Kazakhstani cities with a population of more than one million people will be able to allocate money for the development of infrastructure in the suburban areas. It is expected that the same approach will be employed in smaller towns with a population of 500,000 people.
These proposals are part of the new legislation on the development of agglomerations that has been adopted by the country’s parliament. According to National Economy Minister Alibek Kuantyrov, big cities and different regions are going to cooperate to find better solutions for joint infrastructure development.
“In the city of Almaty, for example, there are territories around the city along the administrative border of the Almaty region, where social infrastructure needs improvement and where many locals prefer to travel to the city each day. On the other hand, the city is optimized for only city-dwellers and extra pressure on urban infrastructure is a problem. Now, the new legislation is clearing the way for financial support from the city of Almaty’s budget to its suburbs, which are part of the Almaty region,” he said.
The official noted that this money will be allocated for the construction of new transport, engineering and social facilities.
Moreover, the legislation implies that authorities of the capital city of Astana and other big cities will be able to borrow funds from external sources.
There are several big agglomerations in Kazakhstan and each of them reports certain imbalances between cities and their suburbs in terms of economic, financial and human resources. The fast and uncontrolled growth in population in big cities and their suburbs is the key driver of these imbalances. Over the past ten years, the population of Astana, Shymkent and Almaty, for instance, grew by 59%, 37% and 67% respectively. This has already caused a sharp increase in pressure on the cities’ infrastructure, increased crime and emergence of chaotic housing development.
The government has created specific criteria for such an agglomeration, including its size in population and potential to grow further in terms of logistics and economy. So far, only three cities fully meet these criteria: Almaty, Astana, and Shymkent. However, once the 500,000 resident criteria is in place, Aktobe and probably Karaganda will be put on this list as well.
Since the new status of agglomeration will require close cooperation between city administrations and their counterparts in regional governments, the legislation implies dozens of additional rights for these officials. For example, they will be able to participate in joint meetings, discuss common problems and sign agreements aimed at solving these problems.
Authorities from cities and regions will also be part of a joint effort on creating a detailed plan for the development in each agglomeration. Moreover, they must establish and participate in the work of local agglomeration councils.
By using these tools, the government wants to mitigate the differences between cities and their suburbs. In order to reach this goal, the parliament has already approved a set of amendments to the Budget and Land Codes as well as five additional national laws.