Kazakh Experts Reflect on Tokayev’s Interview

ASTANA – President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s big interview with the Egemen Qazaqstan newspaper is stirring considerable attention, marking it as the most talked-about event on Kazakhstan’s first working day of 2024. Government officials and experts shared their thoughts about the President’s multi-page interview, highlighting its multi-faceted nature.

Photo credit: skyscrapercity.com.

Cultivating national values that unite rather than divide the nation

State Counselor Erlan Karin writes in his Telegram channel that the interview should be viewed as a “program article due to its depth and content richness.” 

State Counselor Erlan Karin. Photo credit: tengrinews.kz.

“This interview is not only extensive in terms of the number of questions and answers but also covers a wide range of current topics in public discourse. The President sets the overarching agenda and outlines the main directions of state policy,” writes Karin. 

Emphasizing the particular importance of messages articulated by Tokayev regarding domestic policy, Karin highlighted the next session of the National Kurultai (Assembly) scheduled for spring and commitment to tightening legislation on domestic violence.

“The central idea is encapsulated in President Tokayev’s quote highlighted in the headline [of the interview] – ‘as a progressive nation, we must look only forward.’ This statement serves as a concise formula for the ideological course the President is advocating. It signifies the society’s orientation towards a constructive agenda: not dwelling on the past, focusing solely on the future, and cultivating those national values that unite rather than divide the nation,” writes Karin. 

Fate of the government

Political expert Daniyar Ashimbayev said Tokayev’s interview raises numerous reflections on the government’s fate. The expert underscores that on the one hand, Tokayev reiterates his September directive to double the GDP to $450 billion by 2029, deeming it an “entirely achievable goal.” On the other hand, he asserts that macroeconomic indicators are not paramount in significance, emphasizing the importance of the real well-being of citizens. “This apparent contradiction may hint at subtle references to statistical manipulations thriving in the executive branch, such as income growth statistics where inflation seemingly devours most of the reported gains,” writes Ashimbayev. 

Daniyar Ashimbayev. Photo credit: Andrey Khalin.

Ashimbayev noted that Tokayev acknowledges the impact of the global economic situation on the country but insists that “difficulties always open up new opportunities.” 

“However, he implies that the government lacks a meticulously calculated action plan for various scenarios. Tokayev reminds that the reform and elections “reset” the government’s mandate, considering it essentially new since April [referring to the government reshuffle]. He notes the significant expansion of the government’s powers and the transfer of decision-making prerogatives to the government and relevant bodies,” noted Ashimbayev. 

The expert observes that the current cabinet lacks a “well-thought-out strategy and determination.” 

“The President has raised this concern multiple times, hoping the government will enhance its efficiency. However, miracles have yet to happen, and it appears that another team will be tasked with realizing the economic miracle,” writes the Kazakh expert. 

Agenda for 2024

In his interview, President Tokayev reiterated the priorities for 2024, including the country’s foreign policy. Kazakhstan will chair six international organizations simultaneously. Besides that, the nation will also play host to several large-scale international events, including the Astana International Forum in June. 

Miras Zhiyenbayev. Photo credit: KazISS.

While much work lies ahead in 2024, Kazakhstan accomplished significant work in 2023, entering the new year with a strong foundation, said Miras Zhiyenbayev, leading research fellow at the Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies. 

“No one knows what 2024 holds for us: the world will enter a phase of electoral carousels in various corners, and unpredictability in international affairs will not diminish. Nevertheless, our country approaches the new year with great optimism, ample accumulated resilience, a constructive foreign policy agenda, and a revamped political model,” said Zhiyenbayev.

He sees Kazakhstan’s ability to progress against all odds.

“History textbooks teach us that political systems facing spontaneous protests and attempts at a violent seizure of power, as we experienced in January 2022, tend to ‘tighten screws,’ sterilize, and conserve systems. Kazakhstan’s case demonstrates the opposite: the response to Qantar demonstrated the state and society’s ability to progress. This is the uniqueness of Kazakhstan’s political tradition,” said Zhiyenbayev.

Key points from the interview, he noted, is that the nation perceives itself as a “progressive society, committed to national values, characterized by a substantial youth population, and overall, a confident nation.” 

“Drawing on the centuries-old tradition of statehood and the experience of nation-building, we continue to move forward, avoiding setbacks, stagnation, and conservatism,” he added. 

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