* GDP growth to outstrip other ex-Soviet economies
* Inflation in 2012 to be slightly over 6 pct - Deputy PM
By Raushan Nurshayeva
ASTANA, Dec 6 Kazakhstan's economy, the largest
in Central Asia, is expected to expand by at least 5 percent
this year, outpacing growth in Russia and other former Soviet
economies, Deputy Prime Minister Kairat Kelimbetov said.
Annual inflation would also be at the low end of a forecast
range of between 6 percent and 8 percent this year, compared
with 7.4 percent in 2011, Kelimbetov told reporters.
"We are planning by the end of the year for GDP growth of no
less than 5 percent and inflation a little above 6 percent," he
said on Thursday.
Kazakhstan's gross domestic product was $185 billion at the
end of 2011. The country of 16.7 million people is the largest
oil producer in the Soviet Union after Russia, and is also the
world's biggest uranium miner and a leading exporter of wheat.
The latest forecast for GDP growth is below the 7.5 percent
growth recorded in 2011, but appears set to outpace growth of
3.5 percent forecast Russia this year.
In Ukraine, officials say GDP growth this year may be about
1 percent, although some analysts expect the economy to stagnate
after shrinking 1.3 percent year-on-year in the third quarter.
Ratings agency Fitch raised its view of Kazakhstan's credit
profile on Nov. 20 in recognition of the country's sovereign
balance sheet and initial efforts to cleanse bad debts from its
The BBB+ long-term foreign currency issuer rating, with a
stable outlook, pushed Kazakhstan firmly into investment grade
territory and a notch above Russia.
Kazakhstan's sovereign debt is just 11 percent of GDP, and
Fitch expects a budget surplus of 3 percent of GDP next year.
The state also saved more than half of oil export inflows
last year in a rainy-day fund. The National Fund had swollen to
$57.5 billion by the end of November from $43.7 billion at the
end of last year.
"Kazakhstan has built significant buffers to guard against
external shocks," Renaissance Capital said in a research note on
Dec. 5. "Its welfare fund's assets amount to 23.5 percent of GDP
versus 6.1 percent in Russia."
A slowdown in inflation earlier this year has prompted
Kazakhstan's central bank to cut its key refinancing rate on
four separate occasions since February. It has been at a
historic low of 5.5 percent since Aug. 6.
Annual inflation has since quickened, reaching 5.6 percent
in November after it became apparent the drought-hit grain crop
would be less than half of the record harvest in 2011.
(Writing by Robin Paxton; editing by Ron Askew)