A central Asian transformation
From basket case to poster boy: Kazakhstan has pulled off a remarkable turnround in the past few years. In the midst of a financial storm that swept through eastern Europe in 1998 the central bank, under the leadership of Grigori Marchenko, pushed through some of the most radical reforms yet seen in the former Soviet Union. Russia's crisis and devaluation hurt all the countries in the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) and Kazakhstan was forced to devalue its currency by half in 1999. But remarkably, while Russia's devaluation all but destroyed most of its big banks, those in Kazakhstan escaped largely unscathed. Since then the banks have been growing - indeed, Marchenko reckons, growing "too fast".
"Our financial sector is growing very rapidly," he says.