Aitkul Samakova, the deputy of the Mazhilis and the head of the Social Council of the Nur Otan party faction in the lower chamber of Parliament, is a former long-time chair of the National Commission on Family Affairs and Gender Policy under the President and a former minister of the environment of Kazakhstan. She spoke to The Astana Times about challenges the country faces in developing a more socially conscious state, including through efforts to promote the rights of women and of pysically and mentally challenged people.
What are the most important aspects of the President’s Address “Kazakhstan’s Path 2050: Common Goal, Common Interests, Common Future” that you would like to highlight?
As always, the President’s address is a very powerful, serious, calibrated and bold policy document. It develops goals for the Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy.
The plan to enter the top 30 most developed countries is ambitious and requires a step-by-step programme. The task is not easy, but feasible.
The document outlined by the President determines the baseline direction and ways to achieve Kazakhstan 2050’s goals, including annual GDP growth of no less than 4 percent, growth of labour productivity up to $126,000 and increase of per capita GDP to $60,000.
The share of the middle class will increase and 70 percent of Kazakhstan nationals will live in cities. The first modern urban centres will become major cities of the country – Astana and Almaty, Shymkent and Aktobe. Life expectancy will grow to 80 years.
In my opinion, prospects for the development of the social sphere are especially important in the address. The head of state has repeatedly said that Kazakhstan should become one of the most safe and comfortable countries for living. That is, everyone will have the opportunity to study, to work and to realise potential.
The document says that the social well-being of ordinary people should be a key indicator of progress towards our main goal. What changes are expected in education and healthcare?
In the field of education by 2020, we will provide 100 percent coverage of children aged three to six with preschool education. Also, an objective has been set to reduce school overcrowding in Kazakhstan over the next three years.
All secondary schools will improve their level of teaching and reach the level of the Nazarbayev Intellectual Schools. The state will guarantee technical education to young people.
The leading universities are tasked to transfer to academic and administrative autonomy with the creation of effective systems to support students with high achievements.
As for healthcare, a top priority is development of primary healthcare. The President has directed the officials to study the issue of compulsory health insurance with the prospect of its introduction. The joint liability of the state, the employer and the employee for his or her health should be the main principle of the whole healthcare system.
People with disabilities will be broadly involved in active life and realise themselves as useful workers.
Currently, there are more than 625,000 physically and mentally challenged people in Kazakhstan, of whom 65 percent are of working age. People with disabilities can work in consumer services, the food industry and agriculture. The possibility of introducing a special quota of 5-10 people per organisation to promote employment among the physically and mentally challenged will be considered in the near future.
Every year, more and more attention in our country is paid to people with disabilities. And if earlier we spoke about the size and type of benefits for them, now a wide system of social support and vocational rehabilitation is being formed in the republic.
Can you elaborate on the new document which is to enshrine the core values of the Kazakhstan society – the patriotic act “Mangilik Yel”?
I think that we need such a document. As the President said, “Mangilik Yel” (Kazakh for Eternal Nation) is the national idea of our common home, Kazakhstan. During the years of independence, the country has created the values that unite all people and make up the foundation of the future of our country.
This is national unity, peace and harmony in our society, economic growth through industrialisation. This is the Society of Universal Labour, the participation of our country in addressing global and regional issues.
We must unite to meet the new breakthrough challenges set in the President’s address to build a stable and prosperous Kazakhstan.
For almost ten years you headed the National Commission on Family Affairs and Gender Policy under the President. And what are the priorities in your current activity in the Social Council of the Nur Otan faction in the Mazhilis (lower chamber of the Parliament)?
Actually, the Social Council is an advisory body and its main function is to ensure legislative activity on issues of social policy, social development and participation in the development of specific recommendations to improve the existing legislation. We organise and hold meetings and roundtables and take an active part in parliamentary and public hearings, international and national conferences.
In fact, the Social Council is an interactive platform to discuss the most pressing social issues. Thus, we organised a public hearing to discuss a draft code on people’s health and the healthcare system. And it should be noted that many important proposals were made. For example, the need to introduce in the code a special status of cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
Also, we took an active part in consideration of the draft Code “On Marriage and Family” and Mazhilis members introduced in it the whole chapter on surrogacy, as the number of childless couples in the country is quite large (16 percent).
We studied the situation with orphans in Kazakhstan and made progress on this issue: now they receive an allowance of 10 minimum payment indicators and are provided with housing. Previously, they were removed from the queue after reaching the age of 23. Today, they remain in the waiting list until they obtain housing.
Our council initiated the development of the law “On State Guarantees of Equal Rights and Equal Opportunities for Men and Women in the Republic of Kazakhstan” and we drafted the bill “On Prevention of Domestic Violence.”
The members of the council constantly visit regions, take part in meetings with people and are involved in public receptions of Nur Otan, which allows us to identify problems and solve them effectively.
In general, we have a lot of work and it is important work because it addresses the pressing problems of the population. My experience suggests that any case must be treated responsibly and seriously. And such a platform is a great opportunity to meet people, to be in the thick of things and be aware that you have a real opportunity through the legislation, and sometimes directly, to help people.
What about demographic problems in Kazakhstan and efforts to address them?
The question of demography is most closely associated with the theme of family. And one of the main levers that can be used to solve the demographic problem is a family policy of the state. In our country, the state is constantly taking measures to enhance the institute of family and to raise its status. Only the family has prospects to increase fertility and only in a family environment can three, four and five children be born.
To achieve the goals of the state in the field of population issues, it is necessary to include the problems of demographic development in government documents and strategies of economic and political development. The issues of promoting health and healthy lifestyles and increasing active living should be cornerstones of demographic policy.
Why, in your opinion, is the role of women in contemporary society becoming increasingly relevant?
The role of women in the modern world is defined by their right not only to work actively, raise children, but also to directly participate in social life. Today, women occupy top positions and at the same time it does not prevent them caring for the family. Career development and personal growth become important for many women. It is also important for a woman to be independent. And progress made by small-sized business today allows them to work even at home.