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Tokayev emphasizes new social initiatives and business development in address to nation

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Developing nuclear energy, boosting the country’s military capacity, extending support for businesses, and five new social initiatives were among the topics that President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (pictured) raised during his one-and-a-half-hour-long state-of-the-nation address delivered on 1 September, writes Assel Satubaldina in Nation.

It is Tokayev’s third address to the nation since he has become president.

All initiatives voiced in the address are aimed at supporting the country in the post-pandemic period, improving the efficiency of health care systems, ensuring quality education, improving regional policy, and creating an effective ecosystem in the labor market. 

“It seems to me that everyone who doubts the head of the state, who fails to do their job, who wants to sit and do nothing, should resign from their posts. We are now entering a decisive stage in our development. The state apparatus must work as a single mechanism. Only then will we be able to achieve our objectives,” said the President.

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Social initiatives 

The social sector has been a priority for Kazakhstan. Nearly half of the country’s budget for 2022-2025 will be allocated to the social sector. 

In his address to the nation, Tokayev announced five social initiatives. 

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The minimum wage will be increased from the current 42,500 tenge (US$100) to 60,000 tenge (US$140) starting 1 January next year which is expected to affect more than one million people. 

The minimum wage has not changed since 2018. 

“I believe it is time to review the level of the minimum wage. On the one hand, it is the most important macro-indicator, and on the other hand, it is an indicator that everyone can understand,” said Tokayev. 

He said that experts project it will increase the gross domestic product by 1.5 percent. He also cautioned the government to rely less on the minimum wage levels when making calculations in tax and social spheres. 

Tokayev also spoke about the need to increase the wage fund. Over the past 10 years, it has been 60% lower than the profits of business owners. The government will develop measures to motivate businesses to increase the salaries of their employees. 

Decreasing the burden on the payroll is another initiative.

“Micro and small businesses are particularly affected by this. I propose to introduce a single payment from the payroll with a reduction of the total burden from 34 percent to 25 percent. This will stimulate businesses to bring thousands of employees out of the shadows and make them participants in the pension, social security, and health insurance systems,” said Tokayev. 

Kazakhstan will also continue increasing salaries for people working in spheres financed from the budget (employees of cultural institutions, archives, libraries). From 2022 to 2025, the state will increase the salaries of nearly 600,000 people working in these fields by 20 percent annually on average. 

In 2020, Kazakhstan increased the salaries of doctors, social workers, and teachers. 

Kazakhstan will also allow the transfer of part of people’s pension savings above the sufficiency threshold to the Otbasy bank for the subsequent purchase of housing. This comes as a continuation of the country’s 2020 initiative that allowed citizens to withdraw part of their future pension savings to purchase housing now. 

Development of nuclear energy

Kazakhstan may face an energy shortage by 2050, according to Tokayev, and the country needs to start thinking of alternative reliable energy sources. Peaceful nuclear energy might be one of them. 

“Within a year, the government and the Samruk Kazyna National Wealth Fund should study the possibility of developing a safe and environmentally-friendly nuclear power industry in Kazakhstan. It should also include the development of engineering and creating a new generation of qualified nuclear engineers in our country. Hydrogen energy as a whole is also a promising sector,” said Tokayev. 

Kazakhstan has been making significant progress as it tries to transition to a green energy and economy. It has committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2060 and bringing the share of renewable energy in the total energy balance to 15% by 2050, among other national targets. 

Situation in Afghanistan

The escalating situation in Afghanistan and the country’s takeover by the Taliban group have been in global headlines over the past month. Though Kazakhstan and Afghanistan do not have a border, the situation still affects the region. 

Tokayev emphasized the need to enhance Kazakhstan’s capacity to respond to external threats and strengthen defense capabilities.

“We must prepare for external shocks and worst-case scenarios. Modeling external risks has become highly relevant. Stress tests should be conducted, and scenarios should be worked out that will determine further actions of the state apparatus,” he said. 

Independence – the highest value of the nation

As Kazakhstan celebrates the 30th anniversary of its independence this year, Tokayev described independence as the highest value of the nation. 

