President Calls on Government to Act as Year’s End Looms

President Nazarbayev had some tough words for ministers and akims during the Oct. 11 meeting.

President Nazarbayev had some tough words for ministers and akims during the Oct. 11 meeting.

ASTANA – At the end of the first year of the Kazakhstan 2050 state programme, President Nursultan Nazarbayev addressed the ministers and listened to their reports on developments in the country over the past nine months. The programme is expected to propel the country into the 30 most developed countries by 2050.

During the expanded government meeting in Astana on Oct. 11 chaired by President Nazarbayev, he emphasized the importance of industrialisation, addressed current issues such as fatalities on roads, the financial sector and the embezzlement in state procurements. He also pointed out some of the downfalls of tasks set at the beginning of 2013 and strongly criticized the current government and its officials for poor performance.

“First of all, we need to sort out the approved programmes,” Nazarbayev said in the beginning of his address. “We need all of these [state programs], but the state has its own terms; much like during a permanent crisis, we need to preserve our resources for difficult times, therefore, we will have limited financing for some programmes,” the president explained.

President Nazarbayev explained to the ministers why his confidence in the “green economy” has been shaken.

“The Prime Ministers of Spain and France, two leading European economies, told me to be very careful, said they spent huge amounts of money [on the green economy], altered the old energy system and still did not get the desired results.”

Nazarbayev also noted that the reduction of alternative energy costs is very slow and in light of this, he advised the government not to rush green economy projects, but rather wait for their costs to further drop.

Nazarbayev charged the Minister of Culture and Information with sorting out issues surrounding TV channels and local media outlets.

“You spend huge amounts of money. The state has never allotted so much of its budget to the mass media. What are you thinking when planning your budgets? The channels “Bilim” and “Madeniet” are the same thing in my mind. When I watch these channels, I see zero content, they are devoid of substance. They show Animal World and classic films. That is it. There are many people employed at each of these channels, but they have no creativity. CaspioNet is now called Kazakh TV and now there is a new channel called 24KZ. Aren’t these the same channel? We are wasting time and squandering funds instead of delivering high quality products,” the president said in discontent.

The president also urged ministers not to show off.

“In Karaganda, there is a plant that produces Fermer airplanes, that was proudly presented by Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov, but the plant has only produced one plane; they say it does not fly and leans on one of its wings. What do we need this “spectacle” for if it doesn’t even work?” the President demanded.

But Nazarbayev underscored that in general, the five-year industrialisation plan has yielded positive results.

“Five hundred and thirty six projects were put forward, totalling 2.1 billion tenge ($13.7 million). These [projects] have already produced 2.2 billion tenge ($14 million) but have not paid themselves off and are now generating debt. Seventy thousand jobs have been created. We need to continue on this path, develop the second high quality five-year plan and reduce the pace of investments in this field,” the president said.

Nazarbayev tasked Minister of Internal Affairs Kalmukhanbet Kassymov with fighting fatalities on the roads.

“A driver under the influence of alcohol is a serious offender that needs to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the existing law, or we need to make these laws stricter. The situation is a huge mess. On one hand, when our human capital suffers, we treat it, work for population expansion and longevity, but on the other hand, we are still losing people to the roads,” the president said in dismay.

According to the president, in the past nine months alone, there have been 2,273 fatalities, and 22,000 injuries on the road.

Nazarbayev also showed his discontent with progress on alcohol reform.

“I have specifically ordered the tightening of control over alcohol sales. A special bill was drafted, but now, consideration of the bill has been postponed until 2015. Don’t explain; act!” President Nazarbayev told Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov stressing that Kazakhstan is a leading alcohol consumer.

The president charged the government with raising prices and taxes on hard liquor and reducing prices and taxes on beer and wine and limiting the hours and locations of sales.

“This is what all other countries have done! Or are there other ways of going about it?” the president inquired.

During the meeting, the president expressed outrage by the current situation at the Zhilstroysberbank, where top management officials gave apartments to its already highly paid employees.

“This mess needs to be cleaned up,” he said. “Zhilstroysberbank’s top management already has multimillion tenge salaries and purchases apartments at preferential prices through their programmes. I was informed that the chairman, all of her deputies, the Almaty branch director, his brother and department director were given new apartments. Also, the managing director, his brother, and his son, who gave apartments away to third parties as a gift, also got apartments. I am not looking into this because I have nothing better to do, but because I am looking at a list of more than 20 bank employees [that received apartments]. Did we establish the bank to benefit its employees? Make them return these [apartments] and give them to those who were supposed to get them. They say the chairman is a good man and works hard, but this doesn’t give him the right to indulge himself as he wishes and misbehave,” the president noted.

The prime minister charged his government with carrying out all changes requested by the head of state.

“Today, we had a very serious and frank talk with our head of state that included constructive criticism. We must include all tasks outlined by the president in a complex plan and get to work,” Akhmetov said after the meeting.

Akhmetov charged all-levels of central state bodies with formulating the state budget. Regional akims were charged with coming up with certain suggestions to improve state procurement programmes. He also charged regional managers with preparing for the upcoming winter and stabilising the prices of basic products.