Experts gather at Nazarbayev University, discuss economic diversification and good governance

ASTANA – Nazarbayev University hosted the Good Governance and Economic Diversification in Resource-Rich Economies conference Aug. 17-19, bringing approximately 40 participants and eminent academics and speakers to the Kazakh capital.

Photo credit: Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Public Policy

The Graduate School of Public Policy (GSPP), one of the eight schools of the nation’s young, but progressive Western-style university, organised the conference for the first time to bring the focus to the most salient issues for Central Asia and beyond.

The speakers represented various universities and institutions, such as the University of Toronto, Tashkent Financial Institution, Asia Research Centre, University of Groningen, University of Central Asia, Free University of Brussels, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy and Nazarbayev University.

The conference speakers and participants discussed economic diversification, public management, the political economy of natural resources, civil society and public sphere, security and international relations and public policy education in Central Asia.

“For Kazakhstan, which is heavily dependent on oil and gas, the ideas and issues discussed in this conference on Good Governance and Economic Diversification are therefore very pertinent and vital for its future economic development and progress amidst the increasingly complex, volatile and uncertain global economic and political environment,” GSPP Dean Dr. Weng Tat Hui told The Astana Times.

Good governance in natural resources management is a key factor to economic diversification, he added.

University of Warwick Professor Franklyn Lisk, who is currently involved with the Centre for the Study of Globalisation and Regionalisation, delivered the keynote speech. In his opening remarks, he noted Kazakhstan’s progress in preventing its economy from falling victim to the “resource curse,” a phrase used to describe the inability of recourse-rich economies to use their ample resources in a proper way to ensure sustained economic growth.

“On the basis of my examination of the situation in Kazakhstan, I am content to note that this country in the course of its development path since independence in 1991 has so far not tumbled into the resource curse trap,” said Lisk.

Franklyn Lisk. Photo credit: Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Public Policy

Franklyn Lisk. Photo credit: Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Public Policy

He went on to point out three components of national regulatory framework necessary for effective good governance. The environment should be such that it attracts private sector investors and international development partners to invest in the country, and the government and people should be able to witness the benefits of the use of natural resources through taxation and royalties.

Lisk noted the system through which the government reinvests its vast revenues should also be transparent to foster economic diversification and human and physical development.

“On the basis of each of these three conditions, available evidence of performance and outcome suggests that Kazakhstan’s achievements as a resource-rich economy are notable,” he said.

The country’s leadership wisely uses the resources and reinvests them, with Nazarbayev University serving as a successful example, he added. Apart from its rich resources, Kazakhstan occupies a special position in the Central Asian region and a unique geographical location between Asia and Europe.

While the conference was taking place, GSPP was already planning to organise it again next year.

“This is our modest inaugural conference. Nevertheless, we have been able to attract good quality research papers on work done in Kazakhstan and the region,” said Hui.

“We are encouraged by the response and it is our goal to continue hosting this conference on an annual or biennial basis and grow the research network that we have established,” he added.



Ayala fund promotes charitable culture, focuses on effective giving

ASTANA – The Ayala Charitable Foundation has attracted 3 billion tenge (US$9 million) in donations, assisting 216 children’s healthcare and education state institutions in 58 areas throughout Kazakhstan since it was founded in 2007.

Projects in paediatric cardiac surgery (“I also want to live”), neonatology (“Let’s Bring to Life”) and resuscitation (“Breathe, Baby”) are brilliant examples of the participation of non-governmental organisations in healthcare. “I see the world” is a unique project to diagnose retinopathy in premature newborns.

“Our foundation adheres to the principle of effective charity in its activities. We believe that it is not enough to install new equipment in the hospital or educational institution. The training of specialists is also included in an integrated approach to solving problems in the field of children’s healthcare and education,” said foundation president Aidan Suleimenova in a recent interview for this article.Ayala fund campaign in the hospital Photo credit Ayala.kz

The organisation also conducts trainings and master classes with the participation of leading specialists from Italy, Lithuania, South Korea and Russia. Local therapists and nurses take part in internships in Italy, India, South Korea, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.

