Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Kazakhstan the Heart of Eurasia

Jun 29. 2020
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“Kazakh” means – Free and “Stan” means Land, a Land of Free People.

The agenda of Kazakhstan and Thailand in 2019 was full of important political processes. Both states held elections – the presidential in Kazakhstan and general elections in Thailand.

The First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Leader of the Nation, Nursultan Nazarbayev resigned in March 2019 on his own initiative.

Based on the Constitutional Law, the Leader of the Nation, by virtue of its historical mission, will continue to head the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, Chair the Security Council, be a member of the Constitutional Council, and also remain as the Chairman of the “Nur Otan” Party.

In June 2019, Kazakhstan held an extraordinary presidential election, according to the results of which – Kassym-Jomart Tokayev was elected as President of Kazakhstan.

The President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev

 

President Tokayev is a well-known person, both in Kazakhstan and in the international community, who continues the course of the First President. In his first State of the Nation Address to the People of Kazakhstan last September, President Tokayev emphasized his goal of having a strong president, an influential parliament, and an accountable government. It reflected the government’s continued focus on reducing inequality in Kazakhstan and improving Kazakh citizens’ quality of life.

The President also focused on political and economic development, including supporting micro-, small- and medium-sized businesses.

While much of President Tokayev’s speech prioritized domestic reforms, he also outlined several foreign policy priorities for Kazakhstan.

These included:

  • Intensifying efforts to attract foreign direct investment as a priority task of the government’s executive branch.
  • The Ministry of Trade and Integration and the Ministry of Agriculture should support farmers to market their products to foreign markets.
  • The government will continue to support to activities of the Astana International Finance Centre, as Kazakhstan continues to develop its financial sector and digital economy.

 

Key reforms highlighted by the President of Kazakhstan in the address to the nation:

Political development and dialogue – The upcoming parliamentary elections will contribute to the further development of Kazakhstan’s multi-party system. In addition, a department has been created in the Presidential Administration that will monitor the quality of reviewing citizens’ requests by state bodies. Furthermore, the President proposed a new concept of a “state that listens”, which aims to facilitate dialogue between civil society and government.

Ministry of Internal Affairs reform – Over the next three years, 173 billion tenge ($445 million) will be allocated to reform the Ministry of Internal Affairs, increasing wages, providing accommodation and creating modern police officers. Before the end of 2020, the work of the Ministry’s Committee of Administrative Police will be reformed.

Supporting agriculture – The amount of irrigated land in Kazakhstan must be gradually increased to 3 million hectares by 2030, ensuring agricultural production grows by 4.5 times.

Law and order – Citizens will have greater rights to hold peaceful rallies in key locations. In addition, all contradictions and ambiguities of the legislation should be interpreted in courts in favour of citizens. Urgent action will be taken to tighten penalties for those who commit serious crimes, including sexual violence, drug trafficking, human trafficking, domestic violence against women and grave crimes against individuals, especially children.

Improving the education system and protecting the rights of children – Over the next four years, teachers’ salaries will double, and next year teachers’ salaries will increase by 25%. With over 80,000 children registered as having a disability, 58 billion tenge ($150 million) will be allocated over the next three years to ensure that equal opportunities for people with special needs are created. The network of small- and medium-sized rehabilitation centres for children will be expanded

Regional development and local authorities – Regional development budgets will exceed 800 billion tenge by 2022. In addition, a system for assessing the effectiveness of local authorities will be introduced. If more than 30% of residents believe that the mayor of a city or a village is ineffective, a special commission by the Presidential Administration can be created to study the problem.

Improving Kazakhstan’s clean water and sanitation infrastructure – Inequality in access to clean drinking water, natural gas and transportation will be addressed. Over the next three years, the government will allocate around 250 billion tenge ($535 million) to provide citizens with clean drinking water and sanitation.

Modernising the tax system – The modernisation of the tax system should focus on the more equitable distribution of the national income, and the government will ban all payments and fees that are not found in the tax code.

Completion of the Saryarka natural gas pipeline – The first phase of the Saryarka gas pipeline is nearing completion, and work will begin on distribution networks, with 56 billion ($120 million) tenge allocated for this. This will ensure more than 2.7 million people have access to natural gas.

Implementing the Nurly Zhol programme – The government will continue to implement the plan to develop and modernise roads, railways, ports, digital infrastructure, education and the civil service, investing more than 1.2 trillion tenge ($3 billion) by 2022.

