THE PRESIDENT OF KAZAKHSTAN has opened the parliamentary season of his country on September 2nd, 2019 with the State of the Nation Address.
Mr. Tokayev was elected on June 9 with 70,96 % of the votes. He has extensive experience having served as Chairman of the Senate, Prime Minister and State Secretary of Kazakhstan. He has been also holding international posts such as the Deputy Secretary-General of the UN and Director-General of the UN Office in Geneva and Personal Representative of the UN Secretary-General at the Conference on Disarmament.
In his speech Mr. Tokayev sets out key priorities, which include an effective state, rights and security of citizens, developed and inclusive economy, social issues and improvement of the local government.
He reaffirmed his vision of the formula for Kazakhstan's political system, comprising of "a strong president - an influential parliament - a responsible government".
Below are excerpts from his address.
A modern, effective state.
Political transformation will be gradually and steadily carried out, taking into account the interests of the state and the people. Successful economic reforms are no longer possible without the modernisation of social and political life.
Our common task is to implement the concept of the “listening state”, which quickly and efficiently responds to all constructive citizens’ requests.
Only through continuous dialogue between the government and the society a harmonious state can be built. The (recently established) National Council of Public Trust (representing different views of the civil society) will work on a rotational basis.
Relations between the legislative and executive powers should be mutually respectful and business-like, without unnecessary confrontation.
As Head of State, I see my task as contributing to the development of a multi-party system, political competition and a pluralism of opinions across the country.
To increase the efficiency of the work of civil servants, it is necessary to bring qualified young people into their ranks.
At the same time, by 2024, the number of civil servants and employees of national companies should be reduced by 25 percent.
The unity of the nation is in its diversity. We will continue to provide conditions for the development of languages and cultures of all ethnic groups in our country.
Ensuring rights and security of citizens
A key factor in enhancing the protection of citizens’ rights and their security is the substantial reform of the judicial and law enforcement systems.
When handling dispute resolutions, the courts will have the opportunity to start obtaining additional evidence and the responsibility for procurement will lie with the state agency and not with the citizens or businesses.
The principle of the presumption of innocence must be fully respected.
Contradictions and ambiguities in the legislation should be interpreted in favour of the citizens.
We urgently need to tighten the penalties for sexual violence, pedophilia, drug trafficking, human trafficking, domestic violence against women and other grave crimes against the individual, especially against children.
A continuous fight against corruption is also on the agenda. It is necessary to restore anti-corruption expertise via draft regulatory legal acts of national and local authorities, with the participation of experts and the public.
The image of the police as the state's instrument of power will gradually change. The police will become an authority that provides services to citizens to ensure their safety.
Developed, inclusive economy
By 2025, annual sustainable growth of GDP (of Kazakhstan) can reach 5% or higher.
The first task is to relinquish the country's identity as a raw material country and to diversify the economy.
The “knowledge economy”, increased labor productivity, the development of innovation and the introduction of artificial intelligence have become the main factors in global progress. (Therefore) we need to increase real labour productivity by at least 1.7 times.
Raising our reputation in Central Asia as a leader in the region is a strategic task.
The number of state-owned companies can and should be reduced.
The Government needs to systematically and substantively deal with pricing and tariff issues.
I instruct the Government to develop a legislative framework to exempt micro and small business companies from paying income tax for a period of three years. Corresponding amendments to the legislation should enter into force from 2020.
At the same time, it is necessary to strengthen the fight against the shadow economy, intensify the fight against capital outflows and tax evasion.
Particular attention should also be paid to the development of tourism, especially eco- and ethno-tourism, as an important area of the economy.
The 750th anniversary of the Golden Horde should be commemorated in a way that attracts the attention of tourists to our history, culture and nature.
For the development of tourism, it is important to ensure the construction of the necessary infrastructure, primarily roads, as well as the training of qualified specialists.
It is necessary to drastically increase the effectiveness of state support for exporting companies, as well as seriously intensify efforts to attract foreign direct investment, without which the potential for further economic growth will be limited.
Kazakhstan has embarked on developing a digital economy.
Our task is to strengthen our leadership in the region in terms of the development of info-communication infrastructure.
The Government will have to adapt legislation to new technological innovations: 5G, Smart Cities, Big Data, Blockchain, digital assets, and new digital financial instruments.
Kazakhstan should have a reputation as an open jurisdiction for technological partnership, the construction and placement of data centres, the development of data transit, and participation in the global digital services market.
The Government should continue to support the activities of the Astana International Financial Centre, which, in essence, has acquired constitutional status.
It is necessary to modernise the tax system with a focus on a more equitable distribution of the national income. It [the tax system] should encourage companies to invest in human capital, in raising labour productivity, technical re-equipment and exports.
Non-cash payments should be introduced everywhere, eliminating high banking commissions – a significant constraint. To achieve this, it is necessary to actively develop non-banking payment systems with relevant regulatory rules in place.
The use of the National Fund should be allocated only for the implementation of programmes and projects enhancing competitiveness of the economy.
We have significant potential for the production of organic and environmentally friendly products that are in demand not only in Kazakhstan, but also abroad.
We must gradually increase the amount of irrigated land to 3 million hectares by 2030. This will ensure growth in agricultural production by 4.5 times.
An urgent task is to attract foreign investors to the agricultural sector.
The President also offered measures to improve the quality of education and healthcare, to develop social support system. Over the next four years, teachers’ salaries will double, and next year teachers’ salaries will increase by 25%. 58 billion tenge (135 million euro) 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.
Improving local government
As a pilot project, a system for assessing the effectiveness of local authorities would be launched. For example, if, as a result of a survey or online voting, more than 30% of residents believe that the mayor of a city or a village is ineffective, this could be the basis for the creation of a special commission by the Presidential Administration to study the problem and make relevant recommendations.
Starting next year, additional tax revenues from SMEs will be transferred to the regions.
Over the next three years, the government will allocate around 250 billion tenge (582 million euro) to provide citizens with clean drinking water and sanitation.
The full and high-quality implementation of the Nurly Zhol (Bright Path) programme should be monitored closely by the executive branch. This is a strategic project that will improve the entire transport infrastructure. For these purposes, until 2022, the state will invest more than 1.2 trillion tenge (2.8 billion euro).
The Government needs to intensify efforts to improve the environment, expand the use of renewable energy sources, and cultivate respect for nature. The Parliament should discuss and adopt a new version of the Environmental Code.