Since its beginning, the fund has aimed at making a feasible contribution to developing society and becoming an effective tool for helping children.

“Many of our initiatives have been supported by the government and other charitable foundations,” said Suleimenova. “We try to introduce innovations into the practice of charity. We launched a Shkola Blagotvoritelya (Charity Worker School) project dedicated to the 10th anniversary of the foundation. In their video clips, popular radio and TV hosts, journalists, bloggers and sportspeople speak about the methods of work, ways to participate in charity and what challenges face charities.”Айдан Сүлейменова - АЯЛА қайырымдылық қорының президенті 2

Donations are mostly collected with the help of sponsors – large companies and banks. Students, state employees, individuals, pensioners and other residents help the charity through Internet banking, collection boxes, SMS, payment terminals and other available means.

“Tens of thousands of children’s lives saved in the neonatal intensive care units, maternity hospitals and regional and district children’s hospitals are the most important result of our activities. We also managed to significantly improve the conditions of life, leisure and education of children in foster houses,” she added.

Ayala also provides social and domestic orientation room equipment for foster homes so that children have an opportunity to learn the skills of adult life. They work in metalwork shops, sewing workshops and hairdressing training offices, attend computer classes and receive primary skills in demanded professions. The floriculture room, pottery workshops and cardboard-binding cabinet are among the foundation’s unusual programmes.

“We launched the controlled hypothermia project in cooperation with the Ministry of Healthcare in 2016. The leading local and foreign neonatologists made methodical recommendations on the application of this new treatment method in the country. We also organised the scientific and practical conference and a master class delivered by Lithuanian professor Arūnas Liubšys in Astana,” said Suleimenova.

She feels a sense of pride that the projects and initiatives are widely supported by Chevron, Samsung, Exxon Mobil, Halyk Bank, Kaspi Bank, ATF, Sberbank, Eurasian Bank and many other companies and media.

“This year, we summed up the results of the national contest among reporters which is titled the ‘Press Service of Good Things.’ Participants from different regions received an opportunity to visit Paris, Hong Kong, Tbilisi and St. Petersburg as a gift from Air Astana, our long-time partner. This competition became one of the facets of the main mission of the foundation – to promote culture and tradition of charity in Kazakhstan,” she added.



Almaty to preserve city centre and build new airport

ASTANA – The new Almaty general plan includes constructing a second airport while preserving the city centre. The design was developed to make the urban area comfortable for people, not cars, using the best practices of the most up-to-date and environmentally friendly cities.

The general plan was approved 15 years ago and the new one is expected to be ratified before the end of the year. Altai Satybaldin, who developed the latter, noted the work to reconstruct Almaty’s central portion, which has already been started, reflects the spirit of future changes.

“The city has developed according to the socialist paradigm for a long time. We expanded the streets and did everything for the convenience of cars. I believe that the large-scale work that is being carried out now has a systematic character. It is better to go through such systemic changes once and to use the results. We, according to the adopted documents, in particular the Almaty 2020 Development Programme, are moving to a new model, a city convenient for people, not cars,” he said, according to Kazinform.

The city will become more comfortable and environmentally friendly and use up-to-date public transport.

“Expansion of the city boundaries is not planned. We aim to develop the city in its current territory, which will be linked with the suburbs. A kind of agglomeration is planned. At that, the level of comfort will be same in the urban area and in Almaty settlements. So, we will be able to reduce the number of private transports in the city. People will not need to go to the centre of the city,” said the architect.

Satybaldin emphasised the new general plan calls for the need to increase the share of green plantations.

“As of today, the city has only four square metres of green plantings per one inhabitant. This is a very low number. According to the new general plan, the plan is to increase this figure up to 13 square metres per person,” he said.

The new general plan envisions building the second airport in an empty area 30 kilometres to the north of the city along the Kapchagai Highway. To free the city of transit passengers, developers have included construction of the Almaty ring road as part of the design.

