Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan to have media platform

ASTANA – The new multimedia portal of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan was presented March 1. The project, called the People of Kazakhstan’s historical map, covers the history of the country’s multi-ethnic population from ancient times to the present day. It will also be used as a platform for ethnic media, according to inform.kz.

Photo credit: inform.kz

“All of them [ethnic communities] will have their pages based on the basis of the portal. They will use the multimedia services of the portal – studio recordings and live broadcasts. We are talking about the fact that ethnic media are entering the information space of the country at a new level, becoming more accessible to young people and also continuing to publish paper versions for the older generation. In June, the team of the new multimedia portal will start working in full swing; until this time, we will talk with the Ethnic Media Journalists Club about how to maximise all opportunities,” said Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan Secretariat head and Deputy Chairperson Leonid Prokopenko at the recent assembly meeting in Almaty.

In light of the upcoming major meeting, the assembly is now preparing important documents.

“The regular meeting of the working group of Parliament is discussing a new draft law ‘On the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan.’ We hope that the next discussion will take place at the plenary session of the Mazhilis and in April at a meeting in the Senate. In addition, we need to work out a new plan of the assembly’s activities and conduct active preparations for the April 26 session of the Assembly with the participation of the President,” he added.

The meeting also addressed the importance of the work by ethno-cultural centres, explanatory projects by ethnic media and the tasks set by President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

“The Assembly always supports the efforts of the head of state, whose decisions and proposals are balanced and strategic. Today, we are once again convinced of the consistency and correctness of the course chosen by the President. The idea ‘Kazakhstan is our common home’ and long-term joint living of representatives of different ethnic groups contribute to the formation of a special Kazakhstan mentality with an atmosphere of peace, friendship and interethnic accord. We, the ethno-cultural public associations, support the social initiatives of the President aimed at further improving the well-being of Kazakh citizens, realising that the new initiatives are aimed at improving the lives of citizens and confidence in the future,” said Uighur National Cultural Centre Honorary Chairperson Akhmetzhan Shardinov.



Club 28 Petel volunteers knit woollen clothing for premature newborns

ASTANA – The volunteers of the Club 28 Petel (28 Loops) project gather in seven countries around the world to knit boots, hats, cardigans and toys for premature babies. Photographer and journalist Karla Nur (Karlygash Nurzhanova) initiated the social project in 2012 after reporting from one of the city’s perinatal centres where she saw a baby in a humidicrib wearing blue woollen boots.

“Doctors told me that premature babies have a thermoregulation disorder and there is a need to take care by retaining their heat from the first seconds. Pure wool socks give warmth and, at the same time, constantly massage – a baby feels discomfort because of the scratchy wool and he or she moves, not forgetting to breathe. At that time, the medical staff bought yarn and asked elderly women to knit woollen socks for babies. I realised that this should be done by civilians, not doctors,” she said in an interview with The Astana Times.

Nur noted the club began its activities thanks to the efforts of National Research Centre for Maternal and Child Health neonatologist Dr. Bekturgan Karin, who supported and encouraged the club’s activities. Today, the project provides knitted clothing to neonatology departments not only in the capital, but also throughout the country and even abroad. The project has been extended to Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

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Karla Nur

“The video about our project, recently released by the ZAG media company, triggered renewed interest in many countries like Moldova, France, Romania and Latvia. For me, this project is a hobby; I treat charity as something ordinary and this is a part of my life. I believe that every person has a purpose; he or she can either help people with limited abilities or promote inclusive education or other spheres of charitable activity. I just found my niche; we support children born prematurely. I enjoy spending my time with the club volunteers. I really like what I do,” she added.

The club welcomes all willing people. It does not matter whether or not a person knows how to knit, because experienced members assist newcomers. The most important thing is the desire to help. The capital club has approximately 50 volunteers at Kazpost, Kaztransservice and Nazarbayev and Eurasian National universities.

“The club organises meetings at least once a month in all cities. In 2014, a club was opened in the Atyrau jail. Now, we have a sponsor who supports this club, buys yarn and pays salaries to the coordinator. Over two or three months, women knit 600 items of clothing which we collect and distribute among five perinatal centres in Astana. I believe that this project is beneficial for both premature children and convicts. For Atyrau jail, this project became a link between them and society,” she added.

