The unrest that has gripped North Africa and the Middle East has been driven by a potent mixture of economics and politics. Citizens have taken to the streets to protest falling living standards, a lack of political power and an absence of opportunities.
In Kazakhstan, we know about the challenge of providing opportunities. Twenty years ago, when our country began its journey as an independent nation, most outside our borders dismissed us as a remote former Soviet republic. Our economy lay in ruins, and we had little capacity to provide basic services.
The situation today is very different. The Kazakh people’s hard work and unity have led to a stable, multicultural nation with a strong economy and rapidly improving living standards and public services. Increasingly, Kazakhstan is becoming an important bridge between East and West. Civil society is growing, and we are progressing steadily on the path of democratic reform.
A strong economy is essential for any country to fulfill its ambitions. Few nations can match our economic performance since independence; our gross domestic product per capita has risen more than twelvefold and exceeds $9,000. In 1991, our industries were under state control and we had no entrepreneurial class. Today, the private sector is the backbone of our economy, and there are more than 700,000 small and medium-size businesses.