Library of Congress – Federal Research Division
Country Profile: Kazakhstan, December 2006
been controversial issues. In 2006 Kazakhstan had 11,019 kilometers of natural gas pipeline, 10,338 kilometers of oil pipeline, 1,095 kilometers of pipeline for refined products, and 658 kilometers for gas condensate. Poor management and distribution of the domestic pipeline system have necessitated importation of natural gas, and foreign investment has concentrated on export lines. Kazakhstan is linked to the Russian pipeline system by the Atyrau–Samara line, whose capacity was increased in 2001, and to Russia’s Black Sea oil terminal at Novorossiysk by the Caspian Pipeline Consortium line. The Central Asia Oil Pipeline sends oil from Kazakhstan through Turkmenistan and Afghanistan to Pakistan’s Arabian Sea port of Gwadar. In late 2005, the Atasu–Alashankou oil pipeline was completed between eastern Kazakhstan and Xinjiang Province in China. That 970-kilometer line has a capacity of 20 million tons per year. In 2006 work was underway to extend that line from Atasu to Atyrau on the Caspian Sea, making the total length 2,900 kilometers.
Telecommunications: Although Kazakhstan has the best telephone system in Central Asia, the system rates poorly by world standards, providing only 15 lines per 100 inhabitants in 2004. Attempts to attract foreign investment have largely failed. The state-owned national telecommunications company, Kazakhtelcom, has received assistance from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in a nationwide program of expansion and modernization. The company relinquished its monopoly control of international and long-distance telephony in 2005, and several companies now compete in those markets. Particular growth has occurred in mobile phone access; in 2006 more than 5 million people used mobile telephones, compared with 29,000 in 1994. The June 2006 launch of the KazSat communications satellite from the Baykonur space platform, with Russian technical assistance, was expected to reduce the dependence of all the Central Asian countries on European and U.S. telecommunications satellites. Launch of a second KazSat is planned for 2009.
Expansion of Internet use has been limited by the relatively low ownership of computers in Kazakhstan. Most users access the Internet at public or work facilities. Usage is concentrated in the northern urban centers. In 2006 an estimated 400,000 people were using the Internet.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Overview: Kazakhstan has been ruled by one person, Nursultan Nazarbayev, since before the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. During that time, governance has been destabilized by the dismissal of several governments, a series of referenda that changed governmental practice, periods of rule by presidential decree, and the establishment of two new constitutions. These events have concentrated power in the presidency, severely limiting the power of the legislature and the ministries. Nazarbayev has acted to discourage opposition, although some opposition parties exist. Government corruption has been a major issue. In 2005 the corruption index of Transparency International rated Kazakhstan 111 out of 163 countries. At the same time, Kazakhstan’s international prestige has improved because of its oil and gas resources and its geographic importance in antiterrorism operations.
Executive Branch: The president is elected by direct ballot to a five-year term. The constitutions of 1993 and 1995 have given increased powers to the president, and subsequent