Kazakh government takes comprehensive approach to fighting corruption

Most Kazakh citizens don’t litter because they know it’s wrong. The same is true for an individual as he or she considers trying to bribe an official. They don’t do it not only because of fear of punishment and public censure but because they know it is wrong.

Bergen Bespalinov

Fighting corruption with both enforcement and the public’s inherent sense that it is wrong is something all nations strive to achieve and is characteristic of the Anti-Corruption Strategy of Kazakhstan, adopted in 2014.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev represented the importance of such an integrated approach in his state-of-the-nation address, “The Third Modernization of Kazakhstan: Global Competitiveness.”

“We have taken significant steps to reduce the level of corruption in the country. At the same time, the focus is on combating the consequences of corruption. It is necessary to strengthen the work to identify and eliminate the causes and prerequisites of corruption,” he said.

Kazakhstan is able to point to successes in eradicating the causes and conditions that generate corruption, creating a breakthrough in the public consciousness, creating an internal rejection of any of its manifestations.

Nevertheless, there are still officials who continue to commit official crimes, lobbying the interests of commercial organisations. As before, the spheres of increased corruption risk are the use of state property, expenditure of budget funds, public procurement procedures for construction, repair of social facilities and transport communications.

Corrupt manifestations in these, as well as in other spheres, damage the budget, can lead to disruption of the implementation of state and sectoral programmes. Most importantly, they reduce public confidence in the government, freeze and even exacerbate the unresolved social problems.

Current legislation provides severe penalties for officials found guilty of corruption and the system of their prompt detection is being improved. But demand creates supply and this axiom of market relations is applicable to any sphere of human life.

Entrepreneurs who are looking for workarounds for getting a state order, winning a tender, should be well aware that officials who agreed to “help” for a certain reward render them a disservice. It is not only because the risk of disclosure and cancellation of contracts concluded in violation of the law increases every day. But also because by trying to take immediate advantage, entrepreneurs risk their business reputation. Having chosen roundabout ways, they voluntarily deprive themselves of legal protection. It is unlikely that they will dare to turn to law enforcement when they are in the difficult situation, such an illegal takeover. Not having learned to act within the framework of the law, they elementary do not survive in a competitive environment.

The violator of traffic rules trying to “negotiate” with the policeman who stopped him, should remember that another driver can do the same thing. Another driver who does not have a driver’s license and who drinks too much before getting behind the wheel can hurt anyone, including ourselves, our relatives and friends.

The whole system of anti-corruption legal education of citizens is meant to bring this causal connection to citizens. This is done through publications in the media, broadcasts on state television and radio channels, provision of free legal anti-corruption assistance, meetings and various public events.

An anti-corruption mobile group of our department together with representatives of the regional branch of the Nur Otan party, the branch of the NGO National Movement Against Corruption Zhaharu, the National Chamber Atameken holds meetings with work collectives and meets with the population of the region. The dialogue has helped inform the fight against corruption.

We are well aware that not only the process of counteracting corruption is important to our citizens and society, the result is also important. In the whole system of public service, accountability, transparency of work, adherence to the principle of meritocracy in the appointment of civil servants, improvement of the quality of public services are being improved.

At the same time, our successes and our temporary unsuccessful failures fully confirm the correctness of President Nazarbayev’s words: “Much of the fight against corruption will depend on the active participation of the whole society. With the development of social networks and other media resources, universal rejection must become a powerful tool in countering corruption.”

We can only cope with corruption when we realize that civilisation and genuine competitiveness begin with the fact that we can give up immediate personal benefits for the sake of greater benefits for everyone.

The author is head of the Department of the Agency of the Republic of Kazakhstan for Civil Service and Anti-Corruption Affairs in the Akmola region.



Kazakhstan’s fight against corruption aims to build a graft-free state, top official says

ASTANA – A Kazakh delegation recently attended the Anti-Corruption Network for Eastern Europe and Central Asia (ACN) meeting in Paris. ACN, a regional programme established under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), provides a forum to promote anti-corruption activities and exchange best practices. Kazakhstan reported on the progress achieved as part of the fourth round of monitoring of the Istanbul Anti-Corruption Action Plan.

Photo credit: Civil Service and Anti-corruption Agency

In an exclusive interview, Alik Shpekbayev, Deputy Chairman of Kazakhstan’s Agency for Civil Service and Anti-Corruption, provided an overview of the issues presented.

Could you please provide background on the anti-corruption cooperation between OECD and Kazakhstan?

Kazakhstan presented its own model of building a corruption-free state developed during the past 25 years of independence based on the best international practices and national peculiarities. OECD experts have been helping us greatly in doing this through the Anticorruption Network as well as in the framework of the country’s programme. Speaking of the country’s programme, since 2015, 20 activities were carried out, 13 of them being comprehensive overviews. We are working actively on the implementation of the Integrity Scan recommendations. Today, we are involved in 32 OECD working bodies in different capacities – as an invitee, a participant, a partner and an associate member.

What about the model you presented?

Our commitment and uncompromising stance in combating corruption is inspired by the political will and initiatives of the President. We are building a modern state model similar to that of the countries leading in preventing corruption. Large scale economic, social and political reforms have been carried out.

We have started what is known as the Third Modernisation of Kazakhstan. The first prerequisite of modernisation is the establishment of an open and accountable government. In this regard, we have adopted the Law on Access to Information and created an Open Government electronic platform consisting of five open data portals. Thanks to them, every citizen can see the budgetary expenses, participate in discussing law drafts, get online consultations and file online complaints, as well as assess the effectiveness of government authorities, without leaving his or her home. Currently, the government is working on enhancing and optimising the functioning of the mentioned portals on the basis of feedback from the people.

Today, the government’s interactions with the citizens are based on the principles of customer-orientation, transparency and accessibility of services. Currently, more than 60 percent of public services are rendered in electronic format. During the first half of this year, 47 percent of services were rendered in electronic format. All the licenses and permits are issued for businesspeople in electronic format only. Twenty-four percent of services are rendered through one stop shops via the Government for Citizens state corporation. These measures allowed reducing the level of everyday corruption by two thirds. In the coming years, we are planning for 80 percent of public services to be transferred to electronic format; the rest will be delivered through one stop shops.

