Kazakhstan is a presidential republic headed by President Noersoeltan Nazarbayev. Nazarbayev has extensive powers, including appointing and dismissing officials at all levels. He can also dismiss the entire parliament and cabinet. In addition, the President has veto power over the appointment of members of the Supreme Court. Nazarbayev was re-elected in 1999 for a 7-year term. The next presidential election is scheduled for December 2005.
The parliament has two chambers, a lower house (Mazjilis) with 77 members and an upper house (Senate) with 39 members, of which 7 are appointed directly by the president. The parliament's power has been severely restricted since a constitutional amendment in 1995.
Political life in Kazakhstan is dominated by President Nazarbayev and his immediate entourage. Although Nazarbayev indicates that he favours a process of gradual political reform, in practice control remains very strong. The political opposition is weak and has limited access to the media.
The current political situation is described in the history section.
After independence in 1991, the Kazakh economic system collapsed. The past decade shows an erratic course of economic developments in the country. A period of recovery was followed in 1998 by the Russian rouble crisis. Since then, Kazakhstan's macroeconomic results have again shown a (very) positive trend: since 2002, the economy has been growing by at least 9% per year. The positive growth is mainly due to the booming energy sector, good harvests in the agricultural sector, foreign investment and economic reforms. Growth has slowed down somewhat in recent years, but is still 4% in 2017.
Kazakhstan has large amounts of fuel reserves, minerals and metals. The energy sector is the most important sector for the Kazakhstan economy. The oil and gas industry is currently booming, particularly due to the large inflow of foreign investment and the recent discoveries of fields in the Caspian Sea. In addition to the booming energy sector, the agricultural sector is important to the economy.
Inflation has been reasonably contained. Tax collection has been improved and made more transparent. Higher oil revenues have made it possible for government salaries to rise. Privatisation has gone relatively far.
Despite favourable macro-economic figures, structural reforms are needed in the economy. Currently, the economy is highly dependent on oil revenues. Differentiation of the economy is therefore desirable. The policy is aimed at stimulating light industry and reducing the influence of foreign investment and foreign personnel. For fear of social unrest, real structural reforms are only carried out to a very limited extent.
Kazakhstan has good relations with the IMF and the World Bank. Kazakhstan has been a member of both the IMF and the World Bank since 1992 and is part of the Swiss electoral group. Kazakhstan has used its strong balance of payments position to repay all its previous debts to the Fund ahead of schedule.
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