Why you should care
If you’re interested in the global economy — and you should be — you need to know about Singapore, Kazakhstan and Trinidad.
A handful of places around the world are emerging as business trendsetters, and OZY is keeping an eye on them for you. We’ve recently profiled an Asian gateway, a city built from the ground up that hopes to connect East and West, and a beautiful two-island Carribean nation that doesn’t need to rely on tourism. Have you read these stories yet?
It doesn’t take more than a few minutes in Astana — Kazakhstan’s futuristic new capital — to make you forget what little you may have assumed about the country, most of it no doubt from a certain Sacha Baron Cohen movie. Until about a decade ago, Astana was an insignificant provincial town. Then longtime President Nursultan Nazarbayev decided to move the capital to this empty stretch of grassland and build a city essentially from scratch.
After more than $10 billion in investment, most of it fueled by the country’s oil boom, the result is a towering urban center of glass skyscrapers and gleaming domes, the physical embodiment of the country’s vision of itself as a 21st-century global player, one that serves as a bridge between the East and the West.
The “Asian tiger” of the ’80s has successfully recast itself as a high-tech center. Long a regional economic powerhouse, Singapore is becoming one of a handful of places around the world that are attracting a new kind of elite global innovator — both the wealthy (like Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin) and those well on their way.
More and more, Singapore is going toe-to-toe with Hong Kong to become an Asian financial center — one roughly equidistant from Dubai, Mumbai, Beijing, Tokyo and Sydney. In recent years it has closed in on or surpassed Hong Kong and even money-friendly Switzerland to handle upwards of $1.29 trillion in personal assets under management.
The typical Caribbean vacation includes white-sand beaches and turquoise seas — as well as monolithic hotels, all-inclusive packages and too much rum. The double-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago is an exception. It has all the beachy beauty of other Caribbean countries but relatively few tourists competing for cabanas.
It’s Caribbean exceptionalism at its finest, and Trinis have a natural gas boom to thank. In the past 15 years, natural gas exports have grown from nil to 623 billion cubic feet (in 2011). Today, Trinidad and Tobago’s energy sector contributes more than 40 percent of the country’s GDP and 70 percent of its foreign exchange. The upshot: Unlike its Caribbean brethren, Trinidad doesn’t need your tourism — tanks.