Supporting small and medium-sized enterprises – From January 2020, there will be a three-year ban on inspections of micro and small businesses, and the government will explore mechanisms to develop a legal basis for stopping micro and small businesses from paying taxes on their main activities for three years.

Developing the healthcare system – On 1 January 2020, Kazakhstan will launch a system of compulsory social health insurance, and more than 2.8 trillion tenge ($7.2 billion) will be allocated for financing a guaranteed amount of free medical care. An additional 2.3 tenge ($6 billion) will be allocated for the development of the health system.

Increasing the provision of housing – The government should develop a unified model for housing development, based on the principle of increasing the affordability and modernity of housing, especially for socially vulnerable aspects of the population.

Social assistance – The President instructed to simplify the system of targeted social assistance, provide social housing and introduce a guaranteed social package for children from low-income families.

 

The second meeting of the National Council of Public Trust

 

In addition, the President of Kazakhstan K. Tokayev initiated the creation of the National Council of Public Trust which is an advisory body.The main objective of the National Council is to develop proposals and recommendations for actual issues of public policy based on a wide discussion with representatives of the public, political parties, and civil society. Key points were highlighted on economic, social, political and domestic reforms.

 

Economic Reform

The main issue discussed in the sphere of economic reform was reducing the economic involvement of state businesses in competitive markets. The government needs to make proposals by April 2020 to further reduce the list of state enterprises, especially in big cities, in order to increase the size of the private sector. Foreign labour – The 2020 quota for foreign labour will be reduced by 40%, to see a decline from 49,000 in 2019 to 29,000 in 2020. Foreign debt – The Ministries of the National Economy, Finance and the National Bank should develop by April 2020 the Unified Register of External Debt in the form of a digitised database. Stabilising the tenge – To increase public and investor confidence in the tenge, the National Bank will, from 1 January, announce the exchange rate of the National Fund’s currency market on a monthly basis, as well as adopting a new monetary policy strategy. Fighting the shadow economy – To strengthen the fight against the shadow economy, businesses will be provided with tools to assess and verify the legality of their potential business partners through a database drawn from the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs. The government and the National Bank should prepare a package of legislative amendments to ensure the introduction of cashless payments for housing and vehicles.

 

Social Reform

This covered the topics of social security and support. Employment and social rehabilitation centers will open nationwide in order to provide an effective system of support for those in need. A new state allowance for large families should be established, from 42,500 to 74,000 tenge. In addition, children from low-income families will receive a guaranteed social package. Rehabilitation aid – Funds from the State Social Insurance Fund will be diverted to provide rehabilitation aid for those with disabilities. Modernising the pension system – As employers are not yet in a position to provide a mandatory 5% pension, the term of introducing mandatory pension contributions by employers will be postponed from 1 January 2020 to 2023. Jobs for disabled citizens – The Government will ensure that private companies adhere to a special quota on hiring people with disabilities.

 

Political Reform

Political rallies – A draft law on political rallies will outline the correct registration procedures of political rallies and will determine the status of the organisers, participants, observers and their respective rights and obligations. Political party registration – The minimum membership threshold needed to register a political party will be reduced from 40,000 to 20,000 members. Involvement of women and youth – Women and young candidates must make up 30% of party election lists. Parliamentary opposition – A law will be passed to allow representatives from other parties to hold Chair positions on some Parliamentary committees, in order to foster alternative views and opinions. Criminal justice – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is tasked to begin the process of acceding to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which deals with abolishing the death penalty. Libel Law – Article 130 of the Criminal Code on defamation will be decriminalised and transferred to the Administrative Code.

 

Domestic Reform

This area included topics like use of land – The Ministry of Agriculture is implementing a pilot project to monitor unused land through remote earth sensing, and to increase the base tax rate for those who own but do not use their land from 10 to 20 times. Transition to Latin alphabet – The transition of the Kazakh language from a Cyrillic to a Latin alphabet will necessitate a modernising of the language system and require a scientific approach.

 

The first expanded meeting of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan with Kassym-Jomart Tokayev

 

The President of Kazakhstan also pays great attention to the work of the Government. In early 2020, the Head of State held an expanded meeting of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

Opening the meeting, Kassym-Jomart Tokaev noted that the Government and the Parliament worked together to implement the election program and the Address to the people of Kazakhstan. Important programs were adopted, and the planned macroeconomic indicators were achieved. According to the Head of State, the Government ensures the fulfilment of instructions of the President, but questions of the quality of economic development remain.