“In unity and harmony, we were able to build a new state – this is our greatest achievement. We have strengthened the spirit of the nation, laying a solid foundation for development. (…) Together, we are building a strong state. Sovereignty is not an empty slogan or a loud word. The most important thing is that every citizen should feel the fruits of independence – a peaceful life, social harmony, increased prosperity of the people, and the confidence of young people in their future. All our initiatives are aimed at this,” said Tokayev.

Energy

Kazakhstan joins race to produce 'green' hydrogen

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German investors intend to establish the production of “green” hydrogen in Mangystau region. The road map for the implementation of the project was signed at the meeting with the President of SVEVIND Wolfgang Kropp, organized during the visit of the Kazakh delegation headed by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan Almas Aidarov to Sweden. 

SVEVIND activities are aimed at long-term investment of the company’s own and attracted funds, as part of the further development of low-carbon energy in the Republic of Kazakhstan through large-scale production of “green” hydrogen for further export to the EU countries and other foreign markets.

The investor plans to build wind and solar power plants with a capacity of 30 GW, and use these resources to produce up to 2 million tons of hydrogen per year.

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 “SVEVIND aims to combine the outstanding natural resources in Kazakhstan with SVEVIND’s long-time experience and passion in project development to supply Kazakhstan and Eurasia with green, sustainable energy and products, “powered by nature”. The green hydrogen facilities will lift Kazakhstan among the global leaders of renewable energy and green hydrogen. We are very excited to take the next step in the project development, and we are thankful for the outstanding support of the Kazakh government”, - said Wolfgang Kropp, President of SVEVIND. 

 “Hydrogen energy is one of the most promising fields that may displace all traditional methods of energy extraction in the future. Currently, we have the availability of all the required resources such as wind, solar, water, land and the know-how of SVEVIND. We are looking forward to interesting, large-scale and challenging projects moving forward”, - added the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan Almas Aidarov during the meeting with the Head of SVEVIND.

During the visit, the Kazakh delegation got acquainted with the progress of the company's current project in Sweden and the largest wind farm in Europe “Markbygden 1101”.

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In June this year, SVEVIND signed a Memorandum of Understanding with KAZAKH INVEST. Within the framework of the agreement, the national company and relevant government agencies will provide to the investors full support and comprehensive assistance in the implementation of the project at all stages - from obtaining permits to commissioning. 

SVEVIND is a German company with many years of experience in large-scale renewable energy projects. The company implemented Europe's largest project of an onshore wind generating complex - the Markbygden 1101 cluster of wind farms in Sweden with a capacity of more than 4 GW. The company is represented in the markets of Sweden, Finland and Germany.

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Belgium

Ombudsman for Children’s Rights of Kazakhstan Aruzhan Sain meets with her Belgian colleagues

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In order to study the best Belgian experience in the field of work with children with disabilities, social programs to support children and their families, as well as the organization of integrated and inclusive education, the Ombudsman for Children’s Rights of Kazakhstan Aruzhan Sain met with Belgian representatives in the field of children’s rights. The visit of Sain was organized with the assistance of the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Belgium.

During the meeting with the Chairperson of the National Commission on the Rights of the Child of Belgium Karin Van Laethem, the issues of coordinating the efforts of the authorities at the federal level and at the level of communities and regions of Belgium dealing with child rights issues were discussed. Due to the territorial and administrative structure of the country, independent human rights institutions of the Kingdom operate at the regional level.

In this regard, the Kazakh Ombudsman also visited the Wallonia Regional Agency for Better Life (AVIQ), as well as the Institute for Child and Family Development (IDEF), where the Belgian system of psychological, medical and social support for children with disabilities was presented in detail.

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In turn, A.Sain shared information about the work carried out in Kazakhstan to improve the quality of life of children with disabilities, the purpose of which is to build a system with a guarantee of early detection and early assistance to reduce children with disabilities. According to the Children’s Ombudsman, it is important to provide an individual approach to the treatment of children with functional impairments with the required number of services and technical means of rehabilitation. She told her Belgian colleagues about Kazakhstani reforms in the field of providing children with sports and creative circles at the expense of the state budget.

