Evan Feigenbaum, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, says the United States wants to be an "engine for change" in Central Asia by supporting the development of democratic, stable, and prosperous nations and encouraging them to seek new economic opportunities "in every direction on the compass."
"Kazakhstan and its neighbors are poised to seize unprecedented economic opportunities," said Mr. Feigenbaum. "For Central Asia, this promise is best achieved to the degree that governments and peoples think and act as an integrated region."
In part, the region's economic growth will depend on the efficient development and distribution of energy resources. That is why the United States has encouraged the building of multiple pipelines to give Central Asian countries options for exporting their oil and gas. U.S. firms have played an important role in the construction of the Caspian Consortium pipeline from Kazakhstan to the Black Sea in Russia and the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline from Azerbaijan to Turkey.
Kazakshtan could realize great wealth as oil production at Kashagan begins in the next three to four years. The challenge, said Mr. Feigenbaum, "is to manage that growth. And to ensure that its benefits accrue to all of Kazakhstan's citizens."
Managing Kazakhstan's wealth fairly will require political and economic reform. The establishment of democratic institutions is fundamental to stability and the orderly transfer of power when President Nursultan Nazarbayev completes his term in 2013.
The rule of law is also necessary to sustain foreign investment. "No company," said Mr. Feigenbaum, "will invest where the rule of law is lacking, where contracts are not sacred, and where a firm has uncertain means of legal redress in the event of a contractual dispute."
The best guarantor of Kazakhstan's success would be a stable democratic system where all citizens have a stake in the future. "In short," said Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Evan Feigenbaum, "I believe Kazakhstan's leadership recognizes that economic and political modernization depend on continued political reform if it is to join the world's fifty most competitive countries over the next decade."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.