This article provides an overview of Nur-Sultan for those keen to explore the possibility of living and working in the city. The information presented is gathered from open sources and is not exhaustive or meant to supplement or substitute legal and professional advice.
- Country: Kazakhstan
- Land area: 810.2 km sq
- Official language: Kazakh
- Currency: Tenge
Nur-Sultan, known as Astana before March 2019, is the capital city of Kazakhstan. It is located in the north-central part of the country, along the Ishim River, at the junction of the Trans-Kazakhstan and South Siberian railways. Founded in 1824 as a Russian military outpost, Nur-Sultan became an administrative centre in 1868. It was made an oblast (province) in 1939.
The city grew in importance during the Soviet period and in 1961, the city was named Tselinograd, meaning “City of the Virgin Lands” in Russian. The city saw rapid development with new construction projects and the establishment of various research and higher educational institutions. Following Kazakhstan’s independence in 1992, the city’s name was changed to Aqmola. In 1997, the national capital was transferred from Almaty to Aqmola and the city’s name was changed to Astana (“Capital City” in Kazakh), the following year. From 1990 onwards, President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s government embarked on a massive expansion and reconstruction of Astana. The city continued to develop rapidly throughout Nazarbayev’s presidency, and on 20 March 2019, the city was renamed Nur-Sultan in his d Asia.
Nur-Sultan’s convenient location at the centre of the Eurasian continent makes it an economically viable transport, communication and logistics centre. It serves as a kind of “transit bridge” between Europe and Asia. Moreover, the transfer of the capital from Almaty in 1997 gave a powerful impetus to the economic development of Nur-Sultan.
The city’s economy is based on industrial production, transport, communications, trade and construction. Industrial production is mainly focused on building materials, food and beverages, and mechanical engineering. Nur-Sultan occupies a prominent position in Kazakhstan in the production of construction metal products, ready-to-use concrete, and construction products made of concrete. The city’s largest enterprises include the Tselinograd car-repair plant, Tsesna-Astyk concern, Tulpar-Talgo LLP passenger-car assembly plant, and the Eurocopter Kazakhstan Engineering LLP helicopter assembly plant. The high growth rates of Nur-Sultan’s economy attract numerous investors.
Nur-Sultan is reported to have carried strong momentum into the Covid-19 pandemic and continued to attract investors during 2020 and 2021. It saw record-high foreign direct investment in 2020 to the tune of US$2.6 billion, a 20 percent increase from 2019. One of the main reasons for this is that Nur-Sultan barely suspended construction work in 2020, allowing building works to go on under strict sanitary regulations. The city’s economy also benefitted from a number of foreign investment projects in the production of medical masks and protective suits.
Nur-Sultan boasts futuristic architecture with a skyline that rivals Dubai’s. The city is also home to educational and cultural institutions, including several universities, an opera, a symphony orchestra, museums and shopping malls. Nur-Sultan is distinctly modern, thanks to President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s efforts to make it a culturally advanced city in Central Asia. The city has been spending billions of dollars hiring international architects, making Nur-Sultan an interesting site with a unique mix of futuristic architecture and a Kazakh flair. It is home to many impressive government buildings, such as the Presidential Palace, Parliament House and Supreme Court.
Noteworthy tourist spots include the Bayterek, a 97-metre high monument and observation tower completed in 1997. It is meant to embody a Kazakh folk tale about a mythical tree of life and a magic bird of happiness. The height of the tower commemorates the year that Nur-Sultan became the nation’s capital in 1997.
Unveiled in 2006, the Khan Shatyr is a giant, glowing tent built in the neo-futurist style. Standing at 150 metres, the tent has an enormous 140,000 square metre base. Inside, it houses a park large enough to fit 10 football stadiums. It also has numerous shopping and entertainment venues, a boating river and a mini golf course. Designed by British architect Norman Foster, it is the highest tent structure in the world. During the day, it is entirely flooded with sunlight, while at night, the Khan Shatyr is a site to behold, as it is brilliantly lit up by changing colours.
Singapore and Nur-Sultan
Total bilateral trade in goods between Singapore and Kazakhstan was valued at $133.6 million in 2017. Singapore’s imports from Kazakhstan amounted to $110.7 million, while Singapore’s exports to the country stood at $23 million. On 21 November 2018, Singapore and Kazakhstan signed a bilateral investment treaty that sought to support greater investment flows between both countries by protecting the interests of investors from Singapore and Kazakhstan and providing them with more confidence to seize investment opportunities. Another 12 agreements were signed on the same day at the Kazakhstan-Singapore Business Forum.
On 14 October 2019, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean visited Nur-Sultan to hold meetings with the country’s leaders. At the meetings, they reaffirmed the warm ties between Singapore and Kazakhstan and welcomed the free trade agreement between Singapore and the Eurasian Economic Union that had been signed on 1 October 2019. The agreement is expected to strengthen trade and investment links between Singapore, Kazakhstan and the trade bloc, comprising Kazakhstan, Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan and Russia.
Singaporean Ms Queenie Lee’s business venture Aveneer, is among a cluster of Singapore companies that has made a mark in Kazakhstan. Being taken in by the immense tourism potential of what was considered an “exotic” location in Central Asia, Ms Lee has set up a tour consultancy business in Kazakhstan. Other Singapore companies in Kazakhstan include education consultancy Educare, urban planning company RSP Architects Planners and Engineers, and coffee and tea manufacturing company Food Empire.