Kazakhstan is a well-resourced country with nevertheless relatively high poverty levels among both children and adults. In comparison with its immediate, poorer, neighbours Kazakhstan has better indicators of child wellbeing but, although there have been improvements in key indicators over the past 10 years, there is some way to go to bring these in line with countries with similar gross domestic product (GDP) per capita levels.
Key issues of concern, such as infant and maternal mortality, child morbidity, access to health care and education, housing conditions and water supply are all being addressed, in principle, through national planning processes and public policy, in particular the National Development Strategy (Strategy 2030), the Target Social Assistance (TSA) programme (2005 onwards) and the Children of Kazakhstan programme, aimed at raising children’s living standards. These programmes have resulted in a steady increase in public social sector expenditures since 2002 and commitments to maintain such investments during this period of financial crisis in response to rising poverty rates after several years of significant poverty reduction. Nonetheless, Kazakhstan’s expenditure on health care and education are lower than for other countries with similar GDP.
Additionally, better planning and policy implementation could make spending in the social sectors more cost effective, generating better outcomes for the resources invested. This is particularly so in the case of local governments, which are responsible for spending a significant share of resources. Policymaking functions remain concentrated at central level, making it difficult for sub-national governments to optimise spending and better link it with expected results. Similarly, sector ministries are still not successfully aligning sector policy and spending, a particular challenge in a context of changing needs and programme responses such as during this crisis.
Taking this context into account, this report discusses what should be done in the present financial crisis to address obvious suffering; to prevent more people falling into poverty; to redress any backsliding in current poverty reduction trends; and to turn crisis into opportunity in order to reform policy and institutions, better enable implementation and bring Kazakhstan into line with its GDP potential.