“The plan aims to manage the city’s territories in an efficient way. Other documents regulating the number of storeys and so on will be developed on its basis. I can say that the project envisages the preservation of the appearance of the buildings of the historical part of Almaty, the expansion of the list of monuments of historical and cultural heritage,” said Satybaldin.

Almaty’s current population is 1.6 million and the plan is designed to accommodate a population of 2.4 million.



Family support institute, scientific social work training centre to open in 2018

ASTANA – The Kazakh Ministry of Labour and Social Protection plans to establish the Family Support Institute in 2018, said Vice Minister Svetlana Zhakupova at an Aug. 7 Central Communications Service briefing in the capital.

Local executive bodies will identify families living below the poverty line and help them find jobs and increase their income.

“We are currently working to create an institution for family support. For example, people independently apply for social benefits and prove the level of income of their family now. Next year, local executive bodies have to identify families in a risk zone whose income is below the poverty line,” she said.

A set of measures will be provided to support the families and find solutions to cut poverty. Special assistants and consultants at the institute will work with the families, focusing on low-income ones and those with members with disabilities. Assistants will interview each person and develop a set of measures to ensure the families are able to reverse a difficult life situation.

More than 628 physically challenged children attended the day rehabilitation centre and their mothers found jobs as part of the pilot project.

With the participation of international organisations, the Scientific Social Work Training Centre is also expected to open next year.

The approach to social work’s professional and educational standards will be changed. Universities will offer programmes in demanding areas promoted by the volunteer institute.

“The idea of ​​volunteering is important for job seekers in the social sphere. Graduates should have volunteer experience if they apply for a social work programme. They must necessarily work in medical and social institutions and have experience working with people who have disabilities,” said Zhakupova.

Human resource management providing training and retraining of personnel is an important issue of the social security modernisation concept.

Measures are provided to ensure early retirement for citizens involved in harmful and dangerous working conditions. The amount of compulsory pension contributions deducted by the employee since 1998, employer contributions since 2014 and voluntary pension contributions should be enough to buy an annuity, allowing the individual to retire at age 50. The amount is approximately 7 million tenge (US$21,035) for men and 10 million tenge (US$ 30,050) for women.



ATOM Project Honorary Ambassador’s exhibit opens ahead of International Day against Nuclear Tests

ASTANA – The Fallout, The Artwork of Karipbek Kuyukov, a personal exhibit featuring 20 paintings by the famous Kazakh artist and ATOM Project Honorary Ambassador, opened Aug. 9 at the Kazakh National Museum. The event, organised by the museum and supported by the Kazakh Ministry of Foreign Affairs, highlights the heavy consequences of nuclear weapons use for the world and serves as a call to action against such weapons.

Born in the village of Yegindybulak, 100 kilometres from the former Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, Kuyukov remembers the horror of nuclear explosions and saw many children who were born with disabilities. A number of them could not be shown to others beyond their family and lived their whole lives in seclusion._6979

“I am very proud to live in a country that was one of the first to ban nuclear tests. I believe that my most important goal in life is to tell the whole world about what these nuclear tests lead to. You are all healthy people, you have arms and legs and the future is in your hands. We shall strive for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons from the face of the earth. I hope you remember my words for the rest of your life,” Kuyukov told the journalists, visitors and mostly school children who attended the exhibit’s opening ceremony._6863

“Today’s exhibition is devoted both to the sufferings of Kazakh people and the relentless struggle and tremendous faith in the success of our common deal – the building up of a world without nuclear weapons. As it is known, more than 450 nuclear tests were conducted at the Semipalatinsk test site in the second half of the last century; as a result, more than 1.5 million Kazakh citizens were affected by those tests. Many of them, like Kuyukov, suffer birth defects, lifelong debilitating illnesses and early death,” said Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Roman Vassilenko._7048

Kuyukov’s paintings were previously presented at the UN offices in both New York and Geneva, as well as at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organisation (CTBTO) in Vienna. Throughout the world, the pictures arouse understanding and interest among nuclear non-proliferation specialists and ordinary people.  Looking at his art, they discover the history of nuclear tests in Kazakhstan and understand why the country is convinced that nuclear disarmament and elimination of nuclear weapons are essential. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Nevada-Semipalatinsk anti-nuclear movement founder Olzhas Suleimenov and Kuyukov have been fighting for nuclear disarmament around the world for more than 25 years and have been recognised as true leaders in this realm, said Vassilenko._6808