As a result of the measures taken, Kazakhstan occupies a leading position in the electronic government development index among Southeast Asian countries. Our country is also 33rd among 174 countries according to the UN index.

Since the adoption of the Law on Public Councils, heads of government authorities have to publicly report to the citizens. More than 200 public councils are functioning on a regular basis. Every government authority has to submit the drafts of the legislation it is preparing for the review of the public council and has to consider the suggestions.

You spoke about the modernisation in light of the reform of the state apparatus. Could you please tell us more about this?

The next stage of the modernisation of our country is redistribution of powers. As a result, 35 functions of the President have been transferred, thus strengthening the role of the Parliament and the autonomy of the government. For instance, starting next year we are introducing the fourth level of the budget. Local budgets will be adopted only after they are discussed with the public. Thus, the budget will be planned taking into account the needs and interests of the citizens of every region.

The success of the reforms depends on the effective work of the government. It is commonly known that during the epoch of the Soviet planned economy, the state controlled everything. During the independence years, we have reduced the control functions by half. This work continues. Currently, in the framework of Kazakhstan’s modernisation, we are conducting a comprehensive overview of controlling and supervisory functions of government authorities. There are plans to reduce more than 40 percent of supervisory functions and part of the state functions will be transferred to a competitive environment.

Kazakhstan has switched to a career model in civil service. What are its principles?

Today, civil service has switched to a career model that maximises the principle of meritocracy. Now, entering civil service begins with entry-level positions and promotion along the career ladder is possible with the appropriate skills, knowledge and experience in lower-level positions. When entering civil service, there is a need to pass a three-stage selection system, including testing for knowledge of legislation, an assessment of competencies and an interview. Also, in order to increase the transparency of the state apparatus, we anticipate that foreign managers will be hired to work in state bodies.

A special place in the protection of meritocracy is taken by the new Code of Ethics. It regulates the standards of conduct of civil servants during official and off-duty hours. To comply with the norms of service ethics and prevention of violations of legislation, an independent post of ethics commissioner was introduced at government institutions.

Kazakhstan is progressing along the path to form a law-based state. What milestones have been achieved?

A key aspect of the reforms was the development of modern justice:

– transition from a five-level justice system to a three-level system has been implemented;

– the independence of the procedure for the selection and appointment of judges by the Supreme Judicial Council is ensured, as well as their inviolability;

– a new code of ethics for judges was adopted; and

– full automation of court records management and distribution of court cases is ensured.

In December 2015, the President signed the Law on the Establishment of the Astana International Financial Centre. Within this, an independent financial court will operate based on the principles of English common law. This will allow for effective resolution of investment disputes.

The results of international ratings prove the effectiveness of ongoing judicial reforms. According to the Global Competitiveness Index, Kazakhstan has improved its Judicial Independence indicator by 43 positions over the past five years, moving from 111th to 68th place. Kazakhstan also moved up 27 positions in the ensuring the fulfilment of contracts indicator of the World Bank’s 2016 Doing Business rating.

Alik Shpekbayev

Alik Shpekbayev

What about law enforcement?

The law enforcement system and the prosecutorial authorities are also undergoing crucial changes. Notably, we got rid of punitive-repressive methods and accusatory bias in criminal proceedings. The fundamental change in the sphere of prosecutor’s supervision is the exclusion of the leftover of the Soviet past, the so-called “general supervision” from the functions of the prosecutor’s office.

The new look of the prosecutor’s office is in line with the best practices of OECD and gives priority to protection and the restoration of human rights and freedoms, as well as the legality of the criminal process.

Functions of the police are decentralised by creating a local police services which are accountable to local executive authorities. Online maps have been created, with the help of which it is possible to see all statistics on crimes in each region, as well as all appeals addressed to state authorities. In the same place, everyone can leave a comment or question.

The system of recruiting to law enforcement agencies has changed. Now, candidates for law enforcement agencies, like all state employees, are tested for knowledge of legislation and undergo an assessment of personal competencies and interview.

The effectiveness of reforms in law enforcement is confirmed by a three-fold increase in our country’s indicators in the indicators of organised crime and reliability of law enforcement agencies of the Global Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Moreover, Kazakhstan has consistently pursued a policy of liberalisation and humanisation of criminal penalties. Today, the emphasis in the penal system is shifted to probation. As a result, the share of non-custodial sentences amounted to 73 percent (22,627). The number of institutions of the penitentiary system is decreasing. This in total allowed reducing the prison population by three times. While in 1996 we occupied third place in the world in terms of the prison population (94,000 inmates), conceding only to Russia and the United States, today we are already at 68th (35,000 inmates).

Based on the implemented reforms, what are the significant steps Kazakhstan is undertaking to reduce corruption?

Following the implementation of a new anti-corruption policy based on the Kazakhstan 2050 Strategy, the Plan of the Nation “100 Concrete Steps” and the Anti-Corruption Strategy, our country has taken significant steps to reduce corruption. This work is based on a rational combination of anti-corruption education and prevention measures, with penal sanctions being the last resort. Preventive measures such as creating an anti-corruption culture, analysis of corruption risks, anti-corruption monitoring and standards have been set out in the legislation. These comprehensive and complex measures resulted in:

– reduced administrative barriers and corruption risks;

– increased quality of public services (due to the introduction of standards and regulations for their provision); and

– increased legal awareness and anti-corruption culture of the population.

We pay great attention to anti-corruption education and awareness-building. Honest Generation (Adal Urpak) voluntary clubs were created in almost every school (more than 90 percent). With the support of the OSCE, the Foundations of Anticorruption Culture textbook has been developed and is used now in all universities of the country for teaching the corresponding subject.

Mobile anti-corruption groups on specially-branded buses have begun their work. All of them are united by a single goal – to reach every citizen and to develop a stable immunity from and a general rejection of corruption. As a result, there is an increase in the population’s activity in fighting against corruption. In order to encourage those who are willing to inform, material incentives are being widely used – 167 people were given awards totalling to 21.5 million tenge (US$62,679) in 2016, which is 14 times more than in 2015.

