15 February, 2010

Nazarbayev Rolls On and On and On

ASTANA -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev gave his traditional annual message to the people of Kazakhstan at a joint session of parliament January 29.

“My main goal is to guarantee the country’s economic growth in the coming decade and to open the road to new opportunities. My message today is devoted to this theme”, he said in delivering the address titled “The New Decade, New Economic Growth – New Opportunities for Kazakhstan”.

Declaring Kazakhstan one of the fastest-developing countries in the world, the president announced that the international holdings and reserves of the country’s national endowment fund now exceed US $50 billion, and have grown more than 25-fold over the past 10 years.

According to Nazarbayev, “Kazakhstan has solved all the social tasks facing it in the first decade of the 21st century. We have begun to live as we planned to and have achieved the goals we set (for ourselves)”.

“The average monthly salary in these years has grown five-fold, the average pension three-fold, the percentage of the population with an income falling below the poverty line has fallen four-fold from 50 to 12 percent, and the population’s basic health indicators have improved”, he said.

Nazarbayev said the UN has recognised Kazakhstan’s achievements, and listed Kazakhstan as one of the countries with a high level of human potential in 2009.

“This is indisputable evidence of our growing well-being”, the president said. “Now, Kazakhstan will move to accomplish ‘Strategy 2020’”.

Nazarbayev said the goals of Strategy 2020 are to realize steady economic growth through accelerated industrialization and infrastructure development.

In the speech, he announced plans to transfer US $8 billion from the national endowment fund to the state budget starting in 2010.

“This transfer payment must be directed, more than anything else, toward industrialisation”, he said. “There won’t be any loans from the National Fund or any other additional transfer payments to the budget”.

“Taking into account these steps, the National Fund’s assets by 2020 should grow to US $90 billion, which is not less than 30 percent of the GDP”, he said.

Turning to social issues, the president proposed a new approach for providing affordable housing. Under the plan, people who open a new home savings account in the Residential Construction Savings Bank (RCSB) will have the chance to receive a low-interest mortgage.

Members of parliament applauded Nazarbayev’s announcement that a 25 percent increase in funding for scholarships and salaries for government workers would take effect April 1, rather than July 1, as initially expected.

The president connected the country’s key foreign policy priorities to its chairmanship of the OSCE during 2010. Nazarbayev said Kazakhstan’s chairmanship of the OSCE will be directed toward developing security and encouraging the development of the entire world’s peoples.

“We’ll do everything so that the OSCE becomes a body recognising the diversity of the world in the 21st century”, he said.

Dosym Satpaev, Kazakh political scientist and director of the Risk Assessment Group, said the content of the president’s message to the people of Kazakhstan didn’t match its title. In his opinion, “This message is useful above all to state structures and to the bureaucrats who essentially prepared it”.

“The people aren’t interested in grandiose words about macroeconomics and so forth”, he said. “They’re interested in appropriate levels for salaries and pensions. Also, the people are interested in low inflation so that prices ‘don’t jump’”.

In his opinion, the “conditions that he (Nazarbayev) set for this year are essentially repetitive and remind one of a stuck phonograph record”.

“He begins by expressing support for small- and medium-sized enterprises and for an increase in pensions and salaries. But he doesn’t take into account that the government’s actions have a different effect. They, to the contrary, inflict serious damage on these or other social obligations take for example last year’s devaluation”, he said.

Amirzhan Kosanov, secretary-general of the Azat National Social-Democratic Party, said that the president’s message contained a great many economic tasks but said nothing concrete about political reforms and democracy.

“So far the domestic political part (of future planning) is something for the long term for the president”, said Kosanov. “In his message he always skates around this sphere, the most important one for Kazakhstan”.

Nazarbayev gave his first such speech in 1997.

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