Countries can be compared based on thousands of criteria, and different results can be achieved each time. In the end, any comparison is just an issue of metrics and their relative weights. Regarding such assessments, one criterion lies relatively on the surface, and it can help develop a rough understanding of the country’s attractiveness in the eyes of the general public – migration. Experts may never come to an agreement regarding the social, economic, and political situation in any particular country, yet people have been voting with their feet since the dawn of time. In that regard, all of the Central Asian countries demonstrate a relatively poor record as the population outflow from the region significantly exceeds the inflow [Khashimov et al., 2020]. Kazakhstan is no exception to that rule – in the previous decade, the country had a negative migration balance of around 70,000 people [Abramov, 2019]. However, general migration numbers can be misleading, as the actual impact of immigration in economic or social spheres varies highly based on the characteristic of certain groups of migrants. Therefore, to better understand the effects of migration and get a more detailed picture of a country’s attractiveness, it might be recommended to focus on high-net-worth individuals (HNWI). Their impact on the economy is usually much more significant, and their decisions regarding the acquisition of citizenship are more rational and consequential.
In that regard, it is essential to take a closer look at the World Citizenship Report (WCR) by CS Global partners (2022) – a document that assesses the value of citizenships from the perspective of HNWI and global citizens. The report measured 187 countries against five motivators relevant for HNWI: Safety and Security, Economic Opportunity, Quality of Life, Global Mobility, and Financial Freedom. Safety and Security imply the “ability to enjoy social safety and security for oneself and family and safety-net against being trapped in a dangerous territory,” while Economic Opportunity is viewed as an “ability to access major business hubs and increased access to better employment prospects and wider business opportunities” (CS Global partners, 2022). Quality of Life criterion evaluates “access to territories with high social and institutional stability and high standards of education and healthcare,” Global Mobility represents “the freedom to travel for leisure and lifestyle and insurance policy to enable travel for medical or safety emergencies;” finally, Financial Freedom criterion implies “geographical diversification, protection of assets from government overreach or corruption, and facilitation of wealth structure in a more tax-efficient manner” (CS Global partners, 2022).
Of nine CIS member states, Kazakhstan (78/158) holds the second-highest position after Moldova (74). The country is followed by Armenia (79), Ukraine (80), Russian Federation (82), Belarus (88), Azerbaijan (102), Kyrgyzstan (106), Uzbekistan (109), Turkmenistan (113), and Tajikistan (119). It can be seen that countries of the region are separated into two clusters – the first, which can be perceived as a more progressive one, ranging between 74 and 88, and the second situated between 102 and 119.
Regarding the specific categories, the worst performing for Kazakhstan is Safety and Security, with the country holding only 102nd place. This demonstrates the perceived presence of problems regarding corruption, the rule of law, regulatory quality, government effectiveness, political stability, and voice and accountability. Therefore, despite its name, this category primarily focuses on the effectiveness of government in the resolution of problems and its ability to impose a fair and inclusive rule of law. The mentioned issues are the ones that Kazakhstan has been struggling with constantly since the country’s independence. However, considering corruption, the situation has been improving slowly but steadily, according to Transparency International (2021), with Kazakhstan scoring 28 points out of 100 in 2012 and 37 points out of 100 in 2021. On the other hand, political stability demonstrates the opposite trend that has been on the rise since the fall of oil prices in 2014-2016 and culminated in the infamous clashes of January 2022 (The Global Economy, 2020). In general, for Kazakhstan, this category is mainly balanced out by others, such as the Economic Opportunity (48th place), Quality of Life (54th position), and Financial Freedom (59th position). Finally, in terms of Global Mobility, Kazakhstan is placed at the same place it takes on average – 78th.