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Dr. Bekturgan Karin and one of the 28 Petel Club volunteers

Nur hopes to open more clubs in the country’s female jails, as she believes the project gives the women hope and support.

Club 28 Petel volunteers annually mark World Prematurity Day on Nov. 17. To cover expenses to purchase yarn, the club holds charity fairs. In advance, volunteers attend master classes on wet felting, dry felting, jewellery making, baking ginger biscuits and soap making to  prepare all products for the fair themselves.

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“We raised 200,000 tenge (US$624) the first year we held the fair. Last year, together with Kazakhstan Temir Zholy, we collected 587,000 tenge (US$1,831). As the amount was large, we decided to allocate 300,000 tenge (US$936) to the Aruzhan Sain Fund and the remaining money was left at Club 28 Petel to purchase yarn and organise the next fair, which will take place next month. Now, we are looking for a place to hold a fair,” she told the paper.

The volunteers also plan to open a new direction of the club – 40 Petel (40 Loops), where they plan to knit warm socks for the elderly.



Cardiac surgeons conduct artificial heart transplant

ASTANA – The specialists of the National Scientific Cardiac Surgery Centre conducted Kazakhstan’s first artificial heart transplant Oct 19, 2017 for a 60-year-old Pavlodar native, kazakh-tv.kz reports.

The innovative development of French bioengineers and the high professionalism of Kazakh doctors was a breakthrough in cardiac surgery. In general, approximately 20 similar surgeries are planned in the world within six months.

“This is not just the implantation of an artificial heart. It is about giving hope and an opportunity to patients who cannot receive the donor heart or who are no longer suitable for heart transplant. The artificial heart is very close to the normal physiological state of the body in its parameters,” Chairman of Board of National Scientific Cardiac Surgical Centre Yuri Pya said.

Chief Physician of Paediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery Scientific and Practical Medical Centre in Kiev Vladimir Zhovnir said such unique procedures show a high level of medicine in Kazakhstan.

“The fact that Kazakhstan has mastered this methodology, that our counterparts from Kazakhstan have the opportunity to implant artificial heart is a great achievement. I am happy for my Kazakh colleagues; they have the opportunity to do this. This is quite an expensive technology. I hope that Kazakhstan will not stop at this, but will develop further,” he said.

Experts say medical tourism in Kazakhstan also attracts some foreign patients, particularly from India, the Czech Republic, Italy, the U.S., the U.K. and China who rely on the experience of doctors conducting complex operations.

“I looked through the internet about necessary treatment and decided to choose Almaty, because local specialists have good experience in conducting similar surgeries. And, of course, the cost is affordable as well. The same operations in the U.S. or Korea will cost twice as much,” said American tourist Farida Workman.



Kazakhstan prosecutes 320 people for corruption, returns $43 million to national economy in 2017

ASTANA – The Kazakh Civil Service Affairs and Anti-Corruption Agency registered 1,835 corruption-related crimes in 2017 and prosecuted 320 individuals, according to agency chair Alik Shpekbayev. The number of cases is 18 percent less than 2016.

The measures returned nearly 14 billion tenge (US$43.4 million) to the national budget last year.

Alik Shpekbayev. Photo credit: Civil Affairs and Anti-Corrution Agency press service

Shpekbayev discussed the outcomes of the agency’s work in 2017 and set priorities in developing civil service and effectively implementing anti-corruption policies during a Jan. 31 agency board meeting. Introducing a merit-based model in civil service increased its attractiveness, ensured its stability and improved the quality of civil servants. The model launched in 2016 prioritises meritocracy; a person beginning a civil service career must start from the lowest position, with promotions based on his or her merits.

Competition for a higher-level position is conducted solely among current civil servants. The model decreased non-competitive recruitment 18 times, said Shpekbayev, though the March report published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) emphasised the issue remains acute in Kazakhstan.

He added 1.3 percent of newcomers decide to leave the job. Kazakhstan is trying to align with other OECD countries, where the indicator ranges from 2.7 percent in the U.S. to 24.5 percent in Estonia.

Civil servants, however, still need to change their way of thinking, said Shpekbayev.

“We seek to have a large-scale and comprehensive transformation of consciousness among civil servants that should stand at the vanguard of changes. Artificial intelligence already can write template e-mails, quickly process data and offer solutions to different problems. This means it can do everything that a Kazakh civil servant is required to do. Therefore, [it is important to] develop the so-called flexible skills – leadership, communication skills, empathy, critical thinking – the skills that are not available on a machine,” he added.

