This paper evaluates the factors that shape the establishment of transparent institutions in resource-rich countries with a specific focus on Kazakhstan. Specifically, it draws upon indepth interviews and analysis of key institutions to understand the pace and intensity of transparency reforms in the Central Asian state. It argues that external transparency promotion can lead to institutional reform only when it is matched with strong elite incentives in favor of reforms. Kazakhstan has had few incentives to comply with Western-initiated norms before 2014, an era of relative economic security. As a consequence, the political elite often stalled the successful implementation of reforms. However, the economic turbulence following the fall of oil prices and Russia’s annexation of Crimea have motivated the Kazakh government to embrace the norm of transparency in order to attract foreign investment.

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