Kazakhstan expects to become bigger oil exporter than Kuwait

Oct 03, 2005 02:00 AM

Kazakhstan's president says his country in a few years will be a bigger oil exporter than Kuwait and a major asset to US global interests.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev's speech to the opening of the second session of the new Kazakh parliament in Astana in September was filled with strong signals courting US goodwill.

Nazarbayev said Kazakhstan's gigantic Kurmangazy oil and gas field alone "may possess up to 980 mm tons of extractable hydrocarbons." He said oil production from Kazakhstan's share of the Caspian Sea could reach "oil production levels of 100-150 mm tons (per year) by 2015."
"When completed, this National Program will allow us to export 2 mm barrels (of oil) a day in 2010 and 3 mm barrels (a day) in 2015. The natural gas output will reach 100 bn cm a year," he said.

According to the Energy Information Administration of the US government, in 2004 Kuwait and Nigeria both produced 2.51 mm bpd and Iraq produced 2.03 mm bpd. Only two nations in the world, Saudi Arabia and Russia, exported more than 3 mm bpd each in 2004: Saudi Arabia exported 8.73 mm bpd and Russia exported 6.67 mm bpd.
But Kazakhstan faces the same kind of security problems Saudi Arabia and Kuwait did before it. It is relatively under-populated, with 17 mm people, immensely rich and in a dangerous and unstable neighbourhood.

Islamist extremism is rife in several of Kazakhstan's neighbours, including Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. And it is in the neighbourhood of nations armed with nuclear weapons -- Russia, China, India and Pakistan. Seeking good relations with neighbouring nations and with the global hyper-power the United States is thus a difficult and urgent national security priority.
Nazarbayev, therefore, took care to signal his willingness to play a moderate role in maintaining international energy prices.
"Kazakhstan takes very seriously its new role in safeguarding international energy stability and security," he said.

Kazakhstan has sought good relations with the United States and strong US investment, especially for its oil industry, while taking care not to offend Russia and China. Nazarbayev confirmed this explicitly in his September speech.
"Out first priority is the development of cooperation with Russia, China, United States and European Union," he said.

"Kazakhstan has always been -- and will remain -- staunchly committed to a broad international cooperation in containing nuclear proliferation, fighting against international terrorism, religious extremism, drug trafficking and other current threats. This corresponds to our national interests, too."
On July 5, Nazarbayev hosted a summit meeting of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Astana at which Russia and China, who dominate the organization, called for the United States to rapidly leave air bases in the area.

Meanwhile, Nazarbayev has also been under growing pressure from the Bush administration to work more rapidly to build structures of democracy and political transparency in Kazakhstan. He has responded by launching a National Program of Democratic Reforms to be implemented in two three stages over the next six years between 2006 and 2011.
As part of this program, over the past six months, he has responded by signing decrees establishing new formal processes and public transparency in local government and national executive power, and his Ministry of Justice has produced legislation to develop the practice of trials by jury.

He has also announced the reform of the judiciary "as part of the broader democratic reforms," he said in his Sept. 2 speech. Nazarbayev is running for re-election as president in national elections this December.
However, the Kazakhs want to move more slowly than some pro-democracy activists in the Bush administration want them to. For the Kazakhs, like their neighbours, were alarmed by the violent over throw of President Askar Akayev's government in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan and by the violent disturbances in the city of Andijan in Uzbekistan that left several hundred dead.

A furious and alarmed Uzbek President Islam Karimov reacted to that by seeking stronger Russian and Chinese support and giving the United States a six-month notice to evacuate its strategically vital Kharsi-Khanabad air base, triggering a conflict between the Pentagon,. which wanted to keep the base above all else, and the State Department, which wanted to send a strong message to Karimov on human rights.
Nazarbayev and other senior Kazakh policymakers argue Kazakhstan must expand its middle class and ensure a stable, broad-based foundation of property-owners who have a vested interest in maintaining stability to ensure a stable democracy.

"Our goal is to build the foundation of a modern and competitive economy in an open, democratic and prosperous society of free citizens," he said. "... One cannot build an open, free and prosperous society with a high standard of living in a weak, backward and dependent economy that doses not possess a predominant middle class."

Nazarbayev is also pushing hard to try and win the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe for Kazakhstan and as part of his bid has offered to host an OSCE forum on tolerance, interfaith respect, social and interethnic accord along with a second Summit of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions.

Source: TerraDaily
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