The state does not intend to loosen institutes of criminal prosecution of corruption crimes. Officials convicted of corruption, regardless of their positions and ranks, are prosecuted with all the severity of the law. According to official data, more than 10,000 people have been convicted of corruption crimes since 2001. Among them there are two former prime ministers, seven ministers and chairpersons of agencies, seven akims (governors) of regions and their deputies, eight heads of national companies and eight generals of the national security, defence and law enforcement agencies.

Shifting the emphasis from punitive to preventive measures received a positive evaluation from international rating agencies. According to the results of the Global Corruption Barometer study by Transparency International, over the past three years the proportion of citizens in Kazakhstan observing progress in countering corruption has doubled. The number of people giving bribes decreased by one third. Similar results are demonstrated by the Global Competitiveness Index according to the Informal Payments and Bribes criterium, which has improved by 38 positions over the last five years (2011 – 99th, 2016 – 61st).

In general, all anti-corruption work is based on close cooperation with OECD in the framework of the Istanbul Action Plan. It laid the groundwork for adoption of the Anti-Corruption Strategy, introduction of external monitoring and evaluation of its implementation and adoption of more than 60 laws aimed at minimising corruption. Currently, government authorities have resumed the work on introducing criminal liability of legal entities and criminalisation of promising and offering bribes, as well as a number of other recommendations.

These international standards received the conceptual support of the intergovernmental working group on improvement of criminal law and we are now developing mechanisms for their implementation. OECD recommendations direct us to further improve our national anti-corruption legislation. We have done a lot, but there is still work to do.



Enhanced Kazakh-Uzbek relations offer opportunity for Central Asian regional cooperation

Against the backdrop of Kazakh boxer Gennady Golovkin’s fight and just because it happened over the weekend, President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s visit to Tashkent and its outcomes did not, perhaps, receive sufficient coverage. Of no small importance is the fact that the visit had the status of an official state visit.

Yerlan Karin

Both sides called the meeting ground-breaking and historic. And such a characterisation is not a cliché politesse but a reflection of the actual situation. The two countries have signed a large package of documents, expanded cooperation horizons and indicators, and laid new traditions of bilateral visits at the highest level.

The Uzbek side was scrupulous about Nazarbayev’s visit, which included, for instance, a visit to the Tole bi mausoleum and a launch of an Uzbek translation of Nazarbayev’s book. These would seem simply subtle details, but in Central Asia they are very significant. They confirm the existing warm relationship between the two presidents and, in particular, the Uzbek leader’s special respect for the President of Kazakhstan. Therefore, this visit has definitively taken this bilateral relationship to a qualitatively new level.

It is worth reminding that the Kazakh President’s working visit to Uzbekistan last September ushered in a new stage of expectations and set the trend for the future Kazakh-Uzbek relations. Back then, forecasts about the prospects for cooperation were cautious. There were also fears that expectations were just illusions. However, the leaders of the two states were able to bring bilateral relations to a new dynamic within a span of just one year.

Since September 2016, Nazarbayev and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev have had seven telephone conversations. In March, the Uzbek President paid a state visit to Kazakhstan, which was followed by another working meeting in Saryagash in South Kazakhstan a few weeks later. In June, the Uzbek leader visited Astana to take part in the meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit. He came back to Astana in early September to lead the Uzbek delegation to the first ever Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Summit on Science and Technology. Apart from that, Nazarbayev and Mirziyoyev held bilateral talks in May on the fringes of other multilateral fora, including the Arab-Islamic-American Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and the Belt and Road Initiative Forum in Beijing, China.

In Tashkent, both Presidents emphasised in their remarks that this was their sixth meeting over a short period of time.

The leaders of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have given an impetus to economic cooperation, which reflected in concrete indicators. Since the beginning of the year, bilateral trade has grown 35 percent, communication between the two countries has intensified, and border collaboration issues are being solved on a systematic basis.

The most important is that both leaders are trying to give a boost to the overall process of regional cooperation. With the strengthening of the Kazakh-Uzbek ties, there is indeed a chance to restart regional cooperation in Central Asia.

The author is a political analyst and the head of the Kazakhstan Council on Foreign Affairs.



The Decisive Step towards Modernisation of Kazakhstan’s Identity

The International Turkic Academy team has conducted comprehensive research on adopting a Latin script, studied what it took for several Turkic speaking nations to switch their alphabets to Latin-based ones, and published a monograph on the issue.

Dr. Darkhan Kydyrali

Our studies showed that a Latin-based alphabet is the common alphabet of turkology. For instance, turkologists rely on the Latin transcription while studying ancient Turkic writings. So did “The Soviet Turkology” led by Baskakov. Turkologists in today’s Russia are still using this method. As New York University Professor Larissa Bonfante writes, the Latin alphabet derives from ancient Etruscan. “Codex Cumanicus”, which is considered as an encyclopedia on the Middle Age Turkic people, is also written using the Latin alphabet. In the 1926 Baku Assembly, our intellectuals chose the Latin script.

In the 1990s, intellectual communities of the Turkic nations made to the same decision.

These facts show that the Latin-based alphabet is the most appropriate alphabet taking into account our phonetics. A Latin-based alphabet not only serves as the symbol of the Kazakh statehood revival, but it revives the public memory and conscience. The alphabet boosts the usage of the Kazakh language, promotes cultural unity in the Kazakh community, and liberates the Kazakh information space. An alphabet symbolizes culture, nationality, statehood, sovereignty and unity.

Thus, choosing an alphabet means choosing a way towards prosperity. We believe that by choosing the Latin-based Kazakh alphabet we have decided to move towards realisation of the aspirations of Mangilik El (Eternal Nation).

Switching to the Latin-based Kazakh alphabet, we will solve some issues in spelling the Kazakh words in Latin. Our nation’s name, for example, is written in three different ways. Through the Latin-based Kazakh alphabet, we would be spelling Kazakhstan as Qazaqstan since the latter meets uniqueness of the Kazakh language.

Furthermore, the new alphabet would allow us to adapt foreign words in accordance with the Kazakh language rules. The Latin-based Kazakh alphabet would make it possible to standardise spelling of foreign words comprising the Kazakh vocabulary. Integrity in Kazakh orthography and orthoepy leads to integrity in a language. Thus, many non-Kazakh ethnic groups will have a unique opportunity to master their knowledge of Kazakh and our people will be united, not divided, by the state language. As President Nazarbayev notes in his article titled “Course towards the Future: Modernisation of Kazakhstan’s identity”, the Latin-based Kazakh alphabet will revive the Kazakh public conscience and promote national cohesion.

