Domestic News in Brief

On June 8, Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov of Kazakhstan held a meeting on the implementation of the instructions given to the government by Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev on June 7. “The president returned to the Parliament the draft law on pension reform for additional discussion and voting on the term of the introduction of the rules to raise the retirement age for women. The president proposed to begin a phased increase of the retirement age for women, not from January 1, 2014, but from January 1, 2018,” Akhmetov said. The prime minister also said that the president instructed the government to work out the issues of legal support before the entry into force of the new law. In particular, to provide subsidies for compulsory pension contributions for working women during their stay on leave for the birth and care of children at the expense of the state. Total payments to the pension savings fund will be increased to 10 percent of their former income. An additional 5 percent of mandatory contributions from employers for the benefit of their employees will also be introduced. In addition, the government was tasked to develop a set of measures to further modernize the pension system until 2030, as well as mechanisms for investing pension fund assets in promising sectors of the economy. “We need to urgently start the execution of the instructions of the head ofstate,” Akhmetov said. In this regard, Akhmetov directed the establishment of a working group headed by Deputy Prime Minister Kairat Kelimbetov, which will prepare proposals and related calculations, as well as the draft concept for further modernization of the pension system until 2030. “In accordance with the instruction of the president, the concept should provide for the joint liability of state, employer and employee for the social protection of the citizens of Kazakhstan,” the prime minister added. Akhmetov also noted that the “president rightly criticized the government in terms of public outreach on the draft law.”I n this regard, Akhmetov instructed the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection to prepare a plan for expanded outreach to modernize the pension system taking into account the comments of the head of state and, particularly, to strengthen the involvement of the public. “We have a lot of work to further improve the pension system. This area concerns every citizen of the country, so all our actions must be verified and coordinated. The future of the pension system in our country depends on it,” Akhmetov concluded. In related news, President Nazarbayev dismissed Minister of Labour and Social Protection Serik Abdenov on June 10, following his criticism of the government’s clumsiness in communicating key fundamentals of the proposed pension reform.

New high-speed passenger train service Saraishyk, which will run between Almaty and Atyrau, began service on June 8. The 27-car train will depart every `other day, and travel time from Almaty to Atyrau will be 35.5 hours. The Grand class car has one section for people with disabilities and includes a shower, bathroom, specialized doors and a conductor call button. The car’s corridor is also wider for easier boarding and unloading. The train’s cars are assembled at the joint Kazakh-Spanish plant Tulpar-Talgo in Astana. The cars were purchased within the framework of the programme to increase the service life of the rolling stock of the Passenger Transportation JSC. In accordance with the programme, the plant will assemble 420 more cars by 2014. The new high-speed service will reduce travel times from Almaty to Atyrau (1,675 miles) from 49 to 35 hours. As earlier reported, high-speed trains utilizing Talgo cars currently run in four directions: between Almaty and Astana, Almaty and Shymkent, Almaty and Petropavlovsk, and Aktobe and Astana. Another five high-speed trains are expected to be launched as part of the programme on transport infrastructure development to 2015, and will run between Astana and Atyrau, Astana and Kyzylorda, Almaty and Aktobe, Astana and Zashchita, Almaty and Zashchita.

The new 1,250-seat Astana Opera and Ballet Theatre is to be unveiled in late June, according to city authorities who are also planning for the 15th anniversary celebration of the Kazakhstan capital. The opera “Birzhan Sara” by Kazakh composer Mukan Tulebayev will be the first to be staged at the new opera house.

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