Credit of the economy is stagnating: for 11 months of 2019, the volume of the loan portfolio to GDP decreased from 23% to 22%. Last year, unfortunately, we became the “champions” of the Eurasian Economic Union in terms of inflation. The big problem is the lack of a significant increase in labour productivity. The share of non-oil exports is growing slowly, the Head of State said.

In his speech, the President outlined his position: “The goals and objectives set by Elbasy before the country remain unchanged: Strategy-2050, Strategic Plan for the Development of the Country until 2025, 100 Steps of the Plan of the Nation. But the Government needs to prepare a program of deep radical reforms of the country’s economy.”

“We need a new economic course that will give a clear vision of key problems and methods for solving them. Reforms, as you know, require will and determination. That is what I urge the Government to do. In the meantime, the main decisions are being taken by the state apparatus slowly, with an eye to numerous normative acts, with reference to the need for interagency coordination. It’s already impossible to work this way in the conditions of toughening international competition and taking into account the just demands of the people. Reforms will have to be carried out ‘through the knee’,” said Kasym-Jomart Tokaev.

The Head of State pointed out that an effective, transparent and pragmatic fiscal and industrial policy is to be built to ensure the protection and development of entrepreneurs, access to sales markets, increasing the productivity of enterprises, and increasing the competitiveness and quality of Kazakh products.

The Head of State believes that fiscal policy needs serious modernization. Its main task is to ensure the stability of budget revenues and the equitable distribution of national income, to improve the structure and quality of economic growth. The exemption from taxes of micro and small businesses in order to give impetus to its development is justified. But widespread tax exemption can lead to serious negative consequences.

The volume of contingent losses only in the framework of free economic zones is more than 2 trillion tenge. From the budget, an additional 340 billion tenge were invested in the infrastructure of 13 SEZs, creating 18,000 permanent jobs. During this period, only 170 billion tenge of taxes were received from the SEZ. “Almost all free economic zones have problems with high-quality filling, that is, they are poorly managed. I instruct the Government to analyze the whole range of tax preferences provided for their effectiveness and expediency,” the President noted.

Budget expenditures on image events have been reduced. The same work to eliminate unproductive expenses will be carried out in the quasi-public sector.

“I instruct the Government to report the results by May 1 of this year. The costs that can be safely postponed should be determined. I propose, as a first measure, to declare a long-term moratorium on the costs of acquiring expensive vehicles and furniture, and to hold various forums, seminars, and conferences. Events in our country should bring pronounced practical and ideological benefits,” the Head of State said.

To ensure the security of the domestic market, the President instructed the Government develop a Trade Policy Program until 2025, as well as to develop the National Certification System to restore confidence in National Standards, and prepare and adopt the Law “On Technical Regulation” by the end of this year.

The president has also criticized the situation in the agricultural sector. Despite the fact that over the past five years, over 2.4 trillion tenge has been allocated to the agricultural sector, the share of agriculture in the country’s GDP does not exceed 4.5%.

“We have a five-year agribusiness development program. It spells out the goals, objectives, specific production and economic indicators of the industry. Therefore, the Government has decided on its plans and priorities. At the same time, support measures, that is, subsidies, change every year! Over the past five years, the amount summed up to more than 2 trillion tenge, while the subsidies changed 47 times. I instructed the Government to ensure the stability of state support measures and increase their effectiveness. This order has not yet been completed. I look forward to decisions and specific proposals,” said Kasym-Jomart Tokayev.

In 2019, social support expenses amounted to 3.5 trillion tenge, or 30% of the total budget. Social protection measures have touched almost 4 million Kazakhs. Under the “Baityt Obybasy” and “7-20-25” programs, about 20,000 Kazakh families received loans. In the foreseeable future, according to the President, housing construction should become a priority in the work of the Government.

Logo of Anti-Corruption Service of Kazakhstan

 

To achieve all the above-mentioned goals and proposals, a new anti-corruption strategy has been formed, developed on the initiative of the First President N. Nazarbayev. The implementation of universally recognized international principles and standards in the national practice of combating corruption is a key condition for the implementation of the recommendations of the UN and OECD.

Today, approaches are changing, the whole familiar algorithm of actions and the whole ideology of work in the field of combating corruption. All our initiatives are implemented through the prism of values that we have clearly defined for ourselves - justice, integrity, trust.

According to the study “Monitoring the state of corruption in Kazakhstan”, which was carried out this year by Transparency Kazakhstan with the support of the UN Development Program office, 54.4% of respondents noted a decrease in corruption in the country.

