In Kazakhstan: Building a Big Road Brings Big Changes
Kazakhstan South-West Roads Project (Western Europe-Western China International Transit Corridor)
July 10, 2013
The 4,000 workers from South Kazakhstan district are on the job every day except for national holidays, finishing up their link in an enormous road that will tie western China to western Europe. The new road will save billions in transport costs, time, and efficiency, but even now, when parts of it still look like flattened dirt, it is having a huge impact on peoples’ lives.
Most of the workers are locals. They do everything from laying the road’s surface to quality checks to serving meals at the road workers’ dormitories. “I’m feeding my family and I have work. I’m glad to have it, it’s good!” exclaims Nurlan Turlubekov, a construction worker. His wife is pregnant with their first child.
Turlubekov’s co-worker, a few kilometers down the road, agrees. Yerkanat Zhumaliyev has been on the road crew since he finished college. “I’ve been working here since I was 18,” he says. “I like the job, I get paid every month, and the food is good.”
During the two years of work here, that’s meant a lot of jobs for local people—every month each worker gets 70,000 to 100,000 tenge.
The World Bank is supporting construction of about 1,500 kilometers of the road, running from the border of Aktobe and Kyzylorda districts through the border of South Kazakhstan and Zhambyl districts, as well as a section from Almaty city to the border with China. The World Bank’s part of the work employs about 30,000 people; most of them spend their paychecks locally. The mayor of 5,000-person Yekpendy, Nurlan Zhanibekov, says that means more money for his entire village. “During the two years of work here, that’s meant a lot of jobs for local people—every month each worker gets 70,000 to 100,000 tenge.”
That’s about 600 US dollars, which offers considerable spending power, especially here, in the poorest and most populated part of Kazakhstan. And, in addition to hiring workers, the road’s subcontractors buy raw materials, sand, fuel, gravel and milk, which adds up to about 1.6 million US dollars in spending a month, says Nazim Gadjiev, whose company, Azerkorpu-Tepe, is a contractor. “This particular road section is construction, not reconstruction,” he stresses. “This road never existed before. 80% of the workers are local, we buy local construction materials.”
The major benefit is that we’ve gotten a lot of experience and now we can go on and do other projects without expert help from outside the company.
Just as important are the less tangible changes the road has brought with it. Local organizations and watchdog groups have had a say in the design, land purchase and construction of the road. Baurzhan Issaliyev of the Association of Non-Governmental Organizations of Kazakhstan says that’s pushing the country’s civil society organizations in a new direction. “We’ve been active participants in this. Before, we were mostly involved in human rights issues, but now we can actually participate in important projects like this.”
And the benefits will remain, managers in charge of the roadwork say. Once the road is finished, the experience and lessons learned while building it will remain with people and companies that did the work. “The major benefit is that we’ve gotten a lot of experience and now we can go on and do other projects without expert help from outside the company,” says Sabyrzhan Atayev of Akzhol Ltd. He adds that before the construction began, his company made about 2 million Kazakh tenge a year. Now it makes 5 million.
About half of the road is already open to traffic; the Kazakh portion is scheduled to be finished in 2015. Just as the process of building the road has already brought great change to the people and businesses involved in it, the inauguration of the highway itself, nearly 3,000 kilometers inside Kazakhstan alone, will have an even greater impact.