PRESIDENT NAZARBAYEV FOCUSES ON ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, SOCIAL SECURITY AS MAJOR GOALS UP TO 2020, SAYS FOREIGN POLICY WILL “MEET HOPES” OF ALL PARTNERS
PRESIDENT DELIVERED STATE-OF-THE-NATION ADDRESS, OUTLINING CONCRETE PLANS UP TO 2020
Kazakhstan’s foreign policy will “meet hopes and expectations of all our partners,” President Nursultan Nazarbayev said in his state-of-the-nation address on January 28 as he outlined major priorities for the country’s development for both 2011 and the next decade.
“Kazakhstan will remain committed to swift and efficient development of the Customs Union between Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus,” the President told the members of Parliament, the government and the people of the country during his one-hour address televised nationally. He went on to note that in the first 10 months of the CU operation last year the country’s trade with the other two partners jumped 38 percent.
“We offer our European partners to jointly develop and accept, in a multilateral format, a Kazakhstan-EU Energy Charter up to the year 2020,” Nazarbayev said. “This would ensure the guarantee of stability of energy supplies to the European markets, and the development of pipeline systems.”
Turning to other foreign policy issues, Nazarbayev announced his intention to convene this year a special donor conference on Afghanistan. Last year, Kazakhstan launched a special 50-million-dollar educational programme to train 1,000 Afghans in Kazakhstan and signed an agreement, as yet to be ratified by the Parliament, to send officers to ISAF headquarters in Kabul.
The Kazakh President also reaffirmed his commitment to pursue a Stability Pact for the Caspian Region, which, in his view, would be a document leading to better cooperation and mutual understanding among the five littoral states.
Taking up the subject of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and Kazakhstan’s chairmanship in it last year, the President said the country would continue to stay involved, especially in efforts to resolve protracted conflicts in the former Soviet Union.
Another foreign policy priority for Kazakhstan would be the development of an inter-state programme of assistance to neighbouring Kyrgyzstan which last year saw major upheavals and violence. Kazakhstan, as both a close neighbour and a chair of the OSCE, helped stabilize the situation there by sending 11 million dollars worth of assistance and coordinating various efforts within the organization, including the dispatch of a group of police advisors.
Kazakhstan will also continue promoting its idea of reaching a Universal Declaration of a Nuclear-Weapons Free World, first proposed by President Nazarbayev last year at the Global Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC.
Later in 2011, Kazakhstan will assume the presidency in the council of foreign ministers of the Organization of Islamic Conference. As part of its mission, Kazakhstan will continue to promote the East-West dialogue and better understanding, President Nazarbayev said. Internationally there are expectations Astana can indeed contribute to these efforts.
Tolerance was one of the major messages of Kazakhstan’s OSCE chairmanship last year, resulting in a stronger focus within the organization on problems related to intolerance based on ethnic, religious, sexual or other grounds. Also last year, Kazakhstan aggressively promoted closer ties between international organizations it chaired or initiated, such as the OSCE and the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-building Measures in Asia (CICA), helping organize the first ever CICA-OSCE forum in Istanbul in June 2010. Astana also invited OIC Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ikhsanoglu to participate in and address numerous OSCE events, including its summit in Astana last December.
One more important foreign policy priority for Kazakhstan is its current leadership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the holding of the group’s 10th anniversary summit in Astana in June. Kazakhstan was the original co-founder of the SCO and this organization, which also groups China, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, will continue to be of great importance for the country, President Nazarbayev said.
Referendum decision to be based on people’s best interests
Turning to the much discussed issue of a referendum to extend the President’s term of office up to 2020, Nursultan Nazarbayev said the people’s initiative, now supported by more than five million signatures or almost two thirds of the typically voting electorate, created a complicated “political collision”.
“I am sincerely grateful to all the people of Kazakhstan, as well as the initiators of this idea,” the President said.
“As you know, by my decree I declined the proposal of the Parliament to have a referendum, as I was planning to stand for re-election in 2012,” he noted. “The Parliament overruled my objections and passed a law. I sent it to the Constitutional Council for review. Only after they make a conclusion, the final decision [on whether or not have the referendum] will be made.”
“In any case, I am very touched by such attitude from the people… I take it as a signal to continue in my job, to continue doing my work,” Nazarbayev said.
“Whatever decision we will make… If my health and strengths allow me, if there is such support from the people, I will continue doing my job,” the President said to a rousing applause from the audience.
“For we have created this country almost from scratch, and I, your obedient servant, has led this process. I can’t say I am the founder, but I did lead this process, and this country is my creation, our creation, which is precious for me and whose independence is precious for me and for us,” he stressed.
“The decision will take into account the position of the Constitutional Council and the interests of the people. We need to look not in front of our feet, but farther ahead. In any case, the will of the people will be above all for me,” President Nazarbayev noted.
Economic growth top priority
Speaking of Kazakhstan’s economic development, the President said its record since independence 19 years ago offers a great promise for the future.
“In December 1991, having chosen the strategic goals of sustainability and success, we moved forward, creating new programmes of development for each new stage… We set ourselves ambitious goals, and we achieved them,” Nazarbayev underscored.
In 1994, Kazakhstan’s gross domestic product per capita was slightly above 700 dollars, while today it reaches 9,000 dollars, an increase of 12 times.
“We had planned to reach such a level only by 2015,” the President proudly said. “The international experience shows that in their first 20 years of independence, no other country was able to do that.”