A civil servant of the digital era is also distinguished by IT literacy and language proficiency, he said.

“Following te adoption of the Digital Kazakhstan programme, we are working on the implementation of a digital agency project. It envisions incorporation of advanced technologies, including expanding the e-kyzmet information system (integrated system for civil service staff management) and stage-by-stage transition to electronic criminal case processing,” he added.

Incorporating digital solutions should start with civil servants successfully mastering and actively using electronic services, as fundamental transformation means first “changes in daily habits,” said Shpekbayev. These include e-government, registering a digital signature to sign documents in electronic format and obtaining services solely in electronic format.

The idea lies at the centre of the national project aimed at improving the nation’s civil service by moving away from the currently-prevailing bureaucracy to more contemporary and efficient approaches. The project is part of the broader Rukhani Janghyru (Modernisation of Kazakhstan’s Identity) programme.

The agency will continue its active cooperation with the public sector and organisations, Shpekbayev added.

In 2017, the agency compiled a corruption risk analysis with the Atameken National Chamber of Entrepreneurs, examining 16 areas of primary significance for business development.

Kazakhstan’s ruling Nur Otan Party assisted the agency in identifying and examining corruption risks in education, healthcare, social protection and housing. Similar work was completed with labour unions in the oil, gas, mining and metallurgy industries, primary sectors of the nation’s economy.

The agency reviewed more than 3,000 recommendations, mostly dealing with the imperfection of the existing procedures, discretionary powers and the presence of a conflict of interest.

Maintaining a favourable investment climate depends on the success of anti-corruption efforts, said Shpekbayev. He urged the agency’s regional offices to prevent state bodies from intervening in foreign companies’ activities.

“Each and every one of us should be convinced that a corrupt official has no moral right to fight corruption and, moreover, teach others. Each corruption case should be made public with the proper legal consequences,” he added.



Mazhilis approves bill on public procurement procedures for NGOs

ASTANA – The draft law “On Amendments to Legislative Acts on Activities of Nonprofit Organisations” was approved in its first reading Jan. 31 in the Mazhilis (lower house of Parliament).

Minister for Religions and Civil Society Affairs Nurlan Yermekbayev.

“More than 29,000 people work in non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Public procurement, grant financing and bonuses are provided as effective mechanisms to support NGOs. The draft law amends the Code of Administrative Offenses and five auxiliary laws. The main provisions of the draft law are aimed at improving the implementation of public procurement,” said Minister for Religions and Civil Society Affairs Nurlan Yermekbayev.

As part of the regulation, the draft law aims to improve legislation for public procurement and the quality of services provided by NGOs and optimise the number of NGOs providing information to the authorised body. Common approaches to the public procurement procedure were identified based on the study and analysis of the needs of target groups and NGO proposals.

Yermekbayev noted state bodies currently use different approaches to the issue without taking into account the needs of the target group. The draft law introduces the concept of public procurement formation. The procedure will be determined by by-laws and consider the population’s needs.

“One of the key innovations of this law is that residents and NGOs have the opportunity to participate in the public procurement procedure by submitting their proposals to the relevant state bodies. At the same time, information on the implementation of all social projects implemented by NGOs and evaluation results of public procurement will also be available to the public,” he said.

Plans are underway to evaluate the public procurement procedure to measure the project’s efficiency and assess the degree of people’s satisfaction with the quality of services. The unified requirements or standards of public procurement will be introduced to identify its quality, conditions and content. The criteria for evaluating the results of social projects provided by NGOs as part of the procedure will also be provided.

In addition, the law offers a mechanism to improve awarding prizes and grants by including a new direction “to promote the development of civil society, including enhancing the sustainability and strengthening the capacity of non-governmental organisations.”

“Some amendments to the draft law concern the optimisation of the number of NGOs providing information. More than 50,000 organisations are required to report annually to the ministry. With the introduction of this rule, the number of organisations that need to provide information to the NGO database will be reduced 2.5 times,” said Yermekbayev.



Raising awareness of inclusive education is crucial for its development, says Nazarbayev University professor

ASTANA – By 2020, 70 percent of Kazakh schools will provide inclusive education. In an interview with The Astana Times, Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Education (NU GSE) Associate Professor Tsediso Michael Makoelle spoke about progress in this area.