The Latin script has been widely used in many online media outlets so far. There is a large number of people on Internet and social media, who use the Latin script to express their views in Kazakh. But there is no standardised version of the Latin-based Kazakh alphabet. Therefore, the adoption of the new common alphabet facilitates resolving this issue.

In the age of globalisation, English skills and the Latin alphabet give journalists an opportunity to effectively navigate in the global information space. Since beginning of this year the updated Egemen Kazakhstan newspaper website has been telling stories in Russian. In the past, the Latin-based version of the site has been disseminating information for Kazakhs overseas. The site materials are automatically converted into the Latin-based alphabet. From September 2017, we started telling stories of the Kazakh people to the world in English. Foreign citizens and embassies representing foreign governments in Kazakhstan will be kept posted on Kazakhstan through the Egemen Kazakhstan stories.

Most of us are well aware of the fact that from 1929 to 1940 the Egemen Kazakhstan newspaper, then named as “The Enbekshi Kazakh” and “The Socialist Kazakhstan newspaper”, used the Latin-based Kazakh alphabet. Therefore, switching to the new alphabet would be a natural transition for the leading Kazakh newspaper.

Undoubtedly, changing an alphabet script cannot be done overnight or even in a year. As the recommended Latin script will be used/implemented as a pilot project, the public will eventually become comfortable writing on it. Most importantly, through having a hearing on the Latin script in the Kazakh Parliament the government took the decisive step towards modernisation of public conscience. May this step herald further steps towards modernisation of public conscience.

The author is President of the International Turkic Academy. The article was originally published by the Egemen Kazakhstan newspaper.



TCO partnership key to Tengiz reaching 3 billion barrels milestone

Significant and often untapped oil and gas reserves can still be found in abundance and in places where the business climate is conducive and attractive to energy investors.

Ted Etchison

Kazakhstan is such a place.  Its growing importance as a key energy supplier is impressive. According to a recent Foresight-2050 report, oil production from Kazakhstan in the 2030s will increase by up to 102 million tonnes (http://wsec.kz/wp-content/uploads/file/19/Kanat%20Bozumbayev.pdf).

Tengizchevroil has worked in this vast and dynamic nation for over two decades, in an exceptional relationship with the government of Kazakhstan, to develop the country’s vast energy potential and advance its economy.

June 9, 2017, was a major milestone in the history of Tengizchevroil (TCO), the Chevron-led joint venture that operates two world-class oil fields deep beneath the western Kazakhstan steppe along the northeast shores of the Caspian Sea. It was on this day that TCO produced its three billionth barrel of crude oil since its creation in 1993.

The unique TCO partnership was vital to getting to this incredible three billion barrels achievement. Together, this partnership has unlocked one of the world’s richest resources and also empowered thousands of people in Kazakhstan in the process.

Much of the success in enabling this world-class asset to achieve this massive record is simply down to the commitment of our workforce – past and present – many of which are local people. And, of course, the trust and support from the Republic of Kazakhstan.

It all started in April 1993 when TCO was formed between the Republic of Kazakhstan and Chevron Corporation to explore, produce and market crude oil, gas and sulphur. The joint venture participants, today, alongside Chevron (50 percent interest) who leads the partnership, include ExxonMobil (25 percent), KazMunayGas (20 percent) and LukArco (5 percent).

Beneath the country’s western steppe and energy low lands, lies the joint venture’s largest asset, Tengiz.  Discovered in 1979, the oil column of the reservoir measures an incredible 1 mile (1.6 km). The reservoir area is so large that one would have to run nearly two marathons to cover the entire distance around it. All of this means Tengiz ranks as the world’s deepest producing supergiant oil field. The nearby Korolev field is another giant reservoir, also under TCO’s development arm.

Covering an area of more than 594 square miles (1,538 sq km), TCO requires facilities of an equally impressive scale to operate the fields. Yet, when the reservoir was first discovered there was little in the way of logistics or even roads to support what today has been ranked as possibly the world’s largest oil field, outside of the Middle East.

Three billion barrels of crude is enough to meet the petroleum consumption needs of Kazakhstan for more than 30 years. A remarkable achievement, but the exciting part is that there are many more barrels to come.  The field’s yearly output alone right now could satisfy the annual oil demand of entire nations both within neighbouring central Asia and further afield.

So what’s next for this super giant? Well, the next stage of expansion, the Future Growth Project-Wellhead Pressure Management Project (FGP-WPMP), is designed to further increase TCO’s production (by approximately 260,000 barrels per day) and maximize the ultimate recovery of its resources. The final investment decision was given for this expansion in July 2016. In parallel, work is underway to help extend the field’s production plateau and keep the existing plants producing at full capacity.

Expansion isn’t only about boosting production; it will also help drive the development of local skills. Extending the life of TCO’s assets will rely on new cutting edge technology too. And around 20,000 jobs will be created at peak construction.

One constant over the years has been our commitment to investing in the social infrastructure, capacity and capability of both local business and our local workforce – whose hard work and creativity are the foundation of our success. TCO has been consistently increasing Kazakh content in goods and services year-by-year.  In 2002, the enterprise purchased goods and services from domestic producers for $415 million, and in the first 6 months of 2017, these expenses reached over $1 billion. Since 1993, TCO has spent over $22.9 billion on Kazakh goods and services.

Nearly two years ago, TCO committed to partner with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to strengthen small and medium sized business in Kazakhstan and enable them to grow into more successful businesses. TCO also provided co-financing to support the EBRD’s on-going Kazakhstan Small Business Support Programme over an initial period of two years (2015-2017). On May 2017, this programme won the European Business Association of Kazakhstan (EUROBAK) Corporate Social Responsibility Award for best programme in the “Entrepreneurship Development” category.

Today, 84 percent of TCO jobs are held by Kazakhstan citizens.

As I mentioned, the TCO partnership was fundamental in reaching three billion barrels. To bring on board our next phase of production, this relationship will be even more crucial.

To date, TCO has contributed over $121 billion to the local Kazakh economy and people. This asset continues to be of vital importance to the people of Kazakhstan and we are excited and also confident that we will safely and successfully celebrate the next three billion barrels.

