Kazakhstan to allocate $69 million to develop areas surrounding Almaty

ASTANA – Kazakhstan will allocate 23.6 billion tenge (US$69.38 million) to develop the areas around Almaty until 2020, Minister of National Economy Timur Suleimenov announced during a recent government meeting.

Photo credit: etoday.kz.

Development of the Almaty agglomeration that occupies 9,400 square kilometres is envisioned in the interregional plan until 2020, said Suleimenov. The document includes 67 measures, 11 of which are funded by the national budget.

“Almaty is characterised by a high concentration of human capital and financial resources, education and research potential, developed infrastructure ensuring access to national and world markets,” said Suleimenov.

The idea to boost the development of the city’s surrounding areas was first voiced by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev in 2013.

He then instructed the government to focus on developing not only the country’s major cities, Astana and Almaty, but also its other big cities and, several months later in his 2014 state-of-the-nation address, he said Almaty, Astana, Aktobe and Shymkent should turn into urban centres of the country.

“The agglomeration includes nearby towns, such as Talgar, Yesik, Kaskelen, Kapshagai as well as Yenbekshikazakh, Zhambyl, Ili, Karasai and Talgar districts. It (agglomeration) has a population of 2.9 million people,” said Suleimenov.

Almaty is a home to 1.8 million people, he added.

Suleimenov outlined three tasks that the government and the city administration seek to address in developing the surrounding area of the city. These include territorial and institutional development of the agglomeration, its economic positioning at national and regional markets and infrastructure development of Almaty.

In the development of Almaty and its agglomeration, Nazarbayev stressed two objectives in urban planning that included reducing the effect of Almaty’s rapidly growing population along with addressing its transport and environmental problems and develop the city and its agglomeration as an innovative and industrial growth centre of the nation’s economy.

One of the measures included establishing an industrial zone in the Alatau district with a focus on innovative and environmentally friendly production.

“The industrial zone in the Alatau district occupies an area of 500 hectares and 390 of them will house plants that will produce construction materials, furniture, engineering equipment, food and pharmaceuticals. The industrial zone is divided in six industrial sectors,” said First Vice Minister for Investments and Development Roman Sklyar.

“The work was conducted to develop the services sector, including eco tourism. For example, these include events meant to develop and promote national nature parks such as Sharyn, Altyn Yemel, Ile Alatau and regional resorts, such as Alma Arasan,” noted Suleimenov.

The agglomeration should be developed as a “multifunctional region,” said Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev.

“The development of the Almaty agglomeration should seek to turn it into a multifunctional region with a competitive economy, high quality of life and environment, address interaction between akimats (local administrations) of the city and the region in terms of planning territorial development of the region, population and migration,” said Sagintayev.



Minimum subsistence costs in Kazakhstan rise 14 percent in one year

ASTANA – The subsistence minimum in Kazakhstan reached 26,468 tenge (US$77.8) in May, increasing 14 percent increase within a year, reports finprom.kz. The figure in May 2017 was 23,218 tenge (US$68.26).

The subsistence level corresponds with the population’s minimum consumer basket of goods and services, including food products (55 percent) and non-food products (45 percent), according to the Kazakh law.

The highest subsistence level in Kazakhstan is in the oil rich Mangystau region with 32,300 tenge (US$94.96). Next is the country’s capital Astana, where the figure totals 30,600 tenge (US$89.96), followed by the country’s largest city Almaty with the subsistence minimum reaching 29,900 tenge (US$87.9).

The report indicates the figure increases on average by 9.7 percent each year. Between 2012 and 2017, the subsistence minimum rose 7,000 tenge (US$20.58) from 16,800 (US$49.39) to 23,800 tenge (US$69.97).

The subsistence minimum for children was 21,435 tenge (US$63). The figure reached 31,440 tenge (US$92.43) for men and24,968 tenge (US$73.4) for women.

Basic necessities for retired and elderly people cost 24,753 tenge (US$72.77), said the report.

Within the subsistence minimum structure, spending on meat and fish account for 19.8 percent, dairy and eggs – 15.3 percent, fruits and vegetables – 10.5 percent, bread and grits – 7.3 percent and sugar, tea and spices – 2.1 percent.






