ASIA/KAZAKHSTAN - A nation on the path between rapid development and fight against poverty for 27 years

Wednesday, 25 October 2017 politics   economy   development   poverty   caritas   solidarity  

Astana (Agenzia Fides) - The Republic of Kazakhstan celebrates the 27th anniversary of the proclamation of national sovereignty: it was October 25, 1990, when the passage of the administration of all natural and economic resources was announced to the Kazakh leadership was announced, thus beginning the path that a year later led to the official independence from the Soviet Union. In 27 years the country has grown enormously, exploiting above all the richness of its subsoil, but the reality of the suburbs is still underdeveloped and national identity is still to be built.
According to data released by the Kazakh Ministry of Economy, in the first nine months of 2017, the country was steadily on the rise: GDP rose 4.3% and the trend will lead to a further general economic growth of 3.4% within the end of the year. National media, however, hides a very different reality: "Except for big cities, the situation is rather tough", says to Fides, Guido Trezzani, on a mission in Kazakhstan for 22 years. "The two major cities, Astana and Almaty, are two very different realities from the rest of the country: in nearby suburbs or villages one discovers that essential services such as water or electricity are lacking".
The direct consequence, explains Fr. Trezzani is emigration towards big cities, not to foreign countries: "People flee from villages to look for work and a better life. The urbanization of rural masses is constant. There is also a clear tendency of the State to centralization, given the difficulties of managing such a vast territory".
The difference between urban centers and hinterland is evident even when it comes to "national identity". According to Fr. Guido, "many young people identify more with the Hollywood reality of Astana than that of small centers. One is trying to reform the identity of a people in a very short space of time, but in this way one is likely to obtain the opposite result, creating a false identity, and obviously this highlights the abysmal differences regarding the living conditions between cities and the countryside".
"What is certain - concludes the missionary - is that here you do not want to hear about Kazakhstan as a developing country, but about an already established international reality". In fact, the country has a strong ecnomic growth, a solid budget, an expanding middle class. About 17 million people live on a large (mostly desert) territory with a population density which is the 12th in the world starting from the last position. But large resources are hidden in the subsoil, since oil and gas reserves occupy the 10th place globally. In 27 years the per capita income has quadrupled and unemployment has dropped to about 5%. And, if in Soviet times about half of the population lived at a livelihood level, today the rate of poverty is less than 5%.
Despite the rapid development, there are still categories of people who need the attention and assistance of Caritas Kazakhstan. There are, for example, 21 small pharmacies and basic health centers, health facilities distributed in the four apostolic regions of the country, managed through the collaboration of the entire Christian community. These health centers have become places of encounter for sharing other needs as well, and of course, are open to any person, regardless of ethnicity or religion. This activity has also become an occasion for community promotion for the small minority of Catholic faithful who in the country are about 150,000, less than 1% of a population that is 67.8% Muslim. Christians, on the whole, are 26.5%. (LF-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 25/10/2017)