The author is General Director of Tengizchevroil LLP.



Implementing public strategies in Kazakhstan

The President of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev, has devised at least three important strategic documents, the purpose of which is to build on the country’s existing success and ensure Kazakhstan is among the top 30 developed nations by 2050.

The three documents – Kazakhstan 2050, Plan of the Nation (100 Concrete Steps), and the Third Modernisation of Kazakhstan – propose a route map for the future in a turbulent and uncertain global environment.

These documents offer foresight and leadership consistent with a strong President who has a clear vision for where he wants to take Kazakhstan.

Despite the pledges in these strategic documents, the recent review by the OECD of governance in Kazakhstan found key deficiencies in terms of the implementation process: “The country’s governance model suffers from excessively hierarchical structures in its strategic orientations and policy design, together with inadequate focus on policy implementation, in particular in terms of evaluation of policy effectiveness and accountability… Insufficient focus on implementation also hinders understanding of the actual outcomes of policy.”

There is, however, a body of international research that might offer some insights into why public policies within Kazakhstan’s strategy documents fail to get fully implemented as intended. These are discussed in no order of importance.

First, Kazakhstan has a very complex system of governance. There are 15 government ministries and one central executive body (i.e. the Agency for Civil Service Affairs and Anti-Corruption); 6,269 state enterprises which operate in sectors where the direct provision of a public service is deemed necessary; 679 joint stock companies and limited liability partnerships established by the government and the National Bank to both engage in the production of market goods and services in a competitive environment; and 18,902 state institutions which are non-commercial entities created by the President, the government or local executive bodies for carrying out socio-cultural or administrative functions.

With such a complex system of governance comes the likelihood of poor horizontal and vertical coordination and duplication across executive bodies.

Second, there can be a problem of reform overload where civil servants are unable to absorb the volume of changes coming from the top-down without a sense of prioritisation. This can lead to officials using their own discretion to make sense of the roll-out of reforms in ways which were not intended at the stage of policy formulation (public policy research refers to this as ‘street level bureaucracy’).

Third, because of this issue of reform overload, officials can lack accountability to deliver, sometimes described as circumstances ‘where everything is important and nothing is important’. Lack of accountability can also encourage inaccurate monitoring and reporting of changes intended to happen through the three strategies, a kind of ‘tick-box’ exercise where tasks are fulfilled in a perfunctory way to meet the demands of process rather than produce good policy outcomes. Lack of accountability also risks the potential of corruption and civil servants putting their own self-interests in front of the country’s needs.

Finally, high staff turnover can result in a lack of consistency in policy implementation. Officials and politicians do not remain in their positions long enough to see through the full impact of policy change.

This, combined with a hugely complex governance structure, means that leadership of the reforms becomes diffuse, ownership amongst officials and politicians is shifting, and there is no time/space to undertake proper policy evaluation of those strategic changes which are successful or failing.

The end result is that even though there is a clear route map of the strategic direction for Kazakhstan until 2050, the implementation of the operational plans can prove difficult to deliver in practice. International research tells us that the ‘implementation deficit’ is a neglected issue in public policy.

We cannot assume that good strategic plans will be faithfully implemented, not through negligence, but rather the bureaucratic mosaic through which they pass and lack of attention to the successful achievement of policy outcomes and their evaluation.

The author is a professor at Nazarbayev University’s Graduate School of Public Policy.



EXPO 2017 “is what conversation on transition to clean energy needs to be about,” says head of UN Environment Programme

ASTANA – Erik Solheim, head of the UN Environment Programme and Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, visited Astana late last month to meet with senior Kazakh officials and discuss joint activities, as well as become acquainted with the future-energy themed EXPO 2017. The Astana Times had the opportunity to interview the Norwegian-born diplomat.

Erik Solheim

First of all, thank you for visiting Kazakhstan and attending EXPO 2017 with the theme of Future Energy. The country largely depends on fossil fuels – do you think it fulfilled its aim to showcase the best practices in clean energy and encourage other nations to use them?

For me, this really has been a welcome declaration of intent that sends a very strong message. Kazakhstan has shown that it understands the challenges faced by the planet and that the future, both for its own economy and the rest of the world, needs to be low carbon.

What is also so encouraging is that rather than sit around and talk about the problems, Kazakhstan has hosted an event entirely focused on solutions. We have seen the solutions of the future and solutions that can be deployed today, ranging from energy-generating buildings to electricity from garden plants and even a sustainable dance floor that I had a go on myself!

Ultimately, this is what the conversation on the transition to clean energy needs to be about. It is about showcasing innovation, making connections and highlighting the incredible opportunities that are out there.

As you know, the Kazakh government aims to rearrange its energy mix and make 50 percent of the country’s energy come from renewables by 2050. What are the tools to make investors interested in this process? What incentives should the government apply to make this goal a reality?

This is an important and welcome commitment, and it is perfectly achievable. A key ingredient will be to create the policy framework and stable business space for this change to take place, so investors can be mobilised and confident that a shift to renewable energy is irreversible. From a political perspective, it always helps if such strategies are presented as a non-partisan, national priority.

As a key voice in the Central Asia region, it is also important for Kazakhstan to do its part to ensure that the environment is a central priority in the development of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative.

What are your practical recommendations for Kazakhstan’s speedy transition to a truly green economy?

Specific incentives can come in two broad forms. One is the phasing down or removal of subsidies that encourage excessive production and consumption of fossil fuels. These subsidies serve as a disincentive for investments in renewable energy.

The other is the public sector’s sharing of risks with investors in renewable energy. This risk sharing could be done in the form of loan guarantees, tax breaks for both producers and users of renewable energy, public procurement requiring the use of renewable energy products, requirement for the national grid to be open to renewable energy sources and public investment in research and development, among others.

In broader terms, it is also critical to build public support for the change by finding ways in which the public can quickly see that the shift brings more jobs and better health, for example.

At expo, we held a high level dialogue on this topic together with the government of Switzerland and the explorer and Solar Impulse pioneer Bertrand Piccard. There is promising momentum that the transition will be a speedy one.

