Kazakhstan

President Tokayev's Message 

REALISM AND HOPE

The public address of a head of state to his people is always a significant event in the political life of a country. Especially if we are talking about a leading state in the Central Asian region. Especially now, when the region as a whole is far from stable, battered by the coronavirus pandemic and sensitive to any changes in the political and economic situation.

On Wednesday 1 September, President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev delivered a Message to the Kazakh people. Tokayev noted that this year is an anniversary for Kazakhstan - in December the republic celebrates the 30th anniversary of Independence, spoke with respect about his predecessor, the first president Nursultan Nazarbayev and noted the achievements of the country, including in the international arena.

"We must be ready for any challenges and threats, continuously improve and always move forward", the Kazakh leader noted with cautious optimism.

There is no need to go far to find challenges in the contemporary world. The global COVID-19 pandemic has posed a global challenge not only to global health, but also to the global economy. The economy of Kazakhstan, like elsewhere, has received a serious blow and is now rightfully experiencing its consequences, trying to keep a good face with poor health.

"Our strategic goal is to strengthen our leading role in Central Asia and strengthen our position in the global economy", Tokayev said.

This will require investments, including FDI, and an enabling environment. Last year, the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan instructed the government to develop a new instrument - a Strategic Investment Agreement - through which investors can conclude an investment agreement with the government without parliamentary ratification. Now the Republic has pinned great economic hopes in it.

Tokayev recalled that by the end of 2020, for the first time in 10 years of industrialization in Kazakhstan, the contribution of the manufacturing industry to the development of the economy exceeded the share of the mining industry. "The medium-term goal is to increase the export of manufacturing industry by 1.5 times to USD 24 billion by 2025, and labor productivity by 30%", the president stressed.

However, the ambitious Kazakhstan does not end here. The President of the country sees the future in Information Technologies. He called on the government to nurture and strengthen the domestic IT sector. That is, the country needs young, educated specialists, in the number of at least 100,000 people.

"The export of services and goods of the digital industry should reach at least USD 500 million by 2025", the Kazakh president hinted. These and other tasks will require a complete "digital reboot" of the public sector.

The country will have to build a fundamentally new architecture of "digital government", so that "100% of public services are accessible to citizens from smartphones". Tokayev recalled the launch of the Digital Transformation Center and clarified that it will be necessary to create a platform for interaction between national companies and the IT community.

"It is necessary to gradually expand and update data transmission lines, connecting them with international corridors", he explained. "It is necessary to create modern data processing centers that can serve neighboring countries".

According to the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the information and telecommunications potential of the country is huge, and in the new digital era it will have geopolitical significance. "Kazakhstan should become a central digital hub in a significant part of the Eurasian region," the head of state summed up.

Significant, if not cardinal, reforms are also awaiting for the country's energy sector. "These are not just words, but concrete decisions in the form of taxes, duties and technical regulation measures", he said. "All this affects us directly through exports, investments and technology transfer. This is, without any exaggeration, the issue of sustainable development of Kazakhstan."

The President cautiously reminded that by 2060 Kazakhstan should achieve carbon neutrality, that the population and economy are growing, and alongside that Kazakhstan's energy needs, and that the nation may soon face an energy deficit.

"World experience suggests the most optimal way out is a peaceful atom", Tokayev said. "The question is not easy, so you need to approach its solution as rationally as possible, without speculation and emotions."

The government and the sovereign wealth fund and joint stock company "Samruk-Kazyna" were given the task to study the possibility of developing safe and environmentally friendly nuclear energy in Kazakhstan, as well as, at the same time, to prepare proposals for hydrogen energy.

The situation here is, however, ambiguous. On the one hand, the Kazakh society has a very negative attitude to the prospects of building a nuclear power plant in the Republic; but on the other hand, Kazakhstan has signed and ratified the Paris Agreement aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving the energy sector until it is completely "green".

Kassym-Jomart Tokayev also spoke about the international situation with a high degree of rationality. Recalling the unstable situation in Afghanistan and the general increase in global tensions, the Kazakh leader announced a reboot of the military-industrial complex and the country's Military Doctrine.

"Strengthening the defense capability, increasing the responsiveness to threats should also become priorities of national importance," he said. "We must prepare for external shocks and the worst-case scenario". This brings to mind the lyrics of the song "We are peaceful people, but our armored train stands at the ready!"

Common sense is what has always distinguished the leaders of Kazakhstan. This helped Kazakhstan to survive the collapse of the USSR, the early years of independence in the 1990s, and successive world economic crises. The pandemic crisis and its consequences too shall be overcome.