Astana’s Development Needs Special Attention, Says President

Astana development meetingASTANA – President Nursultan Nazarbayev held a meeting on the future of Astana on Nov. 27, noting that a recent visit to Astanagenplan inspired him to think deeper about the city’s future.

“The city’s population is increasing and is currently 900,000. We originally planned to achieve this mark between 2020 and 2030. In this regard, development of the city lags behind its population’s growth, that’s why certain difficulties have begun to arise. Of course, we are working on the development of all cities in the country, but the capital should be given special attention. This spring, I held a meeting on this matter and gave a number of instructions. I saw progress in their implementation, but we face new challenges that require appropriate solutions,” Nazarbayev said.

The President said that 188 plots of 7,000 hectares were returned to state ownership.

“According to the General Prosecutor’s Office, currently, 11,000 hectares of land has not been returned. Of these, 711 plots were wrongly listed as hosting construction projects. Why hasn’t this land been returned? A variety of reasons are cited. In 2008, the akimat (city administration) reached an agreement with land users, who were ready to transfer the land to the state at the land’s initial cost. Once the plots had been bought at a low price and when it came time for construction, they ask for a higher price. This allows major profiteering off of state lands. This outrage must end. The money is not earned fairly. It is one thing when the money spent by the landowner is returned legally, but when state needs arise, the land should be returned. We have all legal avenues at our disposal,” Nazarbayev noted.

Nazarbayev noted that in areas close to the capital, there is no legal procedure regarding land issues, this has resulted in an epidemic of squatting.

“Development of land around Astana happens haphazardly. The current population is already ahead of 2015 forecasts. Today, 156,000 people live there, while there are 175,000 in waiting. Citizens are really taking advantage of their right to ten acres of land. However, these lots can only be given if and once they are connected to utilities. If the lots are not prepared, they cannot be made available for use. We must reign in the chaos here. Therefore, I declare a moratorium on land grants within a 30 kilometre radius of Astana,” the President said.

Nazarbayev also instructed the Akim (Governor) of the Akmola region, Kosman Aitmukhametov to adjust the master plans of all settlements located around the capital and General Prosecutor Askhat Daulbaev to analyse crime levels and increase crime prevention measures in Astana.

The President also drew attention to the analysis of data on housing prices in the report given to him.

“On average, the price per square metre exceeds the initial cost 2-3-fold. For example, in the “Europe Palace” residential complex, apartments with an initial cost of $1,000 per square metre are sold at $3.5 thousand per square metre. In the Highvill complex, the initial cost was $1.5 thousand, but units go for $4-5 thousand. In the Paris quarter, which has an initial cost of $1,300, apartments are sold at $5,000. These are sky-high prices. The building company Europe Palace paid only 1.6 million tenge (US$10,370) in taxes,” Nazarbayev underlined.

He stressed that a comprehensive approach is needed in solving this issue.

“There is a cement company cartel that raised prices. These companies will be allowed to profit, but not at five or six times what they should be bringing in. Nobody monitors this. On this issue, we must look not only in Astana for violations, but also in other regions of the country. Relevant government agencies must pay careful attention,” he said.

Nazarbayev noted that in the first years of the active development of the city, many buildings were built and renovated with poor quality materials. This is what led the President to order builders to pay attention to the city’s aesthetics.

In Astana, the traffic problem is also getting worse. Nazarbayev noted that there have been negotiations with French companies regarding the launch of light rail transport in the capital.

“Their price was high, more than 300 billion tenge (US$1.944 billion), which does not suit us. Therefore, the akimat proposed that lanes be reserved strictly for city buses. The first phase of this project requires much less money and therefore, it was chosen,” Nazarbayev said.

At the meeting, Akim (Mayor) of Astana, Imangali Tasmagambetov reported on the development of smart transport systems. One will be introduced in 2016 and will allow for the automatic regulation of all traffic flowing into the city. Tasmagambetov also reported on the reconstruction of TPP-1 and the construction of TPP-3.

Aitmukhametov briefed on efforts to create a “food belt” around Astana.

Following the meeting, the head of state gave specific instructions for the further development of the capital, the improvement of the city and proper protocol for the heating season.

The meeting was attended by Prime Minister Serik Akhmetov, head of the Presidential Administration, Karim Massimov, Chairman of the Board of Samruk-Kazyna, Umirzak Shukeyev, Deputy Head of the Presidential Administration Gabidulla Abdrakhimov, General Prosecutor Askhat Daulbayev, as well as the akims of Astana and of the Akmola region.