“This exhibition is organised in response to numerous requests from people partly familiar with the works of Kuyukov, not indifferent to his creativity or to his high mission. Some of them plan to visit Astana this month to visit EXPO 2017. Among them are delegates from the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, who will meet in Astana on Aug. 25-29 on the eve of the International Day against Nuclear Tests and on the anniversary of the Semipalatinsk test site closure,” he said.

“If we are really committed to the idea of ​​nuclear disarmament, then we must not remain silent; we must act. On Aug. 29, 2012, President Nazarbayev came up with a new initiative called the ATOM Project (Abolish Testing. Our Mission). Over the past five years, a large number of people around the world have learned about the history of nuclear testing and Kazakhstan’s activity against nuclear weapons and supported the online petition of The ATOM Project to help bring into force the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Despite the fact that this document has existed for more than 20 years, it has not yet entered into force and requires the support of certain states. However, at least 300,000 people from more than 100 countries have signed an online petition and every day the number of project supporters is growing,” he added.

Every year, Japanese people honour the victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Aug. 6 and 9. People recognise the similarity of the historic destinies of the Kazakh and Japanese peoples affected by nuclear weapons; therefore, both countries focus special attention on cooperation in this area.

“Aug. 6, 9 and 29 remind humanity of how peace in the world is important for the development of civilisation and the culture of mankind. The works of Kuyukov will give new impetus to our desire to build a world without nuclear weapons,” said Japanese Ambassador to Kazakhstan Ichiro Kawabata who was a guest of honour at the exhibition launch.

The exhibition is open for capital residents and guests until Aug. 29.



Foreign mural artists make Almaty buildings bright and colourful

ASTANA – Five artists from the United Kingdom, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Ukraine are creating monumental and decorative art in Almaty as part of International Mural Fest, giving them the chance to splash their inner colours out.

Britain’s Fanakapan, known for his works in large cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Berlin, London and Paris, was the first to display his talents, reported tengrinews.kz. He decorated a house in the Medeu district with the gigantic letters Q and Z shaped like helium balls after learning Kazakhstan could soon switch to the Latin alphabet.

Andrei Palval, a Ukrainian street artist, painted one of the apartment complexes in the

Bostandyk district. He devoted his work to the berkutchi, the Kazakh national falcon hunters, noting the art demonstrates his passion for painting people and birds.2b3f042a1758491885cf45e46235f6d2

“In his work, Palval managed to combine these two images while retaining the Asian flavour,” wrote the media.

Russian artist Georgiy Kurinov, also known as GOOZE, was assigned to Almaty’s Alatau district. He said he enjoys when his works are thoroughly scrutinised and suggest new ideas, making the onlookers reflect. Each individual can visualise something for him or herself.

Kurinov, who defends protecting nature and wildlife, portrayed a sea turtle, which he said is an ancient symbol of the universe. He enciphered the phrase “Energy of the Earth” in Russian on the reptile’s shell and fin and portrayed an eco-house of the future with solar batteries and wind generators on the tree above it. A small hydroelectric power station is pictured in the middle.c9005a48211a27c0b518d7acb5a0b86b

Sergey Keller and Dmitry Petrovsky, the DOXA team from Kyrgyzstan, are participating in their second festival. They were assigned to the Turksib district.

The Kyrgyz duo depicted a swallow on one of the houses near the airport and their work has become the locals’ special favourite. The apricot growing in front of the building is a reminder of spring, new life and dreams.e9d4b8fffc70034bac6a477474a1db0f

The work of young Kazakh artist Ali Zakir, a member of the Tigrohaud Crew team, appears on a residential building in the Auezov district near Sputnik shopping mall and entertainment centre.

“The idea came to me when I was working on the theme of the Aral Sea and I drew boats and ships. This work is not only about the ecological problem of the Aral Sea, but also about the transience of time; these ships sail not just in water, but in air, our thoughts and fantasies,” the artist said.