In order to ensure a speedy transition, it is important first to specify measurable goals and targets over specific time periods, then to estimate the amount of investments required to deliver those goals and targets. Domestic and external financial resources need to be mobilised to make the investments happen and these investments need to be monitored and evaluated to see how they contribute to the achievements of the goals and targets, while making policy adjustments as needed.

The world is now heading towards urbanisation. By 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population is expected to be living in cities. Do you think it is possible to combine urbanisation and a green future? How can we achieve this?

It all depends on how we choose to live. With the right urban planning and infrastructure – coupled with smart choices made by citizens – we can certainly achieve this. There is no reason for cities to be unbearable, polluted and gas-guzzling places!

Look at Astana. Any visitor can see how rapidly it is developing, yet it still aims to see more than half of its land area flourish with green cover by 2030. Connecting artificial forests and parks throughout the city will not only help clean the air, but also reduce its temperature and ensure it remains a pleasant place to live.

Meanwhile, the city of Copenhagen is also growing, but still aims to become carbon neutral by 2025. Thanks to excellent urban design and the fact that cycling is fun, cheap and healthy, even now there are more bikes than people in the city! Such examples show how urbanisation and a green future can go hand-in-hand.

While more and more of us live in cities, we can and must keep our relationship with nature intact. Astana shows that we need not imagine ugly, grey and inefficient buildings when we think of urbanisation – green can and must be beautiful. That puts us in a better position to take care of the environment.

How do you assess Kazakhstan’s Official Development Assistance programme?

I very much commend the programme, which shows just how mature and valuable the country’s role is for the region. Such leadership can also help contribute to the global goals. We hope that Kazakhstan can continue to set an example and also step up its investment in our common climate; for example, to the environment fund that supports our work and the quality of service that we strive to deliver to member states.

Time has shown that policies and environmental challenges are closely intertwined and interdependent. Taking into account that the U.S. administration is one of the biggest and most influential actors, what do you think are the consequences of the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement?

Earlier this year, a coal museum in Kentucky in the United States needed to install new electricity capacity. What type of energy did it choose? It opted for solar power. This speaks volumes as to where we are inevitably heading. There can be no doubt that the future lies in clean energy.

If anything, I think we have seen a renewed surge in momentum from cities and the private sector towards climate action in the United States. As a result, at this rate we can realistically expect the country to fulfil its commitments made under the Paris Agreement – whether it is officially a part of it or not. We are talking about a potential win-win for us all, whether for bright young minds preparing for a job in the clean energy sector or people living in what are sadly high-risk areas for hurricanes or other natural disasters.

You mention how policies and environmental challenges are closely linked and I would add other factors. With pollution levels rising worldwide, prices for renewables falling and the high potential for job creation, I strongly believe the clean energy transition will happen even faster than we think.

We know that you have solid experience as a peace negotiator, having contributed to the peace processes in Sri Lanka, Sudan, Myanmar, Nepal and Burundi. Do you think the Astana Process is bringing any tangible results? What else can be done to make it efficient?

There certainly has been some progress, in that we have seen some reduction in violence in Syria as a result of the Astana Process. I very much hope that it will succeed, but unfortunately the kind of tangible result that we need to see – a complete cessation of violence and a halt to a terrible humanitarian crisis – has not happened yet. This is ultimately what matters most: an end to the terrible suffering of the Syrian people.

Speaking from experience, I fully understand how challenging a peace process can be. Getting two sides or multiple sides to the same table is in itself a huge challenge and every step of the process can be extremely frustrating and discouraging. Every step can be very time consuming, meaning a great deal of patience, determination and resolve is required.



Kazakhstan, Poland build on 25 years of relations, says Kazakh envoy

As became known, President of the Republic of Poland Andrzej Duda plans to pay a state visit to Astana on Sept. 6-7. On the eve of this major event in bilateral relations development, we asked a few questions from the Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the Republic of Poland Margulan Baimukhan.

Margulan Baimukhan

What is the basis of the Kazakh-Polish cooperation, what is the mutual interest of the two countries?

Thank you for your interest in the theme of Kazakhstan-Poland cooperation. On April 6, 2017, we marked the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries. Cooperation between Astana and Warsaw has reached a high level and is developing very well.

The approaches of Kazakhstan and Poland to the issues of ensuring regional and global security, fighting the main challenges and threats of the present are common or similar. Moreover, the parties often support each other’s international initiatives. For example, Poland voted in support for the candidacy of Kazakhstan on the issue of holding EXPO 2017.

Thus, from the political perspective, there are no unsettled issues or disagreements between the two countries. At the same time, by mutual recognition of the parties, there is a significant unused potential in the sphere of economic cooperation. In this regard, I think it will be correct to say that the basis of our contacts, first of all, is the promotion of trade and investment and innovation cooperation.

Poland is the leader in economic growth in Central and Eastern Europe, the second-fastest growing economy in the European Union. The GDP growth in 2017 is forecasted to be 3.9 percent. Therefore, it is not by chance that it is one of the leading economic partners of Kazakhstan in the European region. In turn, our country in terms of economic development also takes a leading position in the Eurasian space. As a result, Polish-Kazakh turnover is more than 80 percent of the total trade volume of Poland with the countries of our region.

In August last year, President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev paid a state visit to Warsaw. How did it affect the course of bilateral cooperation?

High-level visits have always been great events in bilateral relations, as they create a powerful stimulus to their further development. As a rule, the meetings of the heads of state result in a breakthrough in all spheres of cooperation: political, economic, cultural, humanitarian, scientific and technical, etc.

On August 22-23, 2016, the President of Kazakhstan visited Warsaw. During the talks with the President of Poland, the sides discussed topical issues of bilateral relations and the international agenda. The visit gave a qualitatively new and significant impetus to the promotion of all-round cooperation between our countries.

Further development can be observed in the legal framework of bilateral interaction. Within the framework of the visit, the Declaration on Economic Cooperation between Kazakhstan and Poland was adopted in the presence of the heads of state, two intergovernmental agreements on cooperation in the field of agriculture and readmission, as well as a Framework Agreement on Cooperation between the Development Bank of Kazakhstan and the Bank of the National Economy of Poland were signed. The latter document provides for opening by the Polish side of a credit line in the amount of 300 million euros to finance joint investment projects in Kazakhstan.