Regarding the whole Central Asian region, it is interesting to look at the countries through the prism of each category. Safety and Security is the weakest link in the chain for all of the region’s countries, except Turkmenistan, which means that we share a heavy burden of corruption, government ineffectiveness, and political instability across the region. At the same time, all of the Central Asian republics have a common strength – the Economic Opportunity criterion, which is the highest scoring for all of the region’s countries. This criterion considers the issues of employment, business opportunities, entrepreneurship, and “the overall ability of a nation to extend wealth and material comfort for its citizens” (CS Global partners, 2022). Kazakhstan outscores Greece, South Korea, and Türkiye in that regard, while Turkmenistan occupies the place right in the middle of the list (63/126), above Argentina, for instance. Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are placed 81st, 88th, and 91st, respectively. The region’s oil and gas exporting economies still attract a significantly higher amount of international interest despite the developing green and carbon-neutrality movements across the globe.
Financial Freedom criterion demonstrates a sharp division within the region, for Kyrgyzstan, this is the second-highest scoring category (94/158), for Uzbekistan (101/158), it is precisely in the middle, for Tajikistan, it is the second-lowest scoring (116/158), and for Turkmenistan, it has the lowest score (146/158). According to CS Global partners (2022), “the Financial Freedom motivator measures the ability of a jurisdiction to provide a favorable and stable regulatory climate for the establishment and functioning of businesses, as well as the holding of personal and business assets.” In other words, while the Economic Opportunity criterion looked at the economy’s health overall, the Financial Freedom criterion evaluates local tax and investment climate, the ease of establishing a business, and corruption issues. The situation for such countries as Turkmenistan changes dramatically, demonstrating the total dominance of a single sector over the whole economy. Simultaneously, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan that regulate their markets more liberally and create more favorable conditions for international investments are on the winning side.
The other two criteria are mainly in the middle – Quality of Life criterion, which is higher for wealthier countries, with Kazakhstan being the highest placed, followed by Uzbekistan (92/165), Turkmenistan (94/165), Kyrgyzstan (101), and Tajikistan (108). Finally, Global Mobility “measures the number of different jurisdictions that citizens can access visa-free and with visa-on-arrival with a given passport” (CS Global partners, 2022). Regarding the freedom of travel, most Central Asian (except for Kazakhstan) countries are placed close to each other. Tajikistan holds 102nd place, 103 belongs to Uzbekistan, 105th to Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan is ranked 108th globally.
In conclusion we can say that today, even the developing countries are progressing towards the vital understanding any country’s central resource is its people. This is especially true regarding highly skilled and productive individuals, who can afford to choose their citizenship, as they will be considered valuable assets anywhere, they go. Therefore, any country that will construct the conditions attractive enough for those people will have an advantage from the economic point of view. Central Asian countries also can participate in that competition and reap its benefits, yet they need to start paying attention and dedicating their efforts accordingly.
Abramov, Vyacheslav (2019). How emigration from Kazakhstan has changed over the decade. Retrieved from https://vlast.kz/obsshestvo/31526-kak-pomenalas-emigracia-iz-kazahstana-za-desatiletie.html. Accessed on 29.01.2022.
CS Global Partners (2022). World Citizenship Report. Retrieved from https://csglobalpartners.com/world-citizenship-report/ Accessed on 29.01.2022.
Khashimov, Sher, Zhandayeva, Raushan, Nuranova, Kymbat and Aisarina, Zhibek (2020). Introducing the Central Asia Migration Tracker. Retrieved from https://oxussociety.org/introducing-the-central-asia-migration-tracker/ Accessed on 30.01.2022.
The Global Economy (2020). Political stability: Country rankings. Retrieved from https://www.theglobaleconomy.com/rankings/wb_political_stability/ Accessed on 29.01.2022.
Transparency International (2021). Corruption perceptions index. Retrieved from https://www.transparency.org/en/cpi/2021/index/kaz Accessed on 30.01.2022.
Note: The views expressed in this blog are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the Institute’s editorial policy.
Nadirova Gulnar Ermuratovna graduated from the Oriental Faculty of Leningrad State University, in 1990 she defended her thesis on the Algerian literature at the Moscow Institute of Oriental Studies, in 2006 doctoral thesis - on modern Tunisian literature at the Tashkent Institute of Oriental Studies, Professor.