NUR-SULTAN – Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev thanked volunteers who worked on the frontlines helping people who were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic during his meeting with representatives of national volunteering organizations, charity funds and the private sector in the Kazakh capital, the Akorda press service reported.
The meeting was attended by Biz Birgemiz (We Are Together) Fund Chair and Uakyp (a reference to a Muslim donation for a charitable cause) Charity Fund President Ruslan Sakiyev, head of Kaspi Bank Mikhail Lomtadze, head of BTS Digital IT company Nurtai Abilgaliyev, Dara (Distinct) Fund Executive Director Ainur Aimurzina and head of Ya-Almaatinets (I am from Almaty) public union Konstantin Avershin. The meeting participants also discussed corporate social responsibility, ways to stimulate charity giving, and increase its transparency as well as promote volunteering.
Tokayev said that the pandemic turned charity and volunteering into a nationwide effort leading to it becoming a “social norm.”
“I am glad that we have managed to preserve the tradition of Asar (ancient Kazakh tradition of mutual help). During the pandemic, volunteers worked hard and relentlessly. They were an example of courage and dedication. Volunteers were working day and night to curb the spread of the virus along with medical workers and police officers. Kind people offered very crucial support to the common cause,” said Tokayev.
He emphasized the work of Biz Birgemiz Fund established at the initiative of Kazakhstan’s First President Nursultan Nazarbayev. The fund has been providing support since the first months of the pandemic targeting socially vulnerable groups of the country’s 18 million population.
“Thousands of citizens provided financial support to this good cause. Thanks to everyone’s good organization and responsibility, we were able to stabilize the situation. This is a great example of the unity of the nation,” said Tokayev.
He outlined the development of volunteering and support for charity and philanthropy as a long-term priority for Kazakhstan and designated 2020 as the Year of Volunteer.
“We see the number of people directly or indirectly involved in charity is growing. We made a decision to include volunteering in work experience as a mandatory practice. In addition, volunteering will give an advantage when applying to university or college. I believe these are good results so far, and no doubt it is a good reflection on you as well,” said the Kazakh president.
In his address to the United Nations General Debates held as part of the UN General Assembly’s 75th session, Tokayev proposed introducing an International Year for Mobilising Volunteers for Development. He is sure the initiative will be supported and implemented, given the big role of volunteers and charity funds in the fight against the pandemic.
“Volunteering does not end this year and it will certainly continue. Because volunteering is a movement of the soul, a movement that lives up to the goals set by the state, a movement to be closer to the people,” Tokayev said, stressing that Kazakhstan closely copies and follows progressive global trends.
He also instructed the government to gear efforts to develop a bill on charity which will clearly define charity mechanisms legally.
“Charity and volunteering organizations should obtain real legal status that will ensure the necessary work conditions, and a defined relationship with the state and businesses. The government should work on this. The development of effective instruments to provide benefits when receiving state services, infrastructure development, and information support is very important,” said Tokayev.
He also stressed the need to consider tax preferences. According to the current legislation, three percent of revenues for large and four percent of revenues for small and medium-sized businesses allocated to charity are exempted from tax.
Tokayev said that small and medium-sized businesses do not use these preferences. “I consider it necessary to ensure transparency of funds allocated to charity funds and their use. There should be no shadow areas. The creation of a register of charity providers and recipients is now being discussed,” said Tokayev stressing the need to ensure public access to such information.
Every person should be able to donate to charitable causes, he said. But there is no such system in Kazakhstan.
“Unfortunately, there are yet no relevant informational support mechanisms hat people would deem trustworthy. We often see in the news that citizens do not know who they can go to offer their help. If a person settles this issue, then he or she often has to worry about whether the money will indeed go to a charity cause,” said Tokayev.
Tokayev instructed his government to consider all initiatives and suggestions voiced at the meeting and at the governmental council on charity development.