Last year, Kazakhstan’s economy grew seven percent, overcoming the influence of the global financial crisis which affected the country over the past couple of years. While the GDP grew 8.5 percent in 2007, the growth slowed to 3.2 percent in 2008, and then slowed even further to 1.1 percent in 2009. The economy never contracted, though, thanks to both massive state investments to the tune of 14 percent of the GDP, and the recovery in the global commodity prices.
An even larger credit for that recovery, according to the President, should go to both prudent policies and the Programme of Accelerated Industrial and Innovative Development (PAIID) for 2010-2014, launched last year.
Already, 152 new enterprises were launched, creating 24,000 new jobs. Kazakhstan’s gold and foreign currency reserves now stand at 60 billion dollars, more than before the crisis hit, while Kazakhstan attracted 120 billion dollars in foreign direct investment overall since 1993.
“Before 2014, we plan to see through 294 investment projects worth 5.1 trillion tenge (KZT 147 = US$ 1),” Nazarbayev said adding that 161,000 new permanent jobs will be created and 207,000 new jobs will be available for the period of construction.
The PAIID’s main result is the “beginning of the structural changes in the economic development thanks to the expansion in the real sector of the economy,” the President said as he went on to outline the expectations for economic development up to 2020 according to a strategic development plan offered last year.
The GDP should grow 30 percent, while the growth in processing industries should exceed that in the extractive industries. The assets of the National Fund, set up in 2000, would reach 30 percent of the GDP. Investments, both domestic and foreign, should grow by 30 percent. Inflation will be contained within five to eight percent. The share of small and medium-sized businesses in the GDP should reach 40 percent of the GDP. The population should grow from the current 16 million to 18 million, and qualified specialists will constitute 40 percent of the workforce. Unemployment will stay below five percent [Last year it fell to 5.6 percent]. The productivity in agriculture will grow twice by 2014, and four times by 2020, as Kazakhstan will seek to become one of the major exporters of meat, in addition to exporting wheat and flour. Along all of that development, energy consumption of the economy should be reduced.
“I stand for the principle, ‘strong business means strong state’,” the President noted as he reaffirmed his commitment to further creating beneficial conditions for businesses. Already, last year Kazakhstan was recognized by the World Bank as the country which improved conditions for domestic businesses the most in one year. The World Bank also ranked Kazakhstan 59th in the rating of 183 countries in terms of the most beneficial business climate.
Elsewhere, 16 laws were adopted to reform the system of law enforcement and the protection of human rights, while state bodies slashed their staff by 15 percent.
“Kazakhstan will continue fighting corruption without compromises,” Nazarbayev underscored as he noted that the country jumped 45 points in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index in three years.
Education, healthcare, languages and tolerance top social priorities
Lifelong learning should be the motto for all Kazakhs, Nazarbayev said, adding that Kazakhstan will continue to create conditions for the people to pursue this goal.
By 2020, the country should switch from an 11-year school curriculum to a 12-year one, and, for that, 400 new schools will be built by 2015.
The Nazarbayev University, as well as the intellectual schools built around the country now, will also be instrumental in further educational reforms. By 2020, at least two universities in Kazakhstan should join the rating of the best universities in the world.
What is more, according to Nazarbayev, the people in Kazakhstan should have “an opportunity to save for education of their children, with interest bonuses added from the government.”
Additionally, a National Council on Vocational Personnel Training will be set up, while free vocational training is to be ensured.
Budget financing for healthcare now stands at 3.2 percent of the GDP. The continued attention to this sphere had led to a 25 percent growth in birth rate, an 11 percent decrease in death rate, and the speeding of the population growth by 1.7 times.
By 2013, the Unified National Healthcare System will be fully introduced, with the ultimate goal of extending the average longevity to 72 years by 2020.
The Government will also heavily promote a healthy lifestyle, and the new facilities, specifically built for the Asian Winter Games from January 30 through February 6, 2010, will have to be fully used afterwards, the President underscored.
Another top priority is the development of languages.
“Peace and harmony are our common achievement,” the President underscored, as he outlined plans to promote the study of the Kazakh, the Russian and the English languages.
Already, more than 60 percent of the population speaks Kazakh, the state language which 20 years ago was almost on the brink of extinction due to suppression from the Soviet authorities. Plans are afoot to have 80 percent of the ethnically diverse population speak Kazakh by 2017, and 95 percent by 2020.
“In ten years, 100 percent of school graduates will speak the state language,” the President said.
The government would also promote the study of the Russian and other languages of more than 130 ethnic groups in the nation. English, though, will be a continued priority, and “by 2020 20 percent of the population should speak English freely”, the head of state said.
Among other priorities listed by the President were housing, water supplies and providing employment. “By May 2011, I instruct the Government to develop a new employment programme,” Nazarbayev said, adding that free vocational training and microcredits to support small entrepreneurs, especially, in the rural communities, should be a top goal.
“This year, we are also raising pensions, scholarships and budget wages by 30 percent. For two years, we have been raising them by 25 percent each. As planned, by 2012, average pensions, salaries and scholarships will grow twice compared to 2008. We had promised that, and we are delivering on that promise,” Nazarbayev said.
20th anniversary to be a major celebration
The year of 2011 will be a major opportunity to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s independence, achieved on December 16, 1991.
“Throughout the years of independence fundamental values of the Kazakhstan Way have been crystallized: Freedom, Unity, Stability and Prosperity,” the President stressed.
To arrange proper commemoration, a state commission has now been set up and a nationwide plan approved.
Celebrating the 20th anniversary is a “common affair” for the whole nation, Nazarbayev said as he asked the Government to bring together the efforts of investors, business community and all the people.
“The motto of our jubilee will be ‘20 Years of Peace and Creation’,” the President said.
Full text of the Address