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Competitiveness and Private Sector Development: Central Asia 2011

Competitiveness Outlook

image of Competitiveness and Private Sector Development: Central Asia 2011

With a total population of 92 million people, near universal literacy and abundant energy resources, Central Asia is an attractive destination for investment and trade.  The region is strategically located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, and surrounded by some of the world’s fastest-growing economies such as Russia, India and China, who are increasingly investing in the region. From 2000 to2009, foreign direct investment flows into Central Asia increased almost ninefold, while the region’s gross domestic product grew on average by 8.2% annually.

While Central Asia is endowed with many natural and human resources that could drive its economies to even higher levels of competitiveness, the poor quality of the region’s business environment remains a major obstacle. Key areas for improvement include reinforcing legal and economic institutions; prioritizing the development of the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector; and building the capacity of business intermediary organisations.

This Central Asia Competitiveness Outlook examines the key policies that would increase competitiveness in Central Asia and reduce dependence on the natural resource sector, namely through developing human capital, improving access to finance, and capturing more and better investment opportunities. It was carried out in collaboration with the World Economic Forum under the aegis of the OECD Central Asia Initiative, a regional programme that contributes to economic growth and competitiveness in Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. The Initiative is part of the wider OECD Eurasia Competitiveness Programme.

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Toward Higher-quality Education and Training

Central Asian economies can boost their competitiveness by building on the strengths of their education systems: high literacy rates, high primary and secondary enrolment for both sexes and an above average enrolment in tertiary education. Their numerous disadvantages include excessive central control and low public spending per student. Central Asian countries should collect and report educational data, develop strategies for raising the quality of tertiary education and improving graduation rates, create strategies for making vocational education and training (VET) more relevant for the labour market, reduce state control and consult with employers’ representatives to achieve a balance between higher education and VET enrolments. Public spending should concentrate on better distribution of resources. Afghanistan, which is trailing other countries of the region in educational performance, must focus on laying solid a foundation for the future by investing in better and more equal enrolment and more highly-trained teachers.

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