An important event of the visit was the Kazakh-Polish business forum. More than 400 Polish companies and representatives of central state bodies, economic and financial organizations of the two countries took part in it.

What is the situation in bilateral trade?

The visit of the head of state to Warsaw gave a significant impetus to bilateral cooperation, including the sphere of trade, which has become most noticeable since the beginning of this year. In particular, according to the Ministry of Development of Poland, the trade turnover in the first half of 2017 amounted to 601.9 million euros. The increase compared to the same period of last year exceeded 75.5 percent. At the same time, exports from Kazakhstan amounted to 389.1 million euros (up by 90 percent), imports from Poland – 212.8 million euros (a growth of 54.5 percent). It is expected that by the end of 2017 bilateral trade will significantly exceed one billion euros.

What is being done by the embassy to develop mutually beneficial cooperation with Poland?

Currently, private capital of Poland is actively represented in many areas of the Kazakh economy. More than 200 entities with Polish participation are registered in our country. The gross inflow of direct Polish investments into the economy of Kazakhstan amounted to $190 million, and the amount of Kazakh investments in Poland is $25.5 million. Among the Polish flagship investors in the Kazakh economy are Polpharma group of companies (pharmaceutical plant in Shymkent) and Selena Group (a plant for the production of construction mixtures and products for thermal insulation in the Special Economic Zone Astana – New City).

Kazakhstan is regularly visited by representatives of large Polish businesses, who study the possibilities of investing in various projects in Kazakhstan. The embassy strongly supports this process, considering that Kazakhstan has all the necessary conditions for this.

As a new format for cooperation, the embassy sees the interaction of potential Polish investors with a specialised national investment company Kazakh Invest. It is expected to carry out the work by a principle of “one stop shop.” In this regard, the company will not only be the “entry point” for a potential Polish investor, but will also provide its support in interaction with government agencies and solve emerging issues on-site. In general, the embassy is aimed to work on specific points of specific projects. At the initial stage, probably, their number will not be so high, but they will immediately get a commitment to a long-term investment presence in the Kazakhstan market.

We also expect active cooperation with Kazakh Invest and other business entities of Kazakhstan to promote Kazakh products to the Polish market. In this regard, we believe it is important to study the Polish experience in determining the product line and supporting exports. For example, it is interesting, due to what factors, according to the results of the first half of 2017 alone, the volume of income from Polish exports, according to official statistics, amounted to 100 billion euros? Naturally, the most important tasks of any embassy include informing its capital about positive developments in international practice that can be useful in the realities of its own country.

Which sectors of the economy are the most relevant in the Kazakh-Polish cooperation?

Drivers of economic growth in our country are the new sectors of the economy, created in the framework of innovative industrialisation. In this regard, economic cooperation between the two countries will focus on the implementation of joint projects in the fields of pharmaceuticals, engineering, IT, agro-industrial complex, food industry, chemical industry, financial sector, tourism, mining equipment, building materials and furniture. Poland has appropriate technologies and knowledge in these areas. The country is leading in Europe for a number of positions in the industrial nomenclature. In particular, it is the first in the production of TVs, third in the production of copper, eighth in steel and tenth in paper and cardboard production. An important place in the EU economy belongs to Polish agriculture. Poland is the first in the European Union for growing apples, the second for rye and potatoes and the third for beets and rapeseed. Among the European leaders are Polish producers of wheat, milk and meat.

Both countries also have a significant transit-transport potential. Therefore, today joint projects related to One Belt, One Road initiative are also topical. It is noteworthy that the wide-gauge railway track [used in Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus and other CIS countries] reaches the heart of Poland through its eastern border for a distance of up to 300 kilometres.

A new breath should be given to interregional cooperation between the Kazakh regions and the Polish voivodships. It should be noted that each separate region of Poland has its own production and export priority products. Thus, the eastern voivodships specialise in the processing of agricultural products and the production of agricultural machinery. In turn, the western regions specialise in manufacturing metal structures and plastic products.

An important and new element of cooperation can be the participation of Polish capital in the privatisation of assets of the Samruk Kazyna Sovereign Wealth Fund as well as facilities in the regions within the framework of the Comprehensive Privatisation Plan for 2016-2020.

From January 1, 2017, the introduction of a visa-free regime for Polish citizens, the launch of the direct Astana-Warsaw air communication, as well as active participation of Poland in EXPO 2017, were stimulating conditions for further development of mutually beneficial cooperation.

What other areas of cooperation, except for the development of economic contacts, are of particular interest in the relations with Poland?

The relations between the two countries are expanding in the sphere of education. The impetus for this was the entry into force on June 6, 2016 of an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in education. Currently, more than 770 students from Kazakhstan study at Polish universities.

Agreements are also being implemented in the field of cultural exchange. For example, in November 2016, the creative team of Astana Ballet showed performances, devoted to the 25th anniversary of independence of our country, in opera theatres of Warsaw and Wroclaw. The works by the canonical writers of the two countries were published in Kazakh and Polish. In the near future, it is planned to sign an intergovernmental agreement on cultural and scientific and technical cooperation.

An important role in strengthening the ties between the two countries belongs to the Polish diaspora residing in Kazakhstan. At present, it accounts to about 34,000 people. It serves as a kind of living bridge of friendship and cooperation between our countries. Kazakhstan has created all conditions for the Polish diaspora, including for the study of the native language, preservation of the national culture and traditions.

The unifying factor of Kazakhstan and Poland is the common memory of the World War II. Over 60,000 Kazakhs died for liberation of Poland from the Nazi invaders. The embassy is involved in the search for burials of the soldiers who died on the Polish territory. At the same time, Kazakh diplomats actively cooperate with archival depositories of local authorities, as well as the Polish Red Cross. In turn, hundreds of Poles worked during the war at defence industries in Kazakhstan.



Astana EXPO 2017 and warm feeling that stays on

As someone who spent the major part of his summer in Kazakhstan working in and around EXPO 2017. I think it’s important to share both my thoughts and experiences as well as feelings about this, especially as a foreigner.


To begin with, my connection to the expo goes back four years when this was still in the very early stages and it seemed like the entire country was still preparing. Throughout those years I would go to Kazakhstan and I would see the progress and the tremendous effort being made by the Kazakh government and its people as they prepared for what is to be one of this country’s biggest events thus far.

