed in Kazakhstan's capital Astana in 2000. The Customs Union, bringing together Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus, is an important part of Kazakhstan's integration initiatives. Customs barriers between the three member states were abolished in July 2011. This opens up greater opportunities for Kazakh companies to increase their sales on the global market and expand opportunities for foreign companies working in our country. The establishment of the Customs Union and the subsequent creation of a Single Economic Space will mark a real turning point in Kazakhstan's foreign policy and external economic strategy, aimed at genuine integration in the interests of our people. For several years, we have also been working towards accession to the WTO, and we believe we are getting closer to that goal with every single day.
Since the first days of our independence, Kazakhstan has