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Country Reports

Kazakhstan Country Report

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Risk Level

Low
Moderate
Elevated
High
Very High
Severe
Extreme

Overview

Executive Summary

President Nursultan Nazarbayev's decision to step down on 20 March 2019 heralds a new era in Kazakhstan's history. Despite stepping down, he is likely to retain decisive influence over politics as ensured through several institutional arrangements, including lifelong chairmanship of Security Council. In accordance with the Constitution, on 20 March Senate Speaker Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev assumed the interim presidency until the next presidential election in April 2020. That day, the Senate voted unanimously to elect Nazarbayev's eldest daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva to become the new Senate Speaker. This puts her next in line for the presidency if Tokayev becomes incapacitated or dies during his interim presidency. Nazarbayeva's election as Senate Speaker increases the likelihood of a dynastic transition in Kazakhstan. As the presidential election in April 2020 approaches, one indicator to watch will be the primetime media coverage, which will be increasingly focused on the frontrunner candidate. The 2019-21 fiscal plan aims to modernise the economy and reduce its oil-dependency. Plans to achieve this lack detail and focus, but the projected decrease in transfers from the National Fund is encouraging. In addition, in November Kazakhstan returned to international bond markets following a three-year break, issuing its first Euro-nominated bonds, to resounding success. Public debt is growing but from low levels, thus not constraining government creditworthiness. Banking-sector problems generate some contingent liability risks. In October, the National Bank of Kazakhstan enacted its first interest rate increase since February 2016. The tenge has suffered contagion from tighter international liquidity, weakness in the Russian rouble and volatility in the Turkish lira, combined with Kazakhstan's own financial risks. This encourages high inflation expectations. Inflation is likely to exceed the current target of 5-7% by early 2019. However, high oil prices are expected to keep GDP growth at over 3% still in 2019, following projected expansion of 3.7% in 2018.
Last update: March 26, 2019

Operational Outlook

The government has been emphasising infrastructure improvement with focus on road and railway construction to maximise Kazakhstan's transit potential. President Nursultan Nazarbayev is keen to attract foreign investment, which is vital for his economic development plans. Recently strengthened anti-corruption measures are unlikely to mitigate high-level bribery, which is widespread across state institutions. The opening of the Astana International Financial Centre in January 2018 includes a special court based on British law, staffed by foreign judges and intended for foreign investors, which is likely to increase the transparency and predictability of the judiciary.

Last update: December 28, 2018

Terrorism

Elevated

Terrorism risks in Kazakhstan stem mainly from growing radicalisation of youth, which the government has not been able to address despite employing a range of anti-terrorism measures, including increased criminalisation of participation in and recruitment for terrorist organisations as well as de-radicalisation initiatives. Homegrown militants tend to lack capabilities but they are more likely to target police, security service and state institutions rather than critical energy infrastructure, which is typically well protected. Kazakhstan's denominational landscape is rapidly changing with conservative forms of Islam becoming more widespread in impoverished southern and oil-rich western regions.

Last update: December 28, 2018

War Risks

Kazakhstan enjoys friendly relations with all neighbouring states, which are cemented through bilateral agreements (such as the treaty on good neighbourliness signed with Russia and strategic partnership agreement achieved with Uzbekistan in 2013) as well as membership in regional intergovernmental organisations (Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization). This makes an inter-state war very unlikely. The signing of the Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea on 12 August 2018 makes a maritime conflict with other littoral states (Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia and Turkmenistan) less likely. This risk is further mitigated by Kazakhstan's maritime border delimitation agreements with Azerbaijan, Russia and Turkmenistan.

Last update: December 28, 2018

Social Stability

Elevated

The sustained low oil price environment has had a negative impact on Kazakhstan's largely oil-dependent economy, exacerbating socio-economic disparities and increasing likelihood of anti-government protests, as demonstrated by unprecedented rallies against land privatisation in April-May 2016. Although the authorities have thus far been careful in resorting to force to suppress the dissent, any incident of police brutality could potentially trigger outbreak of violence. Unresolved succession issue also implies that Nazarbayev's death or incapacitation is likely to increase risk of mass civil unrest, especially in oil-rich western (Aktobe, Mangystau) and impoverished southern (Turkestan, Zhambyl) provinces.

Last update: December 28, 2018

Health Risk

Severe

Vaccinations required to enter the country

Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is required for all individuals traveling from a country with risk of yellow fever transmission.

Routine Vaccinations

Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.

Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.

Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).

Other Vaccinations

Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).

Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).

Tick-Borne Encephalitis: For stays in rural zones and for hiking enthusiasts (for children over the age of one).

For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Natural Risks

Very high

The zone to the south of the towns of Kurchatov and Semipalatinsk, as well as the area along the Chinese border, should be avoided at all costs. These areas are considered an “ecological disaster” zone due to nuclear experiments conducted there during the Soviet era.

Kazakhstan is also situated within an active seismic zone. In May 2003, an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.5 struck Jambyl province (south), leaving 36,000 residents homeless.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Transportation

Moderate

Before planning a trip to the country, foreign visitors should be aware that tourist installations (e.g. hotels, restaurants) are rare, especially outside Almaty and the capital Astana. Air travel is frequently disrupted (delays and cancelations) in the winter due to extreme weather conditions. It is worth noting that authorities in this vast country which is as big as Western Europe, encourage residents to travel by plane instead of by road.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Telecommunications

Last update: April 5, 2019

Practical Information

Climate

Kazakhstan's climate is continental. Summers are very hot (35°C to 40°C) with mild nights (20°C). Winters are very cold (-10°C), even in the desert. Conditions are globally dry, with very low levels of rainfall in the desert regions and more significant levels in the mountains. Violent thunderstorms often strike the steppes. Fall and spring are the most pleasant times of the year.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +7
Criminal Police: 02
Fire Dept.: 01
Ambulance: 03

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

Last update: April 5, 2019