Kazakhstan Country Report
President Nazarbayev's victory in the 2015 election extends his rule by five years but does not resolve the succession issue. Nazarbayev's death or incapacitation is likely to result in an intra-elite struggle for power, increasing expropriation and contract frustration risks. The positive influence of oil price stabilisation on Kazakhstan's hydrocarbon-dependent economy mitigates the negative impact of the economic slowdown in Kazakhstan's key trade partner Russia. Authorities have made progress in curbing corruption in state institutions, but it remains a systemic problem. Declining living standards increase the likelihood of economically motivated protests and strikes, which the government is likely to suppress using force. Radicalisation of some segments of population presents alow-level terrorism threat targeting law enforcement and the military, as demonstrated by attacks in Aktobe in June 2016.
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.
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.
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.
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 (South Kazakhstan, Zhambyl) provinces.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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