ASTANA – As Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev heads into the second year of his seven-year term, the experts highlight his far-sighted social reforms that head the country in the right direction.
According to experts, Tokayev’s promises best resonated where it matters the most – in the social area that concerns each and every person in the country, especially the vulnerable groups: the youth, the elderly and the unemployed.
“Without a doubt, the social sphere is the most sensitive within Kazakh society,” said political expert Andrey Chebotarev speaking to Kazinform news agency.
The country has undertaken the urgently needed social reforms that include providing affordable and quality education, modern medicine and social security.
“To date, many of them have been either fully or partially implemented. In the latter case, it is a question of creating the necessary legal framework that will allow the implementation of the President’s relevant instructions in the near future,” said Chebotarev
He particularly highlighted some of the effective strategies to support the youth that have already shown the potential to reverse the youth unemployment in Kazakhstan.
According to him, over half of 715,500 citizens who found a job within the past nine months were young people.
A program of preferential lending at 2.5% has been in place since the start of the year for young individuals between the ages of 21 and 35, enabling them to launch and grow their own businesses. A total of 16.4 billion tenge (US$35.5 million) was issued in 3,683 microcredits between January and September of this year.
“The above-mentioned examples demonstrate the consistency of the country’s leadership in implementing relevant social policies. This is especially important for the further development of human capital, which is the key resource of any country,” said Chebotarev.
According to Yermek Toktarov, head of the strategic analysis department at the Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies (KazISS), the President’s electoral program has prioritized the social block. While some of the program’s objectives may require Tokayev’s whole seven-year term, others were accomplished in 2023.
“For example, since the beginning of the year, the minimum wage was raised to 70,000 tenge (US$151). This measure increased incomes for 1.8 million working Kazakhs,” said Toktarov in an interview with Kazinform.
“How does it work? On the one hand, those who received minimum wage increased their income by at least 10,000 (US$20) tenge. Also, according to the legislation, the amount of minimum wage is not taxed, that is deducted from the total amount of taxable income,” Toktarov explained.
The average pay rise for medical staff members will be 20% and for doctors, it will be 30%. The student scholarships for those who entered for the grant increased by 20% since Sept. 1, while the scholarships for the master’s and doctoral students increased by 15%.
Social changes have affected those who are retired as well.
“Since the beginning of 2023, the size of the solidarity pension has increased by 10.5%. In general, measures to increase the size of all types of pensions and benefits affected 4.4 million citizens, for which 4.6 trillion tenge (US$ 9.9 billion) was allocated from the national budget. The impressive scale only confirms the social nature of the state policy at the present stage,” said Toktarov.
But the politics behind Tokayev’s New Kazakhstan is not just about new jobs and social benefits, it is built to support Kazakhstan’s faith in the idea that the government can do things for ordinary people to make their lives better.
According to Toktarov, the KazISS survey shows that President Tokayev’s initiatives are not just a loose talk but a consistent implementation of the “hearing state” concept.
“As we see, the government measures to increase incomes are related to the fact that society expresses dissatisfaction with certain aspects of the socio-economic situation. For example, according to KazISS data, in February 2022, 66.5% of Kazakh respondents were dissatisfied with prices for goods and services. A survey conducted in August 2022 showed that the level of dissatisfaction with prices for goods and services increased to 78.3%,” said Toktarov.
“Therefore, we can see that in 2023 the state is already taking active measures to increase the population’s income. At the same time, the state is taking measures to curb inflation,” he added.
The president has yet to implement critical social reforms in the upcoming years of his term, but the foundation has been laid, said Lyazat Nurkatova, professor and doctor of sociological sciences, in an interview with Kazinform.
“Today, when the first year of the President’s program is over, we clearly see the strengthening of targeting of state aid. Naturally, this is a short period of time to assess the effectiveness of changes in social policy, but, in my opinion, the foundation for further transformation of the system of social support and assistance has been formed,” said Nurkatova.
She listed several social reforms, the introduction of the Digital Family Card that allows applying for 10 types of benefits and social payments and the establishment of the National Fund of Kazakhstan, which will allocate 50% of its annual investment income to special savings accounts for children until they reach the age of 18.
“The world-famous principle ‘every tenge spent on social work brings three times the return on investment in the national economy’ can and should now work in our country as well. (…) The social assistance system in Kazakhstan is undergoing fundamental changes as part of a broader rebranding of social services. In this regard, the role of the social worker will increase significantly,” added Nurkatova.