Kazakhstan is an upper-middle-income country with per capita GDP of nearly US$13 thousand in 2013. Kazakhstan’s real GDP growth slowed from 6 percent in 2013 to 3.9 percent during the first half of 2014, due to internal capacity constraints in the oil industry, less favorable terms of trade, and an economic slowdown in Russia. The contribution of net exports to GDP growth improved materially followed by a sharp devaluation of the Kazakhstan tenge in February 2014, leading to a strong drop in imports of goods that became more costly. As a result of the devaluation, domestic inflation, as measured by the consumer price index (CPI), increased from 4.8 percent year-on-year in December 2013 to 6.9 percent in August 2014, due to higher imported input prices.
Income growth in the country had a positive impact on poverty indicators, with prosperity shared broadly. The share of the Kazakhstan population living in poverty went down from 47 percent in 2001 to about 3 percent in 2013, as measured by the national poverty line. Similarly, at the international poverty line, as measured by the purchasing power parity (PPP)-corrected US$2.50 per capita per day, poverty in Kazakhstan fell from 41 percent in 2001 to 4 percent in 2009. However, against a benchmark of a higher poverty line at the PPP-corrected US$5 per capita per day (which is more appropriate for countries with a higher level of income per capita), some 42 percent of Kazakhstan’s population were still living in poverty in 2009, though down from 79 percent in 2001. Kazakhstan’s performance in the World Bank’s indicator of shared prosperity also shows progress, with growth rate of consumption per capita of the bottom 40 percent of households of about 6 percent, while the average consumption growth for all households was about 5 percent during 2006-2010.
Trade policy will remain a central instrument to help the country integrate into the global economy, but Kazakhstan will face a complex trade policy environment in the medium-term. The economy is adjusting to the Eurasia Customs Union which it joined in 2010 and is pursuing an accelerated schedule of further integration into the Common Economic Space by 2015. Kazakhstan is also expected to join the World Trade Organization in the near future while its trade strategy lists several free trade agreements to be negotiated.
Education is a high priority for Kazakhstan, and in 2011, Kazakhstan ranked first on UNESCO’s “Education for All Development Index” by achieving near-universal levels of primary education, adult literacy, and gender parity. These results have reflected Kazakhstan’s efforts of expanding pre-school access and free, compulsory secondary education. For the next 10 years, Kazakhstan is embarking on further major reforms across all education levels.
Kazakhstan faces challenges in restructuring its healthcare system. The country’s health outcomes lag behind its rapidly increasing income. The major causes of adult mortality are non-communicable diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, other tobacco and alcohol-related diseases and injuries. The new State Health Care Development Program recognizes health as one of the country’s major priorities and a pre-requisite for sustainable socioeconomic development.
Agriculture accounts for only 4.5 percent of GDP, but the sector continues to employ almost one-fourth of the working population and is critical to addressing poverty and food security, as well as providing an important avenue for diversification of the economy.
Looking forward, despite the short-term vulnerabilities accentuated by the uncertain regional economic outlook, Kazakhstan's medium-term prospects look promising. In the medium term, the economy will continue to grow on the back of the expanding oil sector, while growth of the non-oil economy will be lower due to lower domestic demand. In the longer run, Kazakhstan’s development objective of joining the rank of the top 30 most developed countries by 2050 will depend on its ability to sustain balanced and inclusive growth. Enhancing medium- to long-term development prospects depends on Kazakhstan’s success in diversifying its endowments, namely, creating highly skilled human capital, improving the quality of physical capital, and more importantly, strengthening institutional capital—all of the necessary ingredients for the development and expansion of the private sector in the country.