Kazakhstan to go through political and economic transformation

Kazakhstan to go through political and economic transformation

A project created by President Kassym-Zhomart Tokaev - the National Council of Public Trust (NCPT) - was launched in Kazakhstan. First meeting, held on September 6, was chaired by the head of state. Experts determined a range of issues that interest civil society, and mechanisms for their implementation should be developed by the government.

In the beginning of summer, Kassym-Zhomart Tokaev proposed to create public trust council, which activities would be aimed at developing proposals and recommendations on pressing public policy issues based on a wide discussion with the public. It included experts, civil servants, representatives of public organizations and the media - a total of 44 people. On the eve of the first meeting, three working groups were created that developed proposals and reforms of political, economic and social spheres. As researcher of the Center for Central Asia, Caucasus and Volga Region Studies at the Oriental Studies Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Alexander Vorovyov, told Vestnik Kavkaza, Tokayev’s initiative is an attempt to find new tools of work with civil society, aimed at improvement of authority of the government and stability of the political system of Kazakhstan.

During the meeting of the NCPT head of state once again outlined his position on key issues. In particular, he said that "political reforms will be implemented without looking too far ahead, thoughtfully and gradually, but at the same time without lagging behind." "Reforms will not be carried out just for the sake of reforms," Tokayev said, noting that "new solutions to old problems are needed." He also stressed that Kazakhstan will remain a state with presidential form of government. Tokayev drew attention to the fact that current state ideology doesn't have such concepts as “enemies of the people”, “fifth column”, “agents of influence”. “I hope it never will. That would be unacceptable for us. We firmly believe in loyalty and patriotism of our citizens,” he stressed.

“Kazakhstan is entering a new period of its political development, which is characterized by the same processes that are taking place in the world, in Russia, the US, France. This includes increase in populist sentiments, increase in social stratification, increase in public distrust in the elites. Accordingly, preventive measures are needed in our work with society in order to take these processes under control. Otherwise, they will acquire independent nature, and it will be difficult to stop them," Alexander Vorobyov believes. That's why, in his opinion, Tokaev pays so much attention to socio-economic aspects, including debt write-offs, support for the poor, response to public demands and dissatisfaction of citizens, as well as attempts to build communication with society, improve authority of the government and stability of political system of Kazakhstan.

NCPT made several proposals, but mechanisms of their implementation should be developed by authorities. For example, group that works on political issues, headed by Marat Shibutov and Aidos Sarym, presented 22 laws that would regulate political sphere of the country and need to be adjusted. "As statements made by our citizens, human rights defenders, representatives of political parties and non-governmental organizations show, our priority should be to change the following regulations: "On the procedure of organization and conduction of peaceful meetings, rallies, marches, pickets and demonstrations in the Republic of Kazakhstan", "On political parties", "On the media", "On elections in the Republic of Kazakhstan", "On the parliament and status of its deputies," Aidos Sarym noted at the meeting. In addition, two concepts should be developed that would would immediately change all legislation on the concept of local self-government and concept of reform of the judicial and penal systems.

According to Kazakh expert, chief editor of the Information and Analytical Center of Moscow State University, Zhanar Tulindinova, it's likely that Kazakh society expected more determination from working group on political modernization. However, it seems that political reforms sphere is where deepest contradictions between expectations of society and interests of political establishment lay.

Proposals in economic bloc were presented by Rakhim Oshakbaev. He pointed out shortcomings in the work of the Unified Accumulative Pension Fund (UAPF), during the existence of which (2013-2018) accumulated investment returns reached 56.1% and accumulated inflation reached 56.5%. Despite all inefficiencies, administrative expenses of UAPF amount to 20 billion tenge annually. "It's very difficult to imagine how could they spend 20 billion tenge of administrative expenses," economist said. But most of all he was amazed by indicators of real profitability of the UAPF in the first half of 2019 - only 0.09%. "It's amazing!" Oshakbaev said. He noted that "over the past ten years, the state has provided banks with direct and indirect support worth over $20 billion," which is especially noteworthy considering recently reported information about huge bonuses of board members of Kazakhstani second-tier banks in 2018. “If we look strictly at government spending, we can conclude that banks are the most subsidized sector of the economy,” economist said.

Particular attention was paid to land issue. Expert Mukhtar Taizhan suggested that foreigners shouldn't be given land leases. "We must correctly regulate land issues. Land is the foundation of our state, our economy. We must take away undeveloped lands," public figure Mukhtar Taizhan said. Tokaev responded that without foreign investments, there would be no development. But at the same time, president called on Kazakh people to not believe in rumors about the sale of land for construction of foreign factories.

According to experts, these proposals are enough to understand that president and authorities are ready for real reforms, and that NCPT is a real platform for dialogue and decision-making. "Of course, these wishes won't be fully implemented. Reforms will require not only large financial support, but also basic foundations - openness of the government and political system as a whole," Vorobyov noted.

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