During a visit to the Royal Institute for People with Musculoskeletal Disabilities (IRAHM) in Brussels, the experience of rehabilitation programs for a child was reviewed, taking into account the characteristics of his physical condition and psychological profile.

Along with this, the Kazakh Ombudsman met with the General Commissioner for the Rights of the Child of the French Community «Wallonia-Brussels Federation» Bernard De Vos, who spoke about the integration policy in the field of inclusive education for children with developmental disabilities and the integration of migrant children. The parties agreed that there are discussions on these issues in all countries and the search for the right path. Discussing the system of prevention and early intervention, the ombudsmen of the two countries noted the importance of screening newborns and monitoring the development of young children.

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In addition, during her visit, the Children’s ombudsman A.Sain held a separate meeting with the Social Protection Adviser of the international company « Socieux + » Marzena Breza, with whom the possibilities of cooperation on the introduction of the institution of foster (professional) families were discussed.

The parties have agreed to exchange relevant information and maintain contacts in matters of protection of children's rights.

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Belgium

Inter-parliamentary dialogue between Kazakhstan and Belgium is expanding

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Ambassador of Kazakhstan to Belgium Margulan Baimukhan met with the Chairman of the House of Representatives of the Parliament of Belgium Eliane Tillieux, during which the parties discussed the current state and prospects of bilateral cooperation between Kazakhstan and Belgium.

Ambassador M. Baimukhan spoke about the ongoing political and socio-economic reforms in Kazakhstan, initiated by the President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev within the framework of the concept of «hearing state». The issues of vaccination in Kazakhstan and production of the Kazakhstani vaccine «QazVac» were also discussed.

E.Tillieux, representing the large French-speaking Socialist Party (PS) in the Belgian parliament, gave a positive assessment of the socio-political transformations and the level of vaccination of the population in Kazakhstan.

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Discussing the issues of expanding inter-parliamentary ties between the two countries, the Belgian speaker noted the growing dynamics of the inter-parliamentary dialogue between the two countries. According to her, online negotiations with the Chairman of the Majilis of the Parliament of Kazakhstan Nurlan Nigmatulin in May 2021, as well as a trilateral meeting of two speakers of the Belgian parliament with the head of the Majilis on September 8, 2021 in Vienna within the framework of the 5th World Conference of Speakers of Parliaments gave an additional impetus to development of the inter-parliamentary dialogue.

The parties also welcomed the ongoing development of cooperation between the parliamentary friendship groups. The last meeting of the Chairman of the Committee on International Affairs, Defense and Security of the Majilis of the Parliament Aigul Kuspan with the Head of the Interparliamentary Group on Cooperation «Belgium - Central Asia» Tim Vandenput was held in June 2021.

In the context of economic diplomacy, the parties welcomed the upcoming visit of Belgian enterprises to Kazakhstan, planned in November 2021 with the support of the Belgian investment agencies AWEX and FIT. Today, Belgium is one of the largest investors in the economy of Kazakhstan, the volume of Belgian investments is more than 9 billion US dollars.

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A separate topic of conversation was the development of civil society, gender equality in Kazakhstan, higher education, ecology, regional security and the situation in Afghanistan. The Belgian politician, noting the significant role of women in political life, welcomed the growing number of women in the Kazakh Parliament and political parties. In addition, the situation around the Aral Sea, Kazakhstan’s efforts to combat climate change in the context of the upcoming UN Conference on Climate Change in Glasgow (COP-26) aroused a certain interest in E.Tillieux. Answering questions, the Kazakh diplomat also spoke about the international initiatives of the First President of Kazakhstan - Elbasy Nursultan Nazarbayev in the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons and the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, the 30th anniversary of its closure is marked this year.

At the end of the meeting, Ambassador M. Baimukhan reaffirmed the invitation of the Kazakh side for the Belgian Speaker E.Tillieux and the Belgian deputies to pay an official visit to Kazakhstan.

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