In the Almalinsky district at the intersection of Zheltoksan Street and Zhibek Zholy Avenue, one can see the work of another Kazakh artist, Mukhit Dulu. He showcased the image of a Kazakh girl in a saukele, the national wedding headgear, and the work is rich in details and national ornaments.

The last piece will be completed on a 500-square metre wall in the Nauryzbai district, which  will be painted by 100 children and teachers of the Kasteyev School of Fine Arts. The project will be carried out as part of the “Favourite children to the beloved city” campaign held annually in Almaty. In the future, Mural Fest is planned for other cities throughout Kazakhstan, according to the organisers.



Government increases number of educational grants

ASTANA – In 2016, the government provided 31,702 educational grants. This year, it is going to increase the number by approximately 6,000 educational grants. This year, 50,416 graduates participated in the complex testing. At that, 21,078 of them got at least 50 points, passing the test.

Minister of Education and Science Yerlan Sagadiyev recently highlighted that the state order for training specialists with higher education and master’s degrees has been increased.

“Applicants who passed unified national examination and complex testing will compete in getting educational grants until Aug. 10, and they will be distributed. As compared to last year, the volume of educational grants for baccalaureate provided by the government is higher by more than 6,000 grants this year. Also, the number of the grants for doctorates was increased by 2,500 grants, which is twice more than in the last year. In addition, regional authorities are going to provide their own educational grants for the first time this year,” the minister said.

In 2016, the government provided 31,702 grants for training specialists with higher education. At that, state order for specialists training with master’s degrees was 7,429.

Recently the reception of documents for re-testing has started.

“The re-testing will continue until Aug. 8. The testing itself will be held beginning from Aug. 19 until Aug. 24. If a graduate can’t pass the examination, he can be conditionally enrolled and can pass one semester on a fee basis in a higher educational institution,” said Sagadiyev.

He also reported on the results of complex testing this year.

“A total of 88,595 people participated in the unified national examination, which is 95 percent of the total number of applicants. As a result of the testing, the average score for the country was 80.5 out of 140. Last year, this figure was 81 out of 125. The threshold level, which is 50 scores, was passed by 74,517 graduates, which is 84 percent​​. This year, the complex testing was held in in 48 universities in July. In total, 50,416 people participated in the testing. At that, 21,078 of them got 50 points, which means that 42 percent of the total number of graduates passed the examination,” the minister said.




Almaty hosts 10th summer Cosplay Festival

ASTANA – The COSsummer Almaty Cosplay Festival, held for the 10th time, was an extra special event. The festival attracted a record high number of participants and visitors and gained international status.

Photo credit: inform.kz

“Cosplay is quite popular in Almaty. On average, approximately 400-500 people per day visit the event and about 100-120 people take part in it. Every year, the number of participants increases. COSsummer gathered a record number of participants. There are more people who want to participate, but we have an electronic application form and have to make a strict selection of quality and scenarios to choose the most interesting ones. Nevertheless, we have 27 single cosplayers,” said Tais Tukanova, one of the organisers, reported Kazinform.

For the last decade, Almaty’s cosplay (short for costume play or costume game) fans have joined four times a year to reveal the best. The two-day summer festival is the biggest, brightest and most interesting of the year.

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Photo credit: inform.kz

Cosplay aficionados cross the invisible border every day between the virtual and real worlds. They dedicate their lives to animating different characters from computer games, movies, comics, shows, cartoons and anime.

“The participants of the contest prepare their own shows in groups or individually using the images of their favourite characters. They come up with a script, make decorations and sew costumes,” said Semyon Dmitriev, one of the organisers.

The main feature of cosplay is that the person who sewed the costume of his or her favourite character or ordered it in the studio must play the role onstage.

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Photo credit: inform.kz

Many male cosplayers of past Almaty festivals have participated and received prizes in such prestigious international festivals as IgroMir and Komikon, held in Russia. The most famous Kazakh cosplayer, Aigera Dunamis, also took part in the Almaty Cosplay Festival.

