Advancing Development in Kazakhstan: The Contribution of Research and Development.

Author:Shaikin, Dinmukhammed

The rapid advancement of all societies depends on strategic investments in research and development (R&D) for both scientific and technological development and advancement of the quality of life of their people (Miller & Morris, 1999). According to Pisano (2012), such investments may involve the application of already established technologies (secondary R&D) or the creation of entirely new technologies and areas of scientific inquiry (primary R&D). Although these innovations primarily involve "hard" or physical science (Anderson, 2000), they may also involve the social sector, such as new types of political, economic, or familial systems (Sherwin, 2016).

Most societies invest in both types of innovations, especially societies that are undergoing dramatic restructuring (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD], 2016). Such investments have proven to be especially essential to the newly independent countries of the former Soviet Union whose economies have shifted from being centrally planned to become more open and globally focused market systems (Investopedia, 2016). The goal in every case has been to advance the human technological capacity of these countries so that they can compete more successfully in highly competitive global markets. Economic diversity, involving multiple sectors of collective life, has proven especially effective in advancing the global competitiveness of developing post-Socialist societies (Graham & Werman, 2017; Lipovsky, 2016).

Kazakhstan, a former republic of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, is one such developing post-Socialist nation and its approach to introducing R&D is the primary subject of this article (Hiro, 2009; Marvin, 2016; Wight, 2015; World Bank, 2016a). This article will begin by briefly introducing readers to the history of the Republic of Kazakhstan since regaining its independence in December 1991 (Golden, 2011; Lipovsky, 2016). Next, the most important natural and human capital resources available to Kazakhstan to promote its social, political, and economic development will be identified, and a special set of social and economic indicators that are essential for advancing R&D in this country will be introduced. The critical contributions made by R&D in accelerating the pace of Kazakhstani social and economic development will be identified, along with the pathways for accelerating the pace of Kazakhstan's development over the near term (Socor, Weitz, & Witt., 2016).

Modern Geographic and Ethnic Structure of Kazakhstan

The Republic of Kazakhstan is a fully independent nation-state located in Central Asia. A landlocked country, Kazakhstan shares borders with China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Along with other Central Asian nations, Kazakhstan shares access to the Caspian Sea, the world's largest inland body of saltwater, consisting of more than 134,000 square miles of surface area (371,000 [km.sup.2]).

As reflected in figure 1, the country's landmass is substantial (2,724,900 sq. km); Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country by landmass in the world. The country's population in 2017 numbered 18.6 million people, the most populous of Central Asian nations. As of 2009, Kazakhstan's ethnic mix consists of Kazakhs or Qazaqs (63.1%), Russians (23.7%), Uzbeks (2.9%), Ukrainians (2.1%), Uighurs (1.4%), Tatars (1.3%), Germans (1.1%), and others (4.4%) (Central Intelligence Agency [CIA], 2017). Also as of 2009, the country's religious mix was diverse as well: Muslim (70.2%), Christian (mainly Russian Orthodox; 26.2%), atheist (2.8%), unspecified (0.5%), and other (0.2%). As of 2015, approximately 40.3 percent of Kazakhstan's population was younger than twenty-five years, a demographic pattern that characterizes most Central Asian post-Socialist countries and indeed most developing countries ("Youth population trends and sustainable development," 2015).

Kazakhstan's Natural and Human Capital Resource Base

The availability of natural and human capital resources is essential to a country's development. Kazakhstan is particularly advantaged in having a rich array of both (Witte, 2016; World Bank, 2016b). All of these resources are being used to accelerate the pace of the country's social and economic development as well as to build a strong network of economic partnerships with other nations in the Central Asian region and with other countries worldwide (Legvolf, 2003; World Bank, 2012).