Shymkent declared city of national significance, South Kazakhstan region gains new name and administrative centre

ASTANA – Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on June 19 declared Shymkent city in Southern Kazakhstan a city of “national significance,” as it joined the other two cities with such status in the country, Astana and Almaty. Another presidential decree, signed publicly at the Akorda presidential residence, changed the name of the Southern Kazakhstan region to the Turkestan region and relocated the region’s administrative centre to Turkestan, a town 150 kilometres to the north of Shymkent famous for the 14th century Khodja Ahmed Yassawi mausoleum.

Khodja Ahmed Yassawi mausoleum. Photo credit: today.kz.

“Shymkent will become a new centre for attracting investment, technologies and intellectual resources not only for our country, but for the entire Central Asian region. For this, there are all the necessary conditions and potential in place,” Nazarbayev said at the decree signing ceremony. “This step will provide a steady impetus to the balanced social and economic development of the city and a consistent improvement in the quality of life of the inhabitants of the entire region.”

The President also stressed the importance of the Turkestan region to the country and region.

“The region’s centre is the city of Turkestan, which for centuries has been the heart of the political and spiritual life of the Kazakh Khanate and the entire Turkic world,” he said.

Shymkent recently joined Astana and Almaty as a city with more than one million people and the decree will make Shymkent the country’s 17th administrative unit.

All territorial, regional and local government bodies currently operating out of Shymkent will continue to do so while the new administrative centre is being built in Turkestan, according to the President.



French photographer conducts workshops in Almaty for children with special needs

ASTANA – French photographer Erik Vazzoler visited Almaty May 28 to conduct a series of photography workshops for children with Down syndrome. The two-week event was organised by the Foundation of the First President and supported by the Kenes Social Adaptation and Labour Rehabilitation Centre.

Photo credit: Kenes Centre.

The 10 children taking part in the workshops attend the centre. Established in 1992, it has implemented socially-significant projects and programmes meant to protect the rights and interests of children with developmental challenges along with providing education, social adaptation and day care services to the youngsters and their parents.

With vast experience during his 30-year career in teaching young people in France, Germany and Poland, Vazzoler noted he has no special methodology. He tries to turn his workshops into a vivid and unusual activity going beyond the classroom.

Kenes Centre founder Maira Suleeva spoke about their first meeting.

“We met with Erik Vazzoler more than 15 years ago in our centre. He visited our centre then. Last year, he remembered that he once visited us, came to us and suggested implementing this project, to which I agreed with pleasure,” she said in an interview for this story.

Photo credit: Kenes Centre.

Photo credit: Kenes Centre.

Children with severe psycho-neurological disorders are rarely invited to take part in such projects, she noted.

“Erik expressed interest in working with children with Down syndrome. The group was diverse in terms of age, ranging from seven years to 23 years old. All have Down syndrome. Erik was interacting with the children in a very correct way, as if he has always been part of our team and knew that most important is the respect of a child and his or her dignity and recognition of his or her special features,” she noted.

The children were excited to meet him every day. In addition to the master classes, the centre organised an outdoor photo shoot.

“Every day, they were asking whether Erik would come tomorrow or not and completed their homework with pleasure,” she added.

Vazzoler did not expect the children to be so open and cheerful and Suleeva noted the workshop was a “mutual exchange.”

“I would like to note that Erik emphasised his interest in working and he did not expect that our children would be so open, cheerful and so enthusiastically involved in a creative process. All are individuals with their own preferences. Immersing in their daily life is quite interesting,” she said.

Photo credit: Kenes Centre.

Photo credit: Kenes Centre.

She was surprised the idea came from a foreign photographer, but not local ones.

“On the other hand, this means that our society is not yet ready for inclusiveness in its full sense and meaning – the integration of children with special needs in society, not only at the kindergarten or school level, but at a societal level,” she added.

The centre is continuing to improve its services by offering children various activities.

“We do not only provide comprehensive services to children with different disorders in the day time, but also implement many projects. We have now switched to summer work mode and every Friday we organise very interesting festivities and holidays. The children prepare for these holidays over the week across different themes,” she said.



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.

WhatsApp Image 2018-02-16 at 16.46.38

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.

WhatsApp Image 2018-02-16 at 16.31.24

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.

WhatsApp Image 2018-02-16 at 16.29.32

“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.