Kazakh Growth Cut Nearly 50%

ASTANA, Kazakhstan -- Kazakhstan nearly halved its three-year economic growth range to below 3 percent on Tuesday, blaming weaker prices for its oil and metals exports.

The global financial crisis has ended years of double-digit economic expansion after Kazakhstan took a heavy beating from falling oil prices and plummeting investor interest in higher-risk emerging assets.

Presenting changes to the 2009-2011 budget to the upper house of parliament, Economy Minister Bakhyt Sultanov said the government projected growth of 2.7 percent to 4.1 percent in each of these years from the previous official forecast of 5.0 percent to 7.0 percent.

"Kazakhstan, like other countries, has felt the negative impact of external factors," he said.

"Global prices for oil and metals -- Kazakhstan's main export items -- are falling."

Prime Minister Karim Masimov previously said the economy was likely to expand 3 percent next year compared with this year's planned 5 percent. Last year, GDP grew 9.7 percent.

Next year's budget is based on an average oil price of $40 a barrel -- a sharp correction from the previous estimate of $60.

Kazakhstan, with 60 percent of its economy reliant on oil exports, has announced a $21 billion rescue package, equivalent to roughly 20 percent of the economy, to help its banking sector battle the credit crisis.