ASTANA, June 3, 2011 – World Bank Managing Director Ms. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has completed a three-day visit to Kazakhstan, as part of her trip to Central Asia. The aim of the visit was to discuss the Government’s program for crisis response and recovery as well as reiterate the Bank’s support to Kazakhstan in the context of the new Country Partnership Strategy, currently being developed. She met with key members of the Government, local authorities, parliamentarians, civil society organizations, and students, and visited two World Bank project sites.
“We are encouraged to see that Kazakhstan is on the path of speedy recovery from the global financial and economic crisis, thanks to a strong response from the Government and favorable commodity market developments,” said Ms. Okonjo-Iweala. “Despite the crisis, Kazakhstan continued to implement important reforms, in particular in health and education, budget management, and alleviation of administrative barriers to businesses. Going forward, it is necessary to focus on further advancing the country’s competitiveness by strengthening institutions, promoting transparent governance, investing in the people, and improving environmental and natural resource management.”
Over the past decade, Kazakhstan’s strong economic growth was supported by substantial oil and other natural resources endowments as well as responsible macroeconomic policies. Economic growth, which fell sharply during the crisis, has returned in 2010. It is important for Kazakhstan to continue the prudent fiscal policies of the past and ensure full recovery of the banking and corporate sectors.
Ms. Okonjo-Iweala met with the Prime Minister Massimov and Deputy Prime Minister Orynbayev with participation of the Minister of Finance Zhamishev and other senior Government representatives. Among the important issues discussed during these meetings was the new Country Partnership Strategy with Kazakhstan which will be jointly developed by the Bank and the Government in the course of the next few months.
“Our partnership in Kazakhstan is a good example of an innovative and flexible approach in a middle income country”, said Ms. Okonjo-Iweala. “Together with the Government we piloted a demand-driven program of analytical and advisory work through the Joint Economic Research Program. Now this approach is being replicated in a number of other middle income countries.”
A round table discussion with women leaders on social agenda stressed the importance of focusing on the human capital of the country. The topics discussed included investing in skills for sustaining employment creation, improving quality of and access to key social services, mitigating impact of the volatile food prices on the vulnerable population, promoting gender equality, and fostering regional cooperation including in healthcare and migration. Participants of the meeting included the Minister of Healthcare, Minister of Labor and Social Protection, members of the Parliament and the Senate.
In her address at the Nazarbayev University, Ms. Okonjo-Iweala discussed Kazakhstan’s challenge to diversify in an increasingly uncertain and volatile world. Kazakhstan should diversify beyond narrow economic goals to encompass more transparent and inclusive institutions that ensure full participation of its youth.
During the meeting with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) from different parts of Kazakhstan, Ms. Okonjo-Iweala exchanged views about transparency, access to information, anti-corruption strategies, and job creation. She stressed the importance of continued engagement of the civil society in the implementation of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI).
During her trip, Ms. Okonjo-Iweala went to the Kyzylorda Oblast where she visited Kazakhstan South-West Roads Project and Syrdarya Control and Northern Aral Sea Project.
The South-West Roads Project is part of a large-scale initiative to upgrade and reconstruct the roads sector in Kazakhstan - 2,840 km long Western Europe – Western China International Transport Corridor. The Bank is providing US$ 2.125 billion to increase transport and trade efficiency along the 1,062 km road sections between Aktobe/Kyzylorda oblast border and Shymkent, and to improve road management and traffic safety in Kazakhstan. One of the concrete and immediate results of the Project is the partnership between the foreign and local contractors which allows knowledge transfer, capacity building and increased access to future contracts for the local companies in the road sector.
The Syrdarya Control and Northern Aral Sea Project has helped preserve the Northern Aral Sea by constructing a 13 km dyke and better regulating Syrdarya river flow. The project resulted in about 68 percent increase of the Northern Aral Sea volume, 50 percent reduction of salinity, an increase in fish production by 5 times, while improving flora and fauna and public health indicators. At the project site, Ms. Okonjo-Iweala met with the local communities and fishermen who were actively involved in discussions regarding the future development of the area and the second phase of the Project.
“The World Bank is very proud to team up with the Government for the implementation of these impressive projects, which help create job opportunities, protect the environment, upgrade infrastructure, connect markets, and ultimately improve people’s lives,” said Ms. Okonjo-Iweala.
Kazakhstan became a member of the World Bank in 1992. The World Bank’s overall mission in Kazakhstan is to help the Government in achieving diversified and sustainable economic growth and improving the living standards of population. To date, the Bank has provided 37 loans to Kazakhstan for the total amount of over US$ 5.5 billion.