President’s state-of-nation address reflects emphasis on public welfare

The welfare of Kazakhstan’s citizens was first and foremost in Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev priorities in his state-of-the-nation address on Oct. 5. Perhaps most notable was his call to raise minimal salary 1.5 times from 28,000 to 42,000 tenge (US$75-$112). This will take effect in just a few months’ time – from Jan. 1, 2019.

The President said that this would benefit 1.3 million people, who work in a variety of different industries across a range of sectors. When it comes to those working in state-funded organisations, he mentioned that around 275,000 workers will see their salaries grow by an average of 35 percent.

By any standard, this can be seen as a major change that will bring direct benefits for a significant sector of our society – that is many of our compatriots with the greatest need. Of course, any rise in pay comes with a price attached and it was right that the President mentioned it had already been calculated and earmarked, coming out at around 96 billion tenge (US$2.6 billion) annually from the republic’s budget for 2019-2021.

There was further help for citizen welfare in the form of an increase on expenditure on education, science and healthcare by up to 10 percent of GDP within 5 years, with a particular emphasis on pre-school education.

Hand in hand with this announcement, he also pointed out how it is our businesses which are the main driver for new jobs, growing our economy to provide higher income to most of Kazakhstan’s citizens. This in turn will make these policies affordable.

The President elaborated about how Kazakhstan can move ahead in growing the business sector across the country. Remarking on its success so far, the Business Road Map – 2020 Programme is to be prolonged to 2025, creating thousands more jobs and improved economic output. He called for decisive measures to develop economic competition and get utilities tariffs and natural monopolies under control.

While the President has unveiled policies to boost the incomes of some of the lowest paid, the address was also unambiguous in its support for promoting a strong and competitive business environment, which will help ensure the ongoing economic development of the country. This also included proposals to support our industrial exporters, who are so vital to our economy.

This builds on the achievements of the country so far since independence, which includes $300 billion of investment over the past 26 years. It now sees our country in 36th place among 190 countries in the World Bank Doing Business index. The President’s address seemed very much in step with nation’s strategic goal – to join the ranks of the 30 most-developed countries of the world by 2050.

The launch earlier this year of the Astana International Financial Centre is perhaps one of the greatest projections of the country’s ambition as an economic powerhouse for the future.  The President implied how its benefits should be felt far beyond our capital city as it provides vital foreign investment as well as a separate court, financial regulator and stock exchange.

The address made clear that every state entity needed to be held to the highest possible standards for those it is there to serve – the people of Kazakhstan. This includes ensuring the highest standards of propriety within the police force and an improved level of trust in our court systems.

The President covered many different aspects of life in Kazakhstan. Whether it was strengthening the economy, providing access to better education and healthcare or improving living conditions, there was a clear message for everyone to hear. The welfare of all of our citizens, whatever their circumstances, must be the focus for our society.