Table of Contents

  • By 2050, the world urban population is expected to nearly double. Urbanisation will be one of the most important transformations of the 21st century. The importance to the national economy of cities and their corresponding metropolitan areas makes them critical players in the international marketplace. Throughout OECD member and non-member countries, governments have renewed their support to cities and have adopted policies to solve traditional urban problems such as urban sprawl, abandoned districts and poverty, as well as newer issues such as competitiveness, city marketing, environmental sustainability and innovation. The adoption of the New Urban Agenda at Habitat III in October 2016 provides governments with a set of global standards in sustainable urban development and the way cities are built and managed.

  • After a decade of urban population decline following independence in 1991, Kazakhstan began urbanising, although at a moderate pace. As urbanisation progresses, the country’s economic performance will be more tightly linked to the functioning of its cities and its urban governance system. Until 2015, Kazakhstan’s average annual economic growth rate was 8%, largely boosted by its extractive industry (oil and gas). Since falling oil prices are likely to reduce the opportunities for economic growth, the urbanisation process will be essential for developing a more balanced economic model. The importance of cities for GDP has been growing consistently over the last five years. In 2015, Almaty City and Astana accounted for about 15% of the country’s population, and produced one-third of national GDP, due to the concentration of high added-value activities. “Getting cities right” can provide a supportive environment for firms, entrepreneurs and institutions to innovate. Cities, under the right conditions, can increase the flow of ideas, facilitate the sharing of localised knowledge and enable innovation, which is a major drive for economic growth.

  • This chapter provides an overview of the main trends and challenges of urban areas in Kazakhstan, with particular emphasis on the functional urban areas providing a new picture of urban agglomerations in the country. Specifically this chapter addresses: i) the main features of the urban structure of the country; ii) the moderate pace of urbanisation at the start of the 21st century; iii) the range of policy challenges facing cities in areas such as housing, public urban transport, public utilities and migration; and iv) the opportunities to foster innovation in cities.

  • This chapter looks at the major elements of urbanisation in Kazakhstan. It begins with an exploration of the origins of cities providing an understanding of the main focus of urban policies. This is followed by an examination of urban planning challenges and possible ways to improve urban planning practice in the country. The largest section of this chapter focuses on possible responses to urban development challenges. It explores alternatives to improve the land use planning system; analyses options to bridge the housing affordability gap; examines the need and ways to link land-use, transport and investment; assesses the different alternatives to improve the management of public utilities; and explores practical options to facilitate the free movement of people across urban centres.

  • This chapter examines urban governance in Kazakhstan. It begins with an assessment of the main challenges of the current system of inter-governmental relations and offers possible alternatives to improve co-ordination across levels of government and among national policy actors. It also explores local government finance and the way the current arrangements for managing local public finance act in detriment of urban development. It formulates some recommendations to ensure that local governments have access to resources to pay for urbanisation. The chapter proposes some recommendations for strengthening civil service reform with a particular focus on subnational levels of government. Finally, it concludes with proposals to cultivate dialogue with citizens and make them active contributors to the urban planning process.