“First, it is important to understand what inclusive education means. Inclusive education is a system of education that accommodates the needs of all children regardless of their disability, health, socio-economic status, gender or race. In general, it responds to whatever potential barrier to learning exists in the classroom,” he said.

Makoelle, who is NU GSE’s General Director for Research, holds PhDs from the University of Manchester, U.K., and University of South Africa. He is also the interim chair of the school’s inclusive education team, composed of six experts in policy and governance, pedagogy and curriculum, inclusive practices and learning barriers, minority education and diversity. The team aims to develop competitive inclusive education leaders for the nation’s education system.

Makoelle believes the main barrier to implementation is the way people perceive children’s special needs. A significant number are ashamed to have a child who is different and do not come to the fore. If people still believe children with disabilities cannot be educated in schools, there is no future for inclusive education. Still, awareness is growing and parents are beginning to realise they need to change those attitudes.

“In Kazakhstan, as in many other countries, understanding inclusive education is still centred on disability. Of course, this is how the concept started. However, later it moved further to incorporate other potential obstacles for effective learners. In some countries, inclusiveness was implemented a long time ago and there were numerous awareness and advocacy campaigns. I believe that it is a matter of time for Kazakhstan. I give presentations and hold workshops for teachers and officials from the Ministry of Education and notice that there is now a growing, clear understanding of what inclusive education actually is,” he noted.

Makoelle emphasised the team works with non-governmental organisations, such as the Dara Foundation, which were established to assist people with disabilities in receiving an education. The NGO works with schools to ensure equitable provision of education. The team also acts as a consultant to government bodies and he praised their initiatives.

“The Ministry of Education has set out a policy contained in the State Programme which makes it clear that by 2020, 70 percent of schools must create conditions for inclusive education. It has already been implemented in several pilot schools. For example, NU GSE supervises one such school,” he added.

Two types of training are required to execute the inclusive education system. Principals must be taught to develop structure and administration systems relevant to inclusive schools, since managing such schools differs from managing a homogenous school. In addition, teachers should be re-trained to develop subject methodology and pedagogy to accommodate the needs of all students.

“We also need to change the curriculum of future teachers who are studying in pedagogical institutes, so that when they get a degree and go to a school, they will be ready to assist various students in the classroom. Our team is involved in a 100 experts’ project and we continually train pre-service teachers in such institutes,” said Makoelle.

In addition to training, he noted the need for a suitable infrastructure, such as wheelchair ramps, signs for those with hearing impairments and special prompts for the blind. He noted the difficulty, since schools were not originally built to account for such needs and infrastructure provision touches on the availability of resources.

The inclusive education team has expanded, as two more experts have been hired at NU GSE to focus on inclusive education in kindergartens and higher education institutions.

“We have Master’s and PhD programmes at NU. Students in GSE have the opportunity to go abroad and observe the educational process. For example, PhD students have the opportunity to visit the University of Cambridge and the University of Pennsylvania. Recently, two students went to learn and share experience on inclusive education through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) inclusive education programme by the federal government of the U.S. At the same time, a visitor came to Kazakhstan through the ADA programme. Currently, there are two cohorts of graduates who work in schools and promote inclusiveness,” he said.

While working at NU GSE, Makoelle published “Inclusive Pedagogy in Context: A South African Perspective.” The book, released in 2016, covers pedagogical methods, management systems, school development plans and recommendations for teachers, school managers and policy makers.

Makoelle intends to remain in Kazakhstan five more years and the inclusive education team plans to pay more attention to rural schools and identify how educational practices can be sustained.



Kazakhstan launches sales of uniquely numbered, lettered license plates

ASTANA – Drivers in Kazakhstan can now reserve and purchase uniquely numbered license plates through the Government for Citizens Corporation front offices. This service was launched by the state corporation jointly with the Ministry of Internal Affairs on Jan. 15, the press service of the company reported.

“You can buy ‘beautiful’ license numbers, not only with symmetrical digital signs, but also with alphabetic combinations. To do this, you need to go to the Specialised Centre for Servicing the Population (commonly known as TsON), lodge an application and pay a state duty,” the state corporation said.

The Government for Citizens reminded that, since 2014, car owners have been able to buy so-called “mirrored” digital numbers.

