Kazakhstan

Capital:Astana
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Kazakhstan, geographically the largest of the former Soviet republics, excluding Russia, possesses enormous fossil fuel reserves and plentiful supplies of other minerals and metals, such as uranium, copper, and zinc. It also has a large agricultural sector featuring livestock and grain. In 2002 Kazakhstan became the first country in the former Soviet Union to receive an investment-grade credit rating, and from 2000 through 2007, Kazakhstan's economy grew more than 9% per year. Extractive industries, particularly hydrocarbons and mining, have been the engines of this growth. However, geographic limitations and decaying infrastructure present serious obstacles. Landlocked, with restricted access to the high seas, Kazakhstan relies on its neighbors to export its products, especially oil and gas. Although its Caspian Sea ports and rail lines carrying oil have been upgraded, civil aviation has been neglected. Telecoms are improving, but require considerable investment, as does the information technology base. Supply and distribution of electricity can be erratic. At the end of 2007, global financial markets froze up and the loss of capital inflows to Kazakhstani banks caused a credit crunch. The subsequent and sharp fall of oil and commodity prices in 2008 aggravated the economic situation, and Kazakhstan plunged into recession. While the global financial crisis took a significant toll on Kazakhstan's economy, it has rebounded well. In response to the crisis, Kazakhstan's government devalued the tenge (Kazakhstan's currency) to stabilize market pressures and injected $19 billion in economic stimulus. Rising commodity prices have helped revive Kazakhstan's economy, which registered 7% growth in 2010. Barring a dramatic decline in oil prices, strong growth is expected to continue in 2011. Despite solid macroeconomic indicators, the government realizes that its economy suffers from an overreliance on oil and extractive industries, the so-called "Dutch disease." In response, Kazakhstan has embarked on an ambitious diversification program, aimed at developing targeted sectors like transport, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications, petrochemicals and food processing.

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