OECD Eurasia Week in Almaty Focuses on Diversity, Openness

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) held its first Eurasia Week in the region itself this week. Under the theme “Openness for Shared Prosperity,” high-level officials from the OECD and its member states and partners in the region, including OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria and Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Bakytzhan Sagintayev, gathered in Almaty Oct. 23-25 to discuss ways to promote economic openness and foster policy dialogue in a multilateral framework, The Astana Times reported.

Eurasia Week is part of the OECD’s Eurasia Competitiveness Programme, launched in 2008. The programme involves 13 countries in the region – Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. The event is intended to help strengthen ties between these 13 countries and OECD member states and partners.

Holding Eurasia Week in Eurasia demonstrates the region’s increased significance for OECD
members and Eurasia’s increased engagement with the OECD, Gurria said in opening the
event. Holding it in Kazakhstan is an indication of the country’s involvement in the organisation and its “thorough and fruitful cooperation.”

Holding Eurasia Week in Eurasia demonstrates the region’s increased significance for OECD members and Eurasia’s increased engagement with the OECD, Gurria said in opening the event. Holding it in Kazakhstan is an indication of the country’s involvement in the organisation and its “thorough and fruitful cooperation.”

In 2015, Kazakhstan became one of the first three countries to implement the OECD Country Programme, which brings full access to the OECD’s top expertise and policy network to support structural domestic reforms. The OECD prolonged the programme this year until the end of 2018.

According to Sagintayev, Kazakhstan is using the standards and development level of OECD member states as guidelines in their goal of joining the world’s 30 most developed countries by 2050 and hopes to be able to share its experience of cooperation with the organisation with its neighbour countries.

Openness is not a goal in itself, Gurria noted. “It needs to be accompanied with the right structural and social flanking policies to promote better opportunities and enhanced wellbeing for all,” he said. But “it can bring greater prosperity, innovation and diversity.” The OECD is committed to developing the analysis, policies and the will to build a more “open, transparent and fair global economy,” he said.

Uzbekistan Deputy Prime Minister Nodir Otajonov stressed the importance of the forum’s theme, saying his country was “taking radical measures to ensure steady economic growth, reform public administration and increase institutional attractiveness.”

The theme of this Eurasia Week is also intended to support diversification, a goal for a region so economically dependent on hydrocarbons.

Kazakhstan’s continuing reliance on oil, gas and metals is a major impediment to economic diversification and one of the main challenges for its economy, Kazakhstan’s Minister of National Economy Timur Suleimenov told a panel of Central Asian and Eastern European ministers discussing economic challenges. Their share of Kazakhstan’s GDP has dropped from 19.7 percent in 2009 to 12.7 percent this year, through very hard work, he said, and despite oil production volumes rising from around 60 million tonnes in 2009 to some 86 million tonnes this year.

Kazakhstan also must continue to invest heavily in infrastructure to counter the isolating effects of its huge size and the challenge of its climate. This need is reflected in national economic programmes and the Strategy 2050, the minister said.

Deputy Managing Director of the European External Action Service Luc Devigne emphasised the importance of the region to the European Union in his remarks.

“Countries to the east of EU are very important for us,” said Devigne, citing the EU’s commitment to investing in long-term partnerships within the region. He also promised continued support from the EU.

“I know the geopolitical environment is challenging, but it is still possible to see stars from the bottom of a well when the sun is shining,” he said, referring to Robert Byron’s “The Road to Oxiana,” about the poet’s travels in Persia and Afghanistan.