“Now the functionality is designed so that anyone can choose for themselves the preferred combination of numbers or letters and become a happy owner of the desired license plates on a fee basis. For example, license plates of the series 010, 020, 030, 077, 707 and similar will cost the applicant 137,085 tenge (US$426), and the same numbers, along with symmetrical letters, 274,170 tenge (US$852),” the state corporation specified.

In addition, if the desired license plate is unavailable at the Specialised TsON, citizens can order the necessary digital or alphabetic designations, having pre-filled the application and paid the state fee. The manufactured license plates are transferred to the Specialised TsON for subsequent issuance to the owner.

In 2017, Kazakhstan car owners purchased more than 4,500 popular numbers, paying about 1.5 billion tenge (US$4,665,000).

“I would like to start off from when I was a young teenager, I took part in street racing. These kinds of license plate numbers were not popular in the community, since it would be easy to remember the number. And now my vision on these numbers is still negative. I think spending a big amount of money on just a number is not very wise. I would rather invest the money into my family. However, I encourage the new way that the process is being done through the state organisation, that the money goes to the country instead of somebody’s pocket. We live in a free country where anyone can spend their money the way they want, so if someone is willing to buy an expensive number then why not,” said car owner Yerbol Tusaubek.

“I’ve always wanted for us to have the same opportunity as in the West, to get the number you want. I’m planning to get 777 on my license plate. I believe it will bring me good luck,” Yevgeni Orlov, another driver, said.



Astana-Shchuchinsk toll road collects $4.7 million in 2017

ASTANA – Approximately 1.5 billion tenge (US$4.7 million) was collected on the Astana-Shchuchinsk toll road in 2017.

According to the information provided by the press service of KazAvtoZhol national company, the money was used to maintain and modernise the road and toll management systems.

The total vehicle traffic for 2017 was 2,757,857 cars. Since 2016, the intensity of the flow of vehicles along the road has increased 2.2 percent.

The main expenses of toll road management are purchase of materials, wages, spare parts, petroleum products, depreciation, work and services relating to repair of machinery and equipment, as well as other expenses.

Over the past year, a new server for charging and storing data, workstations and multifunctional devices were installed, which significantly improved the quality and quantity of photographs that record vehicle travel. The installation of CCTV cameras on the control arches monitors the condition of the cover on road sections, as well as determines visibility and observe changes in traffic intensity.

In addition, for the organisation and popularisation of non-cash payments, the terminals of QIWI, Cash24, Kaspi Bank payment systems are functioning.

The work to increase prepaid services continues. The contract is concluded and integration with the payment system called Tenge has been completed. Also, an agreement was signed with E100 Central Asia on the use of the fuel card E100, which is also used in Europe and the Russian Federation. Its integration is underway.

In November, the management announced it is fully ready for the winter.

According to the plan for winter maintenance, the places most susceptible to snowfall were identified, the length of which is 49.3 km. At these sites, the company set measures for passive snow retention, schemes for alerting the personnel of road units, as well as approved schedules for the work of drivers and machine operators on duty around the clock in winter.




26 years of independence: changing trends in Kazakhstan

ASTANA – Kazakhstan celebrated its 26th anniversary of independence Dec. 16 this year. During the period, the country made the leap from the economic and political disruption of the early 1990s to a modern social state with a dynamically developing market economy, democratic system, political stability and ethno-confessional peace and accord. The prime minister’s press service released a report Dec. 17 reviewing the work which has been undertaken.

Photo credit: coinfeeds.com

“Today, Kazakhstan is deeply integrated into the international processes, has joined the main financial and economic institutions and attracted multibillion-dollar flows of foreign direct investment. EXPO 2017, the first OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) Summit on Science and Technology and other major forums were held in the country [during 2017],” it noted.

Kazakhstan has established diplomatic relations with 180 countries, presided at such authoritative international organisations as the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA), Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), OIC, Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and the Turkic Council. The nation also hosts a regular congress of leaders of world and traditional religions, joined the World Trade Organisation (WTO), effectively mediated in resolving conflict situations, initiated the adoption of the UN General Assembly’s Universal Declaration for the Achievement of a Nuclear-Weapons-Free World and gained non-permanent membership on the UN Security Council for 2017-2018.

“Kazakhstan is becoming more attractive to foreign business. Approximately $300 billion in direct investment was attracted to the country over the past 26 years. This is more than 70 percent of the total inflow to the countries of Central Asia. The largest investors are the Netherlands, the USA, Switzerland, France, Great Britain, Russia, Italy, Japan, Belgium and Canada,” said the report.

