Nazarbayev Addresses Regional Development in Government Reshuffle

ASTANA – On January 16 and 17, President Nursultan Nazarbayev signed numerous decrees reshuffling the Kazakh government and making several appointments in his administration and among regional governors.

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President Nursultan Nazarbayev (c) confers with Karim Massimov (r), his Chief of Staff, Serik Akhmetov (l), the Prime Minister, and Bakhytzhan Sagintayev (far left), the newly appointed First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Regional Development.

The reshuffle began with the creation of a new ministry – the Ministry of Regional Development – which incorporated two erstwhile agencies for housing construction and for land resources, as well as functions from other ministries.

According to the presidential decree, the new ministry will take over the functions of the reorganized Ministry of Economic Development and Trade in formulating and implementing state policy on issues of regional development, supporting entrepreneurship and coordinating activities of socio-entrepreneurial corporations.

Experts believe the creation of the new ministry reflects the central government’s growing focus on ensuring sustainable and interrelated growth of regions in a country five times the size of France. Another issue that spurred the creation of the new ministry is believed to be the need to ensure sustainable development of the more than 40 single industry towns scattered across the country, including settlements such as Zhanaozen, Kentau and Rudny.

“Such a ministry should have appeared earlier,” Dosym Satpayev, director of the Almaty-based private consultancy Risk Assessment Group, told the Astana Times in a phone interview. He added that the new ministry should give an impetus to activities of the regions in attracting investment. “Even though many regions are different from each other with one being the donor to the national budget and another being a depressive one, all of them have one problem: lack of action in attracting investments.”

Bakytzhan Sagintayev, 49, who used to be the akim (governor) of the Pavlodar region in 2008-12, as well as the minister of economic development and trade and first deputy chair of the ruling Nur Otan party in 2012, has been appointed First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Regional Development.

Also by the presidential decree, the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade was reorganized into the Ministry of Economy and Budget Planning. The reorganized ministry will receive new responsibilities for budget planning from the Ministry of Finance, as well as new responsibilities for formulating state policy for supporting investment and creating a beneficial investment climate from the Ministry of Industry and New Technologies, and acquire responsibility for formulating state policy in the sphere of domestic migration from the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The Ministry of Economy and Budget Planning will also now be responsible for formulating state policies on issues of developing a green economy. Yerbolat Dossayev, who previously served as minister of economic development and trade, was appointed the new Minister of Economy and Budget Planning.

The Ministry of Environment Protection will take care of the implementation and monitoring of state policies related to developing a green economy. This institution will hold the functions and powers of the Ministry of Agriculture in protecting and supervising the management of natural resources, the formulation of water management policies, as well as the functions and powers of water management and fisheries development, except for issues of reclamation.

The Ministry of Environment Protection will also be responsible for solid waste management, taking over these responsibilities from the disbanded Agency for Housing Construction. This ministry is also charged with formulating state policy in the field of renewable energy sources.

The recently established Agency for Atomic Energy has now been disbanded and incorporated as a committee in the Ministry of Industry and New Technologies.

Also, on January 16, according to the presidential press service, Marat Tazhin was relieved of his duties as Advisor to the President and Security Council Secretary and was appointed Secretary of State of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Tazhin, 52, served as Kazakhstan’s foreign minister from 2007 to 2009 and has been the longest serving national security advisor to the president.

Tazhin replaced Mukhtar Kul-Mukhammed, 52, who was reappointed Minister of Culture and Information for the third time in his career.

In turn, Kul-Mukhammed replaced Darkhan Mynbai, 49, who was dismissed as Minister of Culture and Information after one year and appointed Director of the new National Museum of Kazakhstan. The new huge museum is being built in Astana next to the Palace of Independence with completion expected later this year.

Also on that day, Talgat Yermegiyaev, 43, who had been the head of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports, which then was reorganized into the Agency for Sports, was appointed Chairman of the Board of the newly established Astana EXPO 2017 National Company. In mid-2012, Yermegiyaev oversaw the unprecedented success of Kazakhstan’s national team in the London Summer Olympics. Yermegiyaev’s appointment follows President Nazarbayev’s directive to the government and relevant ministries to complete 90 percent of the design and construction of EXPO 2017 facilities by the end of 2013. Nazarbayev underlined that EXPO 2017 in Astana should become the impetus for the third industrial revolution.

The president also instructed the government to transfer to the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection the functions and responsibilities of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the areas of migration, implementation of inter-agency coordination and the development of measures for the regulation and monitoring of migration, except for the functions and powers of fighting illegal immigration. The Ministry of Labour and Social Protection will also assume the responsibilities of counting and registering foreigners and stateless persons, as well as the preparation of documents relating to their temporary and permanent residence, their leaving the country for permanent residence, and other documentation, recording and registration of citizens, including refugees.

The head of state also instructed the government to ensure the establishment of the following: the Committee for Construction and Housing and Communal Services, the Business Development Committee, the Committee on Land Resources, all three at the Ministry of Regional Development; the Committee on Atomic Energy at the Ministry of Industry and New Technologies; the Committee on Migration at the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection; the Fisheries Committee and the Committee of Forestry and Hunting at the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

The reshuffle has also touched regional administrations. Krymbek Kusherbayev, the former governor of the Mangistau and West Kazakhstan regions and until recently a deputy prime minister, was appointed Akim (Governor) of the Kzyl Orda region in the southwest of the country.

Political scientist Daniyar Ashimbayev, the editor and publisher of Who Is Who in Kazakhstan, believes the reshuffle overall reflects a “new style of presidential politics”, one moving away from “revolutionary changes” towards a gradual reform of the government apparatus.

According to Ashimbayev, “the governmental reshuffle in the fall of 2012 was surprisingly smooth and was not accompanied by the upheaval of the ministries and their responsibilities.”

“It was obvious that the new prime minister, Serik Akhmetov, with the support of the head of state, chose to work some time with the old structure and team in order to understand shortcomings and to find a new formula. This is what happened now,” Ashimbayev told the Astana Times.

(For the full text of Ashimbayev’s opinion on the reshuffle, see the Opinions page).

Elsewhere, Bauyrzhan Baibek, a former deputy chief of staff to the president, was appointed first deputy chair of the Nur Otan party, replacing Bakytzhan Sagintayev. Baibek, 38, is one of the early graduates of the Bolashak presidential scholarship programme and remains chair of the Bolashak association of graduates.

On January 17, President Nazarbayev also announced he will outline specific priorities for the revamped government at its expanded session next week.