Kazakhstan received 34 points in the Corruption Perception Index out of 100 possible and took 113th place among 180 countries, improving from last year by 3 points and 11 positions.

Kazakhstan has begun to actively use proven approaches and principles, as well as universal mechanisms and tools to achieve reductions in corruption.

The next step in this direction was the accession to GRECO, this will attract the expert potential of the Council of Europe to further improve the national anti-corruption system.

Last November, the President signed a law providing for the institution of resignation and personal disciplinary responsibility of heads of state bodies in the event of a corruption offense by their subordinates.

Also, the work in addressing the fundamental causes of corruption will continue, including reducing state participation in the economy, reducing cash flow, optimizing government agencies and their subordinate organizations in order to significantly increase the salaries of civil servants, as well as reducing oversight functions.

Other legislative measures have been initiated, the integrated implementation of which will drastically reduce the level of corruption. The key ones are the introduction of liability for illicit enrichment, the obligation of all civil servants, without exception, to publish declarations of income and expenses, as well as the introduction of the Integrity Testing institute, in other words, verification of professional integrity.

In the context of the development of relations between Kazakhstan and Thailand, many joint events have been organized in the field of expanding political, trade and economic potential, strengthening cultural dialogue, and promoting mutual cooperation in the current year.

Last September, a Parliamentary Delegation of Thailand Headed by

Dr. Pornpetch Wichitcholchai, President of the Senate, participated in the 4th Meeting of Speakers of the Eurasian Countries’ Parliaments in Nur-Sultan.

The President of the Senate of the Kingdom of Thailand Dr. Pornpetch Wichitcholchai and the Senator of the Senate of the Kingdom of Thailand Mr. Virasakdi Futrakul

 

In 2019 representatives of numerous institutions and organizations took part in the Astana Economic Forum, meeting of the Secretariat of the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, 1st Forum of Asian Writers, 8th Global Summit of the UN World Tourism Organization, and others, held in the capital of Kazakhstan.

The Executive Secretary of UN ESCAP, Ms. Armida Alisjahbana, also participated in the Astana Economic Forum – 2019, where she had meetings with the top leadership of Kazakhstan.

 

The Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific

 

It is known that the Kazakh side supports ideas and participates in projects initiated by UN ESCAP. In May 2019, the delegation of Kazakhstan at the 75th ESCAP Session was headed by H.E. Mr. Tileuberdi, who currently holds the post of Head of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan, Mr. Mukhtar Tileuberdi

 

Multilaterally, Kazakhstan and Thailand, support mutual interests within the United Nations, Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia, Asia Cooperation Dialogue, including in the framework of global initiatives of the First President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Particularly, last August, the Workshop on strengthening cooperation between Nuclear-Weapon-Free zones was attended by a delegation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Thailand, as Chairman of ASEAN.

Nur-Sultan city is also associated with many important international events. In 2020, the Kazakh capital will host the World Trade Organisation Ministerial meeting. As a revival of public consciousness, Kazakhstan will celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War, 25th Anniversary of the Constitution and the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan.

As measures to strengthen economic and investment directions, this year, a number of Thai business missions visited different regions of Kazakhstan and held several meetings with potential partners.

A delegation of the Board of Investment and Research Institute of Fiscal Policy of Thailand also paid a visit.

Representatives of Thai business communities are participating in the AgroWorld Kazakhstan – 2019 Agricultural Exhibition, as well as in the Almaty Invest Forum.

Last November, the Thai side officially announced the completion of formalities for the acquisition by the Thai oil and gas giant PTT Public Company Limited of Partex Holding B.V., which owns a 20% stake in the Dunga project in the Mangistau Region of Kazakhstan.

The previous year was also fruitful for official meetings of the Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Kingdom of Thailand, H.E. Ms. Raushan Yesbulatova. She met with Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice of Thailand, ACM Prajin Juntong, President of the National Legislative Assembly of the Kingdom of Thailand P. Wichitcholchai, who is now Speaker of the Senate, meeting with the President of the National Assembly, Speaker of the House of Representatives Kingdom of Thailand Ch. Likpay, as well as working and behind-the-scenes meetings with the leadership of a number of central executive bodies.

At the regional level, the mayor of Almaty region Mr. Amandyk Batalov paid an official visit to the province of Phuket to discuss the development of interregional cooperation in the field of economy, investment, tourism, sports and other areas. In 2019, Ms. Yesbulatova attended the opening ceremony of the Honorary Consulate of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Phuket.

