It does not matter who or what you are, but bold ambitions are never enough on their own. They always have to be matched with a practical programme to achieve your goals. As many people know, setting a target to lose weight, for example, doesn’t work unless coupled with real changes to diets and exercise.
Governments and countries have far more complex and important challenges to overcome, but can’t escape the same remorseless logic. National goals need to be coupled with well thought-out measures to achieve them, which then have to be put into practice. Such plans also need to be robust enough to cope with the inevitable bumps on the road.
No one can fault Kazakhstan for lack of ambition. The over-arching goal of joining the ranks of the top 30 developed countries by 2050 shows a country which has set its sights very high. Indeed, without remembering all that has been achieved since independence, it might seem a pretty impractical target. But continuing this progress is no means certain, particularly given the worsening global outlook. All countries, including Kazakhstan, are being buffeted by strong geo-political and economic headwinds.
This is why President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s Plan of the Nation “100 Concrete Steps” programme, unveiled soon after his re-election in a landslide nearly two months ago, is so critical to the country’s future. It sets out detailed, specific measures to deliver wide-ranging institutional change in five areas seen as the essential foundation if sustained progress is to be continued. The aim is to ensure the country can both chart its way through the current turbulent conditions and arrive as planned at the final destination.
It is a remarkably comprehensive reform agenda which will see the transformation of every sector and every area of society. A more effective, professional civil service which works better for the citizen and country will be shaped. The corrupt and the incompetent will be rooted out through better recruitment, monitoring and training. Public sector pay will be linked more closely to performance to encourage a much closer focus on outcomes.
Kazakhstan, too, will see the rule of law further strengthened through a more expert and impartial judiciary with better trained and accountable police. The expansion of trial by jury will increase both the role of the citizen and his or her trust in the process. So, too, will the creation of local police forces which can respond to the priorities of the communities they serve.
Such reforms to improve the rule of law will also help protect the rights of investors and increase the stake of citizens in their society. The rise of the middle class, the growth of agile small and medium-sized businesses and Kazakhstan’s openness to foreign investment and partnerships, exceptional within the wider region, have been major factors in the country’s economic success and increasing prosperity.
There are a raft of practical, targeted measures within the 100 Steps programme to support new investment and diversification and encourage entrepreneurship. The creation of an international financial centre in Astana, backed again with concrete steps, such as the introduction of the English law as the law of the centre, was another eye-catching initiative. Streamlining customs regulations and improving and modernising transport links will help boost trade and drive economic growth.
The 100 Steps initiative also contains important measures to further improve the cohesiveness of the country’s society. Kazakhstan’s strong sense of unity has been one of the main reasons for its success in an often-troubled region. The switch wherever possible to e-government will also be hastened to improve services and accountability. This will also help increase the effectiveness of the battle against corruption in all forms which the government has rightly made one of its main concerns. To implement the programme in full, it is expected the government will introduce more than 100 draft bills to the Parliament this autumn, a striking number by any standards.
Launching the programme, President Nazarbayev said it was not just a detailed action plan for the country in the months and years ahead, but also a checklist to monitor progress. He told the Astana Economic Forum that he wanted the government and country to be judged against how well it was doing against the 100 steps. It was the clearest signal he could have given to his citizens and to Kazakhstan’s foreign partners that the country has embarked on another stage in its development.
Kazakhstan and its citizens have witnessed remarkable change over the last 24 years. But with this plan, those guiding the country’s fortunes have shown they are determined to achieve far more. It may have been drawn up as a response to the worsening geo-political and economic conditions, but the sights have remained focused on the long-term goals for the country. Good intentions are being backed by detailed plans and determined action.