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Kazakhstan Country Economic Memorandum : Dependence, Distance, Dispersion - Options for Upgrading Kazakhstan’s Economy (Английский)

Kazakhstan’s economic prospects since the early 1990s have been shaped by its move from plan to market and the surge in exploration and production of natural resources resulting in substantial natural resource rents. However, the pace of structural reforms has slowed, and growth has slowed after every crisis. As a result, while Kazakhstan almost became a high-income economy by 2015 it has since become solidly placed in upper middle-income. It appears that the country is near the limit of what an extractive economy can deliver. The authorities have focused on reshaping the country’s economic geography to jump start economic growth and chart a course to high income. Spatially targeted territorial development programs along with special economic zones, industrial clusters, and territorial clusters have been developed to reap economic dividends from the spatial concentration of economic activity and undo the legacy of central planning. However, fixing the physical ‘symptoms’ of spatial inefficiencies without addressing underlying structural drivers and institutional changes is not going to deliver the desired outcomes. The resulting slow pace of spatial transformation is in large part because of the stalled structural transformation. The poorly functioning factor markets, notably for labor and capital, is one of the main reasons. The still sizable share of state-owned enterprises (SOEs), the banks that do not lend to medium-size companies, and the weak competition are also part of the explanation. Most importantly, though, is the limited economic freedom, evident in the still substantial share of state-owned and state-connected enterprises. No country has made a durable transition to high income without substantial economic freedom.

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