I wrote this from Almaty for TIME magazine, which ran it on 12 March 2002.
2030: That's the number posted in shops and on signs everywhere in Almaty. 2030 is also the enormous, brightly lit number hanging from the top of my hotel, at twenty-six floors, the tallest building in the city. 2030 is the year Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has set for the fulfillment of his grand economic strategy, intended to be a shining example for the rest of the developing world. For several years, 2030 has been proclaimed as the target year, the date when prosperity will come to all Kazakhstani citizens.
The fact that the 62-year-old Nazarbayev is unlikely to ever see 2030 does not go unnoticed among the wider population; talk to people here about 2030, and you get wry smiles and rolling eyes. In fact, it's more or less a running national joke — except it isn't very funny. That one number sums up everything that's currently wrong with Kazakhstan, and the number is everywhere, constantly reminding people just how misgoverned they are.