Reflections on Kazakhstan: Ideas & Performance

kenschoolland Asia, Conferences, Decentralism, Economic Policy, Education, Finance, Individual Rights, Migration, Poverty

I’ve traveled a lot, but never to such an exotic destination as Kazakhstan. The country and the people are a mix of everything Asia—Russian, Mongolian, Turkish, Indian, modern, prosperous, intellectual, traditional, proud, friendly, and aware. I landed on the vast steppes of Astana, the amazingly glamorous new capitol fueled by vast new oil riches of the Caspian Sea. And departed from Almaty, the old capitol nestled at the foot of spectacular snow-capped peaks that skirt the ancient Silk Road. Through the auspices of Pavel Kotyshev, Executive Director of the Institute for Development and Economic Affairs (IDEA), and the Entrepreneurship Development Fund (DAMU), I was fortunate to have been invited to join 10,000 other participants at the Astana Economic Forum & the UN World Anti-Crisis Conference. It was truly a gala affair. I am grateful to Aigerim Zhumadilova, Galiya Zholdybayeva, and all wonderful folks at DAMU for their extraordinary hospitality. If you are looking for a man of action to promote entrepreneurship and the ideals of liberty in Central Asia, Pavel Koktyshev is the star. Pavel is efficient and capable, he is a superior intellect, and he is good friends with everyone. At every turn, there were people and projects familiar to him. Why such global events in Central Asia? I think the preeminent purpose was to showcase the strategic prominence of Kazakh oil and the leadership of President (for life), Nursultan Nazarbayev (above left). On a tour of a local park I found this quote from the national constitution: “The Republic of Kazakhstan proclaims itself a democratic, secular, legal and social state whose highest values are an individual, his life, rights and freedoms.” This was surely music to a libertarian’s ears. Yet, one could wonder if this was a reference in practice to the natural rights of all—or to one individual …