The President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev announced a new set of reforms at the Second Meeting of the National Council of Public Trust on December 20, 2019.
After taking office, the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has put particular emphasis on structural and institutional reforms, human rights and the quality of life.
The new National Council of Public Trust made up of representatives from across Kazakhstan's society has been established to help build a genuine dialogue on reforms. The Council reflects the President's idea of "different opinions – one nation".
"We are taking a serious step in the area of reforming the current political system," Mr Tokayev told the participants at the 2nd Meeting of the Council.
"We must strengthen the creative basis of the political process so that pluralism becomes an important element in enhancing economic well-being and human capital," said the President.
Shaping Kazakhstan's new political culture and human rights issues
The state demonstrated its political will to achieve concrete results in what President Tokayev described as an "extremely sensitive area."
The first package of political initiatives includes the following.
First: measures to introduce the notification principle of organising public rallies.
A draft law on freedom of peaceful assemblies has been developed. It defines all forms of peaceful assembly, establishes the authority of local legislatures to determine designated areas, the status of organisers, participants and observers, their rights and obligations.
Second: registration requirements for establishing a political party in Kazakhstan will be eased. The minimum number of people required to start a party will be halved to 20,000. This reform should increase civic engagement. "In general, we must gradually change all laws related to political parties and elections," Tokayev added.
Third: a mandatory 30% quota for women and young people will be included in the electoral party lists, to enhance the social and political mobility of the youth.
"We must encourage the active participation of women in politics, especially in the legislative process. In the same way, we should encourage young people to join the Parliament and local representative bodies," the President voiced.
Fourth: establishing an institution of the parliamentary opposition in Kazakhstan.
The Government and the Presidential Administration will submit draft bills to legislate the basis for a political minority in the Parliament. This would include conditions for representatives of opposition parties to chair some of the parliamentary committees.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan will start the process of acceding to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
An article of the Criminal Code of Kazakhstan, which penalises the incitement of social, national, tribal, racial, class or religious hatred will be humanised and have more clearly defined terms to reduce ambiguity and vagueness.
Another article on defamation has sparked heated debate in society. Some suggested decriminalising the article; others advocated retaining it in the Penal Code. "After reviewing all positions and aspects, I decided to decriminalise this article and move it to the Administrative Code. At the same time, it is necessary to maintain a high degree of responsibility in order to guarantee the rights of our citizens and protect them from slanderous fabrications and attacks," Mr Tokayev affirmed.
Accountability and transparency
The President supported the idea of civil society representatives joining boards of directors of large companies in the quasi-public sector.
Earlier this year President Tokayev instructed to cut down the number of companies and personnel in the quasi-public sector. At the meeting, the President said that more effort is needed to lower the share of state-owned companies in the economy through a reduction in their authorised statutory activities.
The Government has already proposed to slash 100 different types of activities of state-owned companies, corresponding to about 30% of all the activities of these companies. There will also be further downsizing, especially in big cities.
A pilot project "budget with wide public participation" was launched in the cities of Nur-Sultan and Almaty. Fifty-five towns and districts will follow suit in 2020.
To ensure greater involvement of citizens in drafting government agencies' budgets, the Ministry of Finance and the National Council established a working group that would fine-tune the project entitled "citizens budget".
"Citizens of the country have a right to receive reliable information on budget allocations," underlined Mr Tokayev. This transparency principle should be applied to all types of financial transactions in the country.
Main audit results of government agencies and organisations will be published starting from January 2020.
The Ministries of National Economy and Finance and the National Bank will develop a unified digital register of external debt by April 1, 2020.
A local business database will be established where entrepreneurs could get a reference. Also, non-cash transactions will be further promoted.
With these measures, the Government of Kazakhstan aims to curtail paperwork and increase the quality of digital services.
Employment and social rehabilitation centres will operate nationwide in order to provide an effective system of support for those in need.
People with disabilities will receive rehabilitation aid from the State Social Insurance Fund. The Government will promote the employment of persons with disabilities through their recruitment quotas.
The President instructed to provide an allowance for large families, while children from low-income families will receive a guaranteed social package, including free school meals, transportation to and from school, school uniforms and school kits.
"Unity is based on diversity of opinion. There is a well-known motto of the United Nations – "Unity in diversity". This concept is very relevant to our country," concluded Tokayev.
Having celebrated its 28th Anniversary of Independence on December 16, Kazakhstan now is entering a new era – one of reform and continued progress.