Back in the early 1990s, the country’s oil and gas industry started with 25 million tonnes of oil production, the Atyrau-Samara oil pipeline and a three-million tonne per year export quota to foreign countries. The lack of investments threatened a severe crisis and production volume fell annually.

“A serious jump in oil reserves was made from 5.3 billion barrels in the 1990s to 30 billion barrels today. In 1991, oil exports were approximately 12 million tonnes to limited locations; today, exports have been increased by more than five times – over 66 million tonnes to 36 countries. In 2016, Kazakhstan launched the long-awaited Kashagan project, which is supposed to bring substantial revenues to the country,” according to the report.

The contribution of the oil and gas sector to the economy and social development of the regions is unique. Investments in Karachaganak, Kashagan and Tengiz fields exceeded $121 billion, as their contribution to the economy reached $155 billion.

Kazakhstan currently follows a course towards new industrialisation and production development, reducing the country’s dependence on raw materials. The manufacturing sector is becoming the main driver of industrial growth, facilitated by implementing the second five-year State Programme of Accelerated Industrial and Innovative Development.

In addition to the traditional metallurgy and food industries, the nation has 26 new manufacturing areas, including the automotive industry, railway engineering, titanium industry, medical equipment production and solar and wind power.

“The development of the country’s transport and logistics system is one of the most important priorities. Today, Kazakhstan has become a key element of the Euro-Asian transit system. In 2016, the President instructed developing the Nurly Zher programme of housing construction. The programme is set to provide even more Kazakh families with affordable housing,” noted the review.

The nation also pays special attention to the social and labour spheres, promoting employment and developing health, education, culture and sports.

“The country is looking forward to large-scale modernisation of various spheres of Kazakh society. This work will be done under the national strategies and programmes of Kazakhstan 2050, the 100 Concrete Steps Plan of the Nation on the implementation of the five institutional reforms, Nurly Zhol, third stage of Kazakhstan’s modernisation, Rukhani Janghyru (Modernisation of Kazakhstan’s Identity) and 2025 Strategic Development Plan of Kazakhstan,” according to the report.



Kazakh President discusses major 2017 issues in year-end press briefing

ASTANA – President Nursultan Nazarbayev gave a press briefing to domestic media Dec. 22, discussing Kazakhstan’s digitisation programme, employment, transportation infrastructure, the Kazakh language switch to a Latin-based alphabet and other major issues of 2017.

The president also discussed agriculture, anticorruption efforts, decentralization of presidential powers and challenges faced by national banks in 2017. The press briefing was organised at the EXPO 2017 Nur Alem pavilion and was broadcast on national television on Dec. 25.

Nazarbayev said that domestic and global changes during the country’s 26 years of independence precipitated the need for the constitutional reforms launched earlier in 2017 which transferred authority and responsibility from the president to the government for specific executive matters, as well as rights to parliament as the legislative power to control the executive power.

“We have made changes before, because life requires it, everything develops and moves. I believe that we have made a significant step forward in distribution of power and authority. Thirty-five powers, which, according to the law, were reserved for the president, are transferred to parliament or to the government. The role of the parliament has greatly increased, I think, and the role of the government has risen,” he said.

The President stressed the multiplier effect of the 28th Winter Universiade in Almaty last February and the EXPO 2017 international specialised exhibition in Astana on the national economy. These developments stimulated domestic tourism, the development of small and medium-sized businesses, housing and transport, he noted. They also spurred infrastructure development in cities outside Astana and will help it become a two million population city by 2025-2030.

Starting Jan. 1, 2018, the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC), centres of green technologies and IT start-ups will operate on the site of EXPO 2017. NASDAQ and the Shanghai Stock Exchange are already working with the AIFC, and the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Asian Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank intend to participate in the work of the AIFC, which is similar to Dubai’s financial centre. The head of state also noted the centre will be based on the principles of English common law and ensure the rule of law to protect investors’ funds.

Speaking on the issue of state support of banks, the President noted that the urgency of improving the banking system is associated with the need to finance the economy, in particular small and medium-sized businesses. Meanwhile, the National Bank and the Kazakh government are reorganising inefficient financial and credit institutions. The state will help banks in which most of the capitalisation is made at the expense of private shareholders’ funds.