 

The Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Kingdom of Thailand, Ms. Raushan Yesbulatova

 

International tourism is one of the most important directions in Kazakhstan. It is worth noting that the Government of Kazakhstan approved the State Program for the Development of the Tourism Industry of the Republic of Kazakhstan for 2019-2025. It means that Kazakhstan should increase the number of inbound visitors to 9 million people, including inbound tourists to 3 million people; an increase in the volume of tourist services provided by placements by 2.5 times, growth in investment in fixed assets of 3 times by 2025; and an increase in the number of domestic tourists to 8 million people

In this regard, on September 30, 2019, Kazakhstan adopted the visa-free regime for 30 days for a number of countries, including the Kingdom of Thailand.

 

Famous Thai actress Anne Thongprasom is in national Kazakh yurt

 

Honorary consul of Kazakhstan in Chonburi Province, Mr. Kampol Supornsahatrangsi and colleagues visiting Big Almaty Lake

 

Kazakhstan is a very large country and has a huge number of attractions. The country has mountains, forests, plains, canyons, lakes, rivers and much more. There are four seasons in Kazakhstan, winter, spring, summer and autumn. Annually a large number of tourists from Thailand visit such attractions as the Charyn Canyon, Altyn Emel National Park, Lake Kolsai and much more.

The Medeo Skating Stadium, Almaty city (photo by Alexey Sheglov)

 

Lake Kaindy, Almaty Region

 

Shymbulak, Almaty Region

 

Charyn Canyon, Almaty Region

 

In 2020, Kazakhstan celebrates the 175th anniversary of the birth of the great Kazakh poet Abai Qunanbayuly and the 1150th anniversary of the great thinker Abu Nasr Al-Farabi. To mark the occasion, the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan K. Tokaev has written an article “Abai and Kazakhstan in the XXI century”. In his article, the President shares with the public the relevance of Abai’s words to the modern world. Extracts from the article are given below.

The philosopher tried with every word to convey to the people the importance of developing knowledge, love for his native language and for his homeland. Having marked the first paragraph as an example of national identity, the President highlighted the wisdom of Abai’s words, noting that for the development of knowledge among the people it is necessary to modernize the education system, and that the adoption of the Law “On the status of a teacher” is one of the good initiatives in this direction.

In the second paragraph, the Head of State noted Abai’s visions in the field of state interests, starting with the words that it is necessary to strengthen statehood in order to flourish as a sovereign state. The views of Abai are of paramount importance for the society and welfare of Kazakhstan in the 21st century. The positions of Hakim Abai are consistent with the principles of a civilized state. Justice will be firmly entrenched only if the rule of law, government transparency and accountability before the people are at a high level, and civil society representatives are actively involved in state affairs. This vision is intertwined with the concept of K. Tokaev “The state that listens to the voice of the people”, which was proposed to develop the idea of a fair society.

Statehood cannot be built without a prosperous society, this was the third paragraph of the article on Abai. The President calls to focus more on improving the dignity of the Kazakh nation and increasing the competitiveness of the people of Kazakhstan, getting rid of the negative traits that impede the development of society and violate unity. The author also references Abai’s “holistic man” formula “A man of integrity”, in describing a person who is confident in himself and strives for good. This formula should serve as a fundamental support in any area of our life, in government and education, in business and family institutions. An important thing in society is the fight against laziness, as the poet called for back in the 19th century, today it is no less relevant to the people of Kazakhstan. It is also important not to remain in the back of the rapidly developing modern world, because, as Abai said, in order to earn a living, you need to learn a craft because "Wealth eventually fades away, but skill does not". This statement can be compared with the main priority for Kazakh society, getting rid of the psychology of dependence on raw materials and the maximum prosperity of small and medium-sized businesses.

In the next point, the President of Kazakhstan notes Abai as the face of world culture, which everyone should know about, because his works provide food for thought. The purpose of this enlightenment is to achieve the association of the great poet Abai with Kazakhstan, as with the word China we immediately recall Lao-Chi and Confucius, with the word Russia come to mind Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, with the word France we recall Voltaire and Rousseau.

The field of the art of poetry is also considered extraordinary. Theatre and music festivals will be held at the national and international levels. This year the awards are dedicated to the work of Abai. The State Prize for the best works in the field of literature and art will now be called the Abai State Prize.

 

The inauguration of Abai’s personality and legacy also takes place and extends abroad. It is planned to create “Abai Centers” at the Embassies of Kazakhstan in Russia, France, Great Britain and other countries.

 

 

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