Kazakh President focuses on improving daily life in state-of-nation address

ASTANA – Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev directed the government to work to improve the lives of Kazakh citizens during his annual Oct. 5 state-of-the-nation address.

Photo credit: akorda.kz.

“Over the past 20 years, the country has raised $300 billion of direct foreign investment. We see the development of small and medium-sized enterprises serving as the foundation for our economic prosperity. Kazakhstan now ranks 36th among 190 countries in the World Bank Doing Business index. We have always responded to external challenges in a timely manner and have been prepared for them,” said Nazarbayev.

The main ideas of the address are raising incomes, increasing the quality of life, creating a comfortable living environment, creating a citizen-focused government, maintaining effective foreign policy and engaging all citizens in the transformation of the country.

The President underlined the importance of growing the incomes of hard-working professionals. He instructed the government to raise the minimal salary by 1.5 times from 28,000 to 42,000 (US$75-$113) tenge from Jan. 1, 2019.

“From now on, the minimal salary will not depend on the subsistence level. In general, the amount of the new minimal salary will boost the labour remuneration covering the whole economy. I hope this initiative will be supported by large companies in terms of increasing the salaries of low-paid workers. Second, we need to create stable sources for business growth and foster private investment and facilitate freedom of the market. It is business that creates new jobs and provides higher income to the majority of Kazakh citizens,” he said.

Nazarbayev pointed out that business should be protected from unlawful administrative pressure and criminal prosecution threats. He instructed to raise from Jan.1 the threshold of criminal liability regarding tax violations up to 50,000 monthly calculated indices (MCI) and increase fines. He also asked the government to take measures to reduce the shadow economy by at least40 percent within three years.

The government must focus on supporting exporters in the manufacturing sector because export-oriented industrialisation should be a central element of economic policy, Nazarbayev said.

“I instruct the government to allocate additional 500 billion tenge (US$1.3 billion) to support the manufacturing industry and non-commodity export in the next three years. To address the issue of affordable loans for priority projects, I task the National Bank to allocate long-term tenge liquidity of no less than 600 billion tenge (US$1.6 billion). The government together with the National Bank needs to ensure strict control over the targeted use of these funds. To implement big breakthrough projects, we need to consider the establishment of a direct investment fund in the non-commodity sector that will function based on the principle of co-investing with foreign investors,” he said.

He also underlined the need to develop the country’s agricultural and industrial potential, as well as pay special attention on the development of the innovation and service sectors. The need to strengthen the role of the financial sector in developing the real economy and ensure long-term macroeconomic stability was mentioned.

The second component of well-being is the growth of quality of life, including quality and access to education, healthcare, housing and a comfortable and safe life for every Kazakh family. In this regard, the government should review priorities of budget expenditures focusing on the social sector, security and infrastructure, Nazarbayev said.

He also addressed creating a comfortable environment, which means, first and foremost, affordability of housing, beautiful and safe outdoor areas, and residential areas that are convenient to live and work in, as well as having quality infrastructure.

“Today, we are successfully implementing the Nurly Zher programme that gives a powerful impetus to the housing construction. We have launched a new large-scale programme ‘7-20-25’ that enhances the affordability of housing mortgages. I instruct akims (governors) to work on a partial subsidising of down payments according to mortgage benefits from the local budget. The allocation of such housing certificates will enhance the affordability of mortgages for highly-skilled teachers, medical workers, police officers and other experts the regions need. In addition, we need to enhance the construction of rental housing for socially vulnerable population in big cities,” he said.

Security is an integral part of quality of life, Nazarbayev said.

“Internal affairs officers are at the forefront of the fight against crime and (and the effort to) protect citizens from it, quite often risking their lives. At the same time, society expects a drastic improvement in the work of law-enforcement agencies, mainly, of the police. I task the Government together with the Executive Office of the President to adopt a roadmap to modernise internal affairs agencies. These reforms must be launched on Jan. 1, 2019,” the President instructed.

Nazarbayev also addressed modernisation of the judicial system, requesting the Government and Supreme Court take modernisation measures by the end of the year.

“First, we need to reduce the number of excessive judicial procedures, which require an unreasonable spending of time and resources. Processes which used to require personal presence can now be implemented remotely. Second, we need to ensure a qualitative development and an upgrade of the judicial personnel management system, providing incentives so that the best lawyers would strive to become judges. Third, we need a clear and predictable legal practice, especially for legal disputes between business and state agencies, as well as excluding the possibilities of having an unlawful influence on judges,” the Kazakh leader said.

Another issue the President outlined is developing citizen-oriented state services,  including increasing the effectiveness of state agencies, ensuring the maximum return for each tenge allocated, fighting corruption, giving decision-making freedom to ministers and akims and strengthening the mechanism of control over reforms.

The state-of-the-nation address also noted the importance of foreign policy to Kazakhstan’s modernisation.

“Interaction between Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation is exemplary for interstate relations. The Eurasian Economic Union is successfully functioning as a fully integrated association and an active participant of global economic relations. A new chapter of cooperation in the Central Asian region has been opened. A comprehensive strategic partnership with the People’s Republic of China has been gradually developing. The One Belt, One Road programme gave a new impetus to our relations with China,” Nazarbayev said.

“During my January official visit to Washington and negotiations with President Donald Trump, we reached an agreement on an enhanced strategic partnership between Kazakhstan and the U.S. in the 21st century. We will continue our dynamic collaboration with the EU as our biggest trade and investment partner. Mutually beneficial bilateral ties with CIS countries, Turkey, Iran, Arab and Asian countries have also been advanced. The Convention on the Legal Status of the Caspian Sea adopted on the Aktau Summit opens new opportunities for cooperation with other Caspian states. Kazakhstan is successfully completing its mission within the UN Security Council,” continued the President noting the need to adapt the foreign policy to modern challenges making it more pragmatic along the way.

Nazarbayev said every citizen should understand the reforms and their significance to Kazakhstan’s prosperity.

“The Rukhani Zhangyru programme was widely supported and gave a powerful impetus to modernisation processes in society. This initiative should not only be continued, but also filled with new content and directions,” he said.

“Comprehensive support to youth and the institution of the family should become a priority for state policy. We need to create a wide platform of social mobility, which will cover a full set of support measures for all youth categories. I suggest declaring the next year as the Year of Youth,” the head of state added.

“In all my addresses I pay special attention to improving social conditions and people’s quality of life. The main purpose of today’s 7-20-25, Nurly Zhol, Nurly Zher and other state programmes is the improvement of the population’s quality of life. Kazakhstan still has a lot of heights to climb. People’s trust raises our spirits and gives us strength on this path. There is nothing greater than this noble goal,” concluded Nazarbayev.