“Earlier, only cosplayers from Almaty participated in the event. Recently, participants came from Astana. Today, for the first time in the history of the event, guests from Kyrgyzstan came to it,” said Tukanova.

Cosplayers compete in different categories, with visitors and a jury selecting the best performers. Winners get special gifts.

“We have spent 10 years with the cosplay festival organisation supported by a large team of enthusiasts who just like to do such holidays for themselves and spectators, involving young people in an interesting and cognitive process of creativity,” says Dmitriev.

The most popular COSsummer costumes were images of Japanese anime and computer games. Interestingly, with the exception of Spider-Man, comic heroes did not attract the attention of this year’s participants.




Thirty-one bicycle share stations open in Almaty

ASTANA – The public bicycle system of the Almaty Bike project recently expanded its service, making available for shared use an inexpensive means of transportation.

Photo credit: Almaty Bike press service

The project, implemented by the Samruk Kazyna Sovereign Wealth Fund and Almaty’s Akimat (city administration), intends to make it easier to cycle in the city. The bike share system encourages the public to engage in a healthy form of transportation that also benefits the environment. The system provides an alternative to public and private automobile transportation and is intended for short trips.

“There are 50 bicycle stations with 270 bicycles around the city. On July 31, the team of the Almaty Bike social and innovation project launched 31 new bicycle stations under the second phase of the project. They will be located in the streets of Tole bi, Raiymbek, Mametov, as well as in the Central Park of Culture and Sports,” the press service of Almaty bike reported.

The second phase of the project provides for installation of an additional 150 bicycle stations with 1,460 bicycles, which will cover the main business part of the city. The phased launch of additional bike stations will be carried out during the July-September period. The area of ​​coverage is about 98 square kilometres.

At the third stage, an additional 100 bicycles will be installed and 680 bicycles will be purchased, which will cover almost all the busy parts of the city. Next year, Almaty is expected to have 300 bicycle stations with 2,410 bicycles.

Any Almaty citizen and guest of the city, having registered in the system and having added money to his or her account, can rent a bicycle at any bike rental station, make a trip and return the bicycle to any other station.

The operation of the system does not require connection to the city communications, since it operates on solar energy.

Similar systems are available in Shymkent and Astana.



Social health insurance fund accumulates $2.4 million in July

ASTANA – The Social Health Insurance Fund received 800 million tenge (US$2.4 million) in payments in July, according to Fund Chairperson  Yelena Bakhmutova.

“According to the preliminary data, the total volume of contributions exceeded 800 million tenge (US$2.4 million), so this means that the number of people that got insured went above 384,000. We expect around 4.5 billion tenge (US$13.4 million) in August. In general, the dynamics that we observed in July match what we expect to accumulate until the end of this year – 27 billion tenge (US$80.3 million),” noted Bakhmutova.

The funds will be accumulating until January 2018, said Kazakh Minister of Healthcare Yelzhan Birtanov.

“This sum will be accumulated. It will be allocated starting January next year to pay for medical services for insured citizens,” added he.

The amount of contributions in the fund varies across regions. “Leaders in terms of contributions are East Kazakhstan, Karaganda, Kostanai and Almaty regions, which together contributed 49 percent of all payments in the fund. This amount covers 234,000 people,” said Bakhmutova.

The compulsory health insurance system has been on top of the agenda of the healthcare ministry and other competent bodies since 2015, when Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev first announced the introduction of social health insurance scheme in the 100 Concrete Steps programme, along with other institutional reforms.

The World Bank provided an $80 million loan to Kazakhstan for that purpose. The agreement was signed in May.

The loan payments will come from the budget of the Ministry of Finance, not the fund savings, Birtanov assured.

“The loan term is five years. This means that nearly six billion tenge (US$17.9 million) will be allocated annually to enhance the social health insurance fund and the system in general. Six billion tenge a year compared to approximately 1 trillion tenge (US$2.98 billion) and more of the fund savings. This is a very small percentage from what the fund will have in control,” added Birtanov.