The countries of Central Asia face many challenges, fifteen years after gaining independence from the former Soviet Union. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried says despite the difficulties, there is cause for optimism. “Every year," he said, "more and more people throughout the region are finding new opportunities to thrive in economies that are privatizing, and diversifying, and growing rapidly."
Kazakhstan “is the best example of the region’s potential economic dynamism,” said Mr. Fried, “as it moves to take its place among the world’s top energy-producing nations.” Kazakhstan has attracted foreign investment, created jobs, and established a banking system that is a model for the region. The government is working to diversify the country's economy and ensure that its oil wealth benefits more than just a few.
To help Kazakhstan integrate itself into the global economy, the U.S. is supporting its bid to join the World Trade Organization. The U.S. is working with the Kazakhstan government to strengthen protection of intellectual property rights and help create an economy open to foreign goods and services.
One major problem many developing countries face is corruption, and Kazakhstan is no exception. If the economy is to continue to grow, the people of Kazakhstan must have faith that government officials cannot arbitrarily seize their property. They need to know that they will be able to withdraw the hard-earned money that they deposit in banks. And they need to know that no unjust obstacles stand in the way of buying a house, or winning a contract, or starting a business.
Another important issue is sanctity of contracts. Investors need to have confidence that the legal system in Kazakhstan will uphold their rights, and that decisions made by international arbitration tribunals will be respected.
Central Asia has a rich history of trading centers and trade routes. Kazakhstan, said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Fried, has the potential to emerge as a regional leader in stimulating economic growth. “Our vision is of a reforming and prosperous Kazakhstan, leading a new corridor of reform in Central Asia by spearheading energy, trade, and investment in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and other neighboring countries.”
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.