Kazakhstan's Economy

Kazakhstan's economy totaled US$430 billion (purchasing power parity [PPP]) in 2016. The country's per capita income in 2016 averaged US$24,300 (PPP) and, like the global economy in general, is expanding at a modest rate of approximately 1.2 percent annually. However, the rate of economic expansion ranged from a high of 6.0 percent in 2013 to its current low of 3.5 to 4.1 percent for 2017 and the first quarter of 2018 ("Kazakhstan's annual GDP growth rate 1995-2018," 2018). Declining prices in the energy sector, the major driver of the country's economic expansion, are reflected in the lower economic growth rates between 2013 and 2016. Slow growth is also pushing the country's political and economic leaders to increase levels of investment in R&D in all sectors of the economy. Other major components of the country's economy are associated with its very rich natural resources, especially petroleum and petroleum-related by-products including natural gas (Witte, 2016). The country's major export trading partners in 2016 were Italy (20.3%), China (11.5%), Russia (9.5%), Netherlands (8.9%), Switzerland (7.3%), and France (4.9%). In total, the country's exports totaled an estimated US$44.1 billion in 2017 as opposed to an estimated US$37.3 billion in 2016 (CIA, 2017).

Kazakhstan's Natural Resources

Kazakhstan's natural resources are substantial and highly diversified. Along with its vast stores of petroleum and natural gas reserves, Kazakhstan's major industries include the production of manganese, chromites, lead, zinc, copper, titanium, bauxite, gold, silver, phosphates, sulfur, uranium, iron, and steel (Open Energy Information, 2016; Vigar, 2015), all of which add to the country's foreign exchange reserves of US$30,541 million as of October 2016 ("Kazakhstan's foreign exchange reserves 1993-2018," 2018). These sectors contribute substantially to the country's national economy and thus are the sectors receiving the highest levels of R&D investment. The expectation is that, along with Kazakhstan's energy economy, each of these sectors will continue to increase in importance as the country's five-year national development strategy unfolds (U.S. Department of State, 2013).

Kazakhstan's Human Capital Resources

The exact number of Kazakhstan's full-time researchers and technicians, including those engaged in R&D, is not known with any degree of precision. Their numbers are expected to be substantial, however, especially in the country's multifaceted energy and public enterprises. Many R&D specialists are also working in Kazakhstan's state-centered health industry as well as in its large network of primary and secondary schools and more than 150 state-supported universities and other types of institutions of higher education (Silk Project, 2009). Typically, however, R&D activities are just a part of the job responsibilities of most research scientists, a reality that makes the number of researchers engaged in R&D on a fulltime basis even more difficult to measure.

Kazakhstan's General Human Resource R&D Profile

Readers are referred to data collected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO; 2016), which reports R&D personnel data for most nations of the world. These data typically cover the period from 1996 to 2015 and offer a general picture of the R&D profile in Kazakhstan in comparison to other countries of the world.

National Estimates of Kazakhstani R&D Personnel

Official reports prepared by the Kazakhstani government offer more precise estimates of the number of R&D personnel working across the country's major economic sectors from 2013 to 2015. Table 1, for example, summarizes these data by percentage distribution between specialist/researcher and technical personnel. As reflected in these data, the number of Kazakhstani researchers in 2015 rose to 24,735, a 4.3-percent increase since 2013. This increase occurred in all categories of researchers: a 7.3-percent increase for the specialists/researchers (to 18,454) and a 3.0-percent increase (to 3,692) for technical personnel (R&D maintenance staff). The number of R&D workers per one hundred thousand people in 2015 was 141.0, an increase of at least 1.8 percent compared to 2013. The percentage of R&D workers had the same development tendency (Table 2). Thus, the percentage of specialists-researchers in 2015 was 74.6 percent, up 2.1 percent from 2013.

The number of the Kazakhstani researchers with scientific degrees in different sectors of economic activity also shows a positive development tendency (see Table 3). In 2015, the number of R&D workers with scientific degrees was 7,920, which represents an increase of 7.4 percent compared to 2013.

Future R&D Personnel Enrolled in Kazakhstani Universities

Kazakhstan recognizes the importance of continuous investments in educating future generations of R&D personnel. Indeed, the nation allocates a substantial share of its total resources to more than one hundred universities and institutions of high education. Consistent with the nation's strategic goals and the scenarios Table 1 Types and distribution of Kazakhstani R&D workers, 2013-2015 (Aydapkelov, summarized in this article, a very large percentage of these students have declared majors in physics, chemistry, mathematics, and other specializations that contribute directly to R&D research staffing (Silk Project, 2009). Such a larger number of potential workers in the R&D sector adds further strength to the country's efforts...

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