The state expenditures on Astana in per capita terms surpass the investments in the other Kazakhstan residual areas at least by times. This is not at all surprising: the density of the population in Astana is almost four times lower than that in Moscow; with that, Astana holds the second place after Ulaanbaatar on the list of the world’s coldest capitals.
On April 3, 2018, President Nursultan Nazarbayev visited the Astanagenplan Scientific Research Design Institute. During the visit, he talked about “the necessity of studying and implementing the international achievements in the sphere of the urban planning when erecting new architectural and logistic constructions in Astana” and also “underscored the importance of the implementation of the social projects aiming to increase the level of the quality and comfort of the urban life”.
On April 5, 2018, the President held a meeting devoted to Astana’s further development as the state’s capital.
Here is a quote from Akorda’s official press-release (text in bold – Kazakhstan 2.0).
“At the start of the meeting, the President talked about the stages of the history of Astana’s building praising the achievements of those who participated in the process.
-We have realized the dream of our predecessors and built the capital in the very heart of Saryarka. We have managed to build a beautiful city and open it for the entire world. Astana is the pride of our people. “So many people worked so hard despite the weather conditions”, said the Kazakhstan President. Nursultan Nazarbayev also underscored the special status and the high standing of Astana on the international arena.
-During a short historical period, we have been able to build a million-plus megapolis with the necessary infrastructure. “Astana is known in the world as the city of the important international events that are at the center of the global attention”, said the President.
“Astana is our country’s fastest developing city. The number of the people living there has surpassed 1 mln. The housing development is also on the rise. “For the past 20 years, we have put into operation 20 mln square meters of housing, 53 new schools, and 26 hospitals”, said Nursultan Nazarbayev.
The Head of the State underscored Astana’s important role in the future prosperity of the country and some sectors of its economy.
-The decision to build this city was the right one. Astana has become the new frontier of the further development of the economy, the population growth, the development of science, technology, and innovations. “All the resources spent on the city’s building have already been returned”, said the Kazakhstan President.
“Before the year 2050, the population of Almaty is to reach 2.5 mln, the population of Astana is to reach 2 mln, the population of Shymkent is to reach 1.5 mln. These cities are to become the new growth areas with the international-level quality services. The other cities must also have their own development programs. “The government must study this matter”, said the Kazakhstan President.
Thus, Astana as the mega-project of the national scale has been, is, and always will be on the list of Akorda’s and Nursultan Nazarbayev’s most important political priorities. If for no other reason than the fact that the capital is one of the President’s major and evident achievements, the fruit of his labors, and, in a manner of speaking, the commemoration work for his times and his own persona.
With that, the statement that all the resources used for the building of the new capital have already been returned, in our opinion, is doubtful since it is not confirmed by any documents and, most importantly, by the time and a future political system of the country.
Moreover, there is no doubt that, some time (perhaps even a couple of years) after the power transit from the Leader of the Nation to the second President of Kazakhstan, the state will be forced to limit its investments in the project due to the two important circumstances.
- First, the necessity to use the budget and the quasi-budget funds sparingly.
- Second, the need to significantly increase the spending on providing the urban amenities to the rest of the country’s regions.
The fact that such a scenario is practically inevitable follows from the government’s decree 131 of March 16, 2018 “On Determining the Borders of the Districts of the Astana City – the Capital of the Republic of Kazakhstan”. According to the document, the general area of District “Almaty” constitutes 15471 ha, District “Baykonyr” – 18129 ha, District “Yesil” – 39358 ha, District “Saryarka” – 6775 ha. Therefore, as of March 16, 2018, the general area of the Kazakhstan capital constitutes 79731 ha or 797 square km.
If one is to believe Wikipedia, then, as of February 1, 2018, the population of the city constituted 1035537 people living in the territory of 797.33 square km, and this is after the February 7, 2018 addition of 87.19 square km of the Akmola region without residual areas. Therefore, as of now, the average density of the population in Astana constitutes 1299 people while the average density of the population in the country constitutes 6 people per square km.
Wikipedia provides the data on the density of the population in other cities:
Dhaka — 44000 (2014 estimate)
Manilla — 42858 (Metro-Manilla agglomeration — 18 246 as of 2007)
Monaco — 37172
Mumbai — 32300 (оценка на 2014 год)
Macao — 22885
Paris — 21196 (2014 estimate for “The Paris Conurbation” — 3900)
Tokyo — 14061 (for 23 special districts, 5963 for the whole city’s prefecture)
Singapore — 7971
Minsk — 5509 (2014 estimate)
Moscow — 4822 (including the “New Moscow”) (2014 estimate for the Moscow agglomeration — 3400).
These figures show that the population density of Astana as a residual area is approximately four times lower than that of Moscow. With that, after Ulaanbaatar, the Kazakhstan capital holds the second place on the lost of the coldest capitals in the world. This means that the accrued expenses per one Astana citizen for creating the same level of the quality, effectiveness, sustainability, and progressiveness of the urban infrastructure including roads, public transportation, and communications must be no less than four times higher than the same accrued expenses per one Moscow citizen.
Since something like that is unattainable in principle, Astana has turned into a conglomerate of several residual areas – former Akmola (the new luxurious capital, the home of Akorda, governmental offices, and the people who work in them) and actual Astana where those who come to the capital for the reasons other than being a part of the government live.
Obviously, the level and the quality of the urban environment in Astana are high enough, but only in comparison to the other large Kazakh cities, say nothing of the middle and small towns and the rural areas. And as soon as Astana stops being the priority of Akorda’s state and economic policy, the funding of its development via all the channels except for the private ones will inevitably decrease. For the authorities will have to eliminate the evident non-balance when the state expenditures on Astana in per capita terms surpass the investments in the other residual areas by times.