By W. Johannes Wesselhoeft
In May, the Kazakhstan Public-Private Partnership Center hosted a roundtable entitled, “A New Direction of The Economic Policy of Kazakhstan,” in conjunction with the University of Pennsylvania’s Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program and the Economic Research Institute (Kazakhstan) in Kazakhstan’s capital city, Astana. The meeting brought together twenty-nine (29) participants from seven (7) think tanks from four (4) countries (Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan and the USA).
Dr. James McGann of UPenn’s TTCSP program and ‘Expert Analytical Centers and Civil Society,’ was present, and spoke on Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) and ‘security challenges in Central Asia.’ McGann’s expertise in organizational innovation was crucial as institutions operating in Kazakhstan seek new strategies towards development which require enhanced quality assurance, transparency, and the harnessing of new technology in their move towards next-level economic development. The report from TTCSP’s December 2015 ‘Global Think Tank Innovations Summit,’ outlined innovative strategies recommended to public and private leaders at the recent aforementioned summit in Astana.
The summit comes at a time when Kazakhstan is entering a major transition period. The economy has successfully recovered from decades of central-planning and geo-political isolation. As the largest and wealthiest country in Central Asia, Kazakhstan stands to become a regional determiner of regional international relations and will continue to increase its influence in the developmental economics of not just its home territory, but its neighbors as well.
Public-Private Partnerships are an opportunity for government to work with the private sector in economic development in an ever-more efficient manner. With PPPs, the risk of investing in a large scale project can be distributed amongst several partners in the public and private sector. There is also room for dialogue on how to enhance the project and lead to the best possible outcome for everyone. While
Kazakhstan’s regional neighbors are suffering from moderate security threats in their own countries, largely related to the transformation of governance that has taken place since Soviet Rule ended, Kazakhstan itself is largely and essentially stable; it serves as an attractive investment location for external and internal investors alike. Foreign direct investment has skyrocketed in Kazakhstan over the past decade and looks to continue to surge. The PPP summit hosted several important develop players, including economic development leaders and advisors to the government of Kazakhstan, as well as representatives, from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), the United Nations Development (UNDP) and USAID.
Sponsors of the event included the Economic Research Institute (ERI) (Kazakhstan), the Kazakhstan Public-Private Partnership Center, and The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) of the University of Pennsylvania.
As an investment opportunity in Kazakhstan, and a place to collaborate across borders and across the public-private investment divide, the “New Direction in the Economic Policy of Kazakhstan,” summit proved its importance in upcoming international affairs to public and private policy makers alike. Investors inside and outside of Kazakhstan are recognizing the opportunity that PPPs provide in this context.