Despite global financial challenges, some of Kazakhstan’s development priorities remain unchanged. The President paid attention to the transportation and logistics spheres. Particularly, the importance of container transportation was emphasised, taking into account the transit potential of Kazakhstan, the complementary nature of the Nurly Zhol programme and the China-led Belt and Road initiative, as well as the Western Europe-Western China highway and the Kuryk sea port in the Caspian Sea.

Touching on the problems of air pollution in cities, the head of state noted that the government plans to address the gasification of the south, north and centre of the country. Providing liquefied gas supplies to Astana, equipping with electric transport, development of the metro, transfer of public transport and Almaty Cogeneration plant to gas are envisaged.

The main reasons for the shortage of fuel in Kazakhstan in autumn, said the president, were the “complete bungling and omission of the relevant responsible bodies and people.” However, after the reconstruction of all three refineries, Kazakhstan was able to provide itself with these resources and has the ability to export about one million tonnes of oil-based products.

Priorities in the development of the Kazakh agro industry should be the cooperation of small farms, the processing of products for sale with large added value, the regulation of subsidies and the development of science and agricultural genetics, he said.

On implementing the “Rukhani Janghyru” modernisation programme, Nazarbayev reminded of the goal set for entering the 30 most-developed countries of the world by 2050, which requires not only economic and political development, but spiritual as well.

“A country of strong spirit will be able to withstand any difficulties, so we believe that it’s time to pay attention to our spiritual development,” Nazarbayev noted.

The President also shared his expectations for the 100 New Faces of Kazakhstan project, which tells the stories of mostly young people who have achieved incredible success in music, painting, science and other fields.

The Tugan Zher projects for the revival of the Small Homeland, 100 New Textbooks and Sacred Geography of Kazakhstan projects are all part of the Rukhani Janghyru programme.

The transition of the Kazakh language to the Latin alphabet was also addressed at the press briefing. Currently, there is an approved version of the alphabet, but work is being done to improve and implement it. At the same time, the head of state drew attention to the fact that the Cyrillic alphabet in Kazakhstan will be preserved, as it is naturally used to write in Russian, which enjoys a constitutional status in the country, and given the continued implementation of the tri-lingual education in Kazakh schools.

The President stressed that now schools are switching to new teaching programmes, on which the level of teachers’ salaries depends. They will be able to receive a 30 percent higher salaries. In 2016, the salary of teachers, doctors and civil servants increased by 30 percent. At the beginning of 2018, there will be an increase of 36 percent, in 2018-2019 by 50 percent. A similar trend will be established in Kazakh clinics and hospitals, whose effective staff can earn more.

During discussions on installing monuments and renaming facilities, including the Furmanov street in Almaty which was recently named after Nazarbayev by the local authorities, the President said that he gave his consent only to the appropriation of his name to Nazarbayev University. At the same time, he had fully agreed with the author’s opinion of one of the numerous letters addressed to him: “Nazarbayev does not need stone monuments, since he built the capital.”

“I always oppose it, we have to remain in history with the achievements, and, we all know well from history what happens to monuments with the passage of time,” he said.

Nazarbayev also outlined the primary challenges to transitioning to a new pension system and compulsory medical insurance. At the same time, he noted the need to take into account people who cannot make contributions such aschildren, those with physical or mental challenges and students. Nazarbayev said pension savings were united in the Single Accumulative Pension Fund to ensure their integrity under the control of the state.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2018, the size of pension payments for age and length of service will be increased by 8 percent. In addition, the appointment of a basic pension will be carried out according to a new method – depending on the length of participation in the pension system. All retired pensioners will receive a one-off recalculation of the basic pension.

Commenting on the housing issue, the President noted that “all countries have a housing problem, it has always been and will be there.” However, Kazakhstan’s financial mechanisms provide an opportunity to acquire housing through savings with concessional lending, rent with subsequent repurchase and without the right to buy out, individual housing construction, including in the framework of the Nurly Zher Programme.

The President also touched on anticorruption efforts, labour migration, the transition to a green economy and the implementation of the Digital Kazakhstan programme. A special digitalisation forum which will bring together representatives from Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and other countries is planned in Almaty in February.

In addressing foreign policy, Nazarbayev spoke about relations with Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, as well his famous anti-nuclear weapons stance.