When I arrived earlier this summer I not only found the expo to be beautifully completed and efficiently functioning but I also found myself arriving into a beautiful and modern new airport with an amazing facility and highly educated and professional staff.

Everyone I meet spoke fluent and perfect English and if your main language was not English (for the first time ever since I have been visiting Kazakhstan) I also met many Kazakhs whose Spanish was better than my own, and if Spanish was not your language then many Kazakhs also spoke fluent German, Italian and countless other languages perfectly.

The Kazakh people representing Kazakhstan both at the airport and at the expo truly are a great example of both the excellence and incredible progress this country continues to make towards being the leader in future energy, smart city design, nuclear non-proliferation and a technologically advanced and modern society.

Everywhere I went, I was greeted with a warm smile, friendly hello and made to feel completely at home. The city of Astana (where the expo is being held) although it has always been a beautiful city, was transformed into a magnificent and modern metropolis where laser light shows, countless celebrations and fascinating events were held every night. Many world-famous artists such as DJ Aoki, David Guetta and Akon performed throughout the event. The beautifully designed architectural facilities are also a testament to how much this country continues to advance into the future.

Many of my friends and family always ask me about safety so let me be very clear: the level of safety, security and oversight in and around the country as well as the city itself made me feel safer than being in my own home! And yes, police were everywhere but they were all courteous and professional and always greeted me with a smile and very polite ‘hello.’

Although my work continues in this part of the world, I am truly and incredibly happy for the people of Kazakhstan and all the success they continue to achieve.

As someone who has traveled often to many different countries I continue to love both Kazakhstan and its people, not simply because of all the success they seem to be having but because even with all this success they remain humble, kind, hard working, welcoming and, above all, extremely proud of their culture.

Lastly, I really want to say ‘thank you so much’ to all my dear friends who greeted me while I was a visitor in your beautiful country, from meeting me at the airport, to never letting me pay for dinner, to showing me your beautiful Borovoye (Kazakhstan’s version of the Hamptons). You made me feel not simply like part of your family but like a true Kazakh!!! I hope someday to return the favour when you visit NYC in the future.

I love you, Kazakhstan!

The author is Director of Government Relations at CRM and Senior Vice President for International Trade & Development at GP International.



Confronting nuclear dangers – The Astana Times

The goal of eliminating nuclear weapons from this planet received a timely boost this year with the successful negotiation of a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in July 2017.

This Treaty is a remedy for some of the shortcomings in the existing legal and moral framework on nuclear weapons, but it is by no means the end of the road.

Prohibition sends a clear message that the majority of people in this world do not believe that nuclear weapons increase their security; but getting to elimination is a long-term activity.

While disarmament can take place, there remain areas of the world that can be described as being of “nuclear danger” – relatively new areas where nuclear weapons are present or where there is a serious risk of further nuclear proliferation.

Of course, “new” here is meant in relation to the time of the Cold War, the height of nuclear weapons folly. The legacy of the arms race means that the majority of nuclear weapons are still possessed by the U.S. and Russia, and nuclear disarmament must take place in the context of ever-more strained relations between these two.

Creative measures and reinvigorated political will are necessary to overcome the antagonism, not just between the U.S. and Russia, but equally amongst the other states possessing nuclear weapons. The fact that none of these states saw fit to participate in the UN-backed process on the prohibition of nuclear weapons shows the stark divide between haves and have-nots.

Since the early days of the Cold War, and continuing to this day, the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs has been a relentless champion of disarmament. Since the very first conference 60 years ago, Pugwash has been synonymous with “dialogue across divides”, providing opportunities for scientists and policymakers to meet and confront the conflicts and issues of the world.

At this time, perhaps more than ever, such dialogue is needed. It is not simply that progress toward nuclear disarmament is slow, nor that too many weapons – 15,000-16,000 – continue to pose a threat to humanity. Rather, the world is in a dangerous moment with respect to forms of extremism and non-state actors, protracted and unresolved conflicts and the rise of various nationalisms. It is precisely at this time that more must be done to ensure people talk, listen and understand one another in efforts to build peace.

The founding goal of Pugwash is to decrease the salience of nuclear weapons that continue to threaten people’s security.

Kazakhstan set an example to the world by categorically rejecting the possession of nuclear weapons and the continuation of their testing at Semipalatinsk. Kazakhstan was also a leader in the establishment of Central Asia as a zone free of nuclear weapons. These are concrete actions that must be supported and other countries should follow their lead.

For the past 15 years, Pugwash has addressed the changing international environment. The Middle East, South Asia and North-East Asia are all areas where there is a propensity for conflict that is unfortunately matched with the existence of nuclear weapons or nuclear capabilities. The combination can create very dangerous situations of global significance, as we are seeing on the Korean Peninsula most recently.

Furthermore, where insecurity prevails there continues to be the danger of states seeking to rely upon nuclear weapons, either through developing their own programme or by the de facto reliance on other states to provide a nuclear umbrella. These examples of possible proliferation should be of grave concern to all states – they provide yet another reason to strengthen the existing normative framework governing nuclear weapons.

Promoting dialogue across the divides in these areas is with the hope of helping to lower conflict and hence the risk of possible nuclear use. This is the message of the founding document of the Pugwash movement, the Russell-Einstein Manifesto of 1955: “We have to learn to think in a new way. We have to learn to ask ourselves, not what steps can be taken to give military victory to whatever group we prefer, for there no longer are such steps; the question we have to ask ourselves is: what steps can be taken to prevent a military contest of which the issue must be disastrous to all parties?”

In a country that is geographically very close to Kazakhstan, namely Afghanistan, there is war that has been going on for 37 years, with the direct involvement of Russia first and the U.S. later. The instability that comes from Afghanistan can further cause the spread of chaos in the entire region, and creates possible risks of spill-over into nuclear-armed Pakistan. For this reason, Pugwash has been very much committed to helping Afghanistan to find a peaceful way out of a conflict where no side is reasonably allowed to have a military victory. Afghanistan will be just one subject of a wide debate in Astana during the forthcoming 62nd Pugwash International Conference this week that aims to confront nuclear dangers.

The author is Secretary General of Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs.