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Kazakh actor wins Best Actor award at Asian World Film Festival 2021 in LA

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Kazakh actor Tolepbergen Baissakalov (pictured, left) won the Best Actor award for his role in the Fire movie directed by Aizhan Kassymbek at the Asian World Film Festival 2021 (AWFF), reported film’s producer Diana Ashimova on her Instagram, writes Saniya Bulatkulova in Culture.

The movie recently premiered at the 26th International Film Festival in Busan.

This year, 30 films from more than 20 countries were presented at the festival.

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The AWFF, which is being held for the seventh time, brings the best of the broad selection of Asian World cinema to Los Angeles to draw recognition to the region’s filmmakers and strengthen ties between Asian and Hollywood film industries.

The social drama with elements of comedy tells the story about an ordinary middle-aged man, who tries to build his life in a megapolis and does his best to feed his family. It seems to him problems will never end as he lives in endless debts. He finds out his teenage daughter is pregnant and tries to find the father only to get involved in an absurd adventure, which helps him to understand the most important things in life.

The movie recently premiered at the 26th International Film Festival in Busan.

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Last week, Baissakalov was awarded Best Actor at the sixth Russian-British Sochi International Film Festival and Film Awards IRIDA.

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Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan’s 30th anniversary of independence: Achievements and Results

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The recent analytical piece published on Zakon.kz, an online news outlet, which is translated from Russian, reveals the path of Kazakhstan to economic progress and sustainable development since 1991. It shows how the country achieved significant results in implementing large-scale market reforms in the post-Soviet space, Staff Report, Kazakhstan’s Independence: 30 Years, Nation.

Kazakhstan is celebrating its 30th anniversary of independence this year. During this time, the country changed its image on the international arena and has become an economic and political leader in the region. 

Kazakh Eli Monument. The monument symbolizes the modern history of Kazakhstan and its people. The monument’s height of 91 meters marks 1991 when Kazakhstan became independent. Photo credit: Elbasy.kz.

“This year marks the 30th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s Independence. This is an important date in strengthening the revived Kazakh statehood and of freedom, which our ancestors dreamed. For history, 30 years is a moment that flies by in the blink of an eye. However, for many people this is a whole era of difficulties and joys, crises and ups,” said Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in his article titled “Independence Above All.”

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The first years of independence were the most difficult for the country. Kazakhstan inherited a weak economy. In 1991, the country’s Gross Domestic Product fell by 11 percent. The change was possible only by the end of 1996, when it increased by 0.5 percent. The next year, the growth was 2 percent. The inflation rate in 1991 was 147.12 percent with a monthly rise in prices of 57-58 percent. In 1992, this figure was already equal to 2962.81 percent. The situation leveled out at the end of 1993, setting the average rate at around 2169.8 percent. In 1994, it was cut by half to 1160.26 percent, with the decline in following years reaching 1.88 percent in 1997.

The idea of creating a new capital of Kazakhstan belongs to Nursultan Nazarbayev. The decision to transfer the capital from Almaty to Akmola was made on July 6, 1994. Astana was renamed to the city of Nur-Sultan оn March 23, 2019. Photo credit: Elbasy.kz.

In the same period, the unemployment rate reached 4.6 percent. In 1995, it dropped to 3.2 percent. Between 1992 and 1994, there was a sharp increase in the unemployment rate with a massive outflow of the population – 1.1 million people left the country. The country’s budget deficit by 1994 was 20.6 billion tenge (US$ 47.8 million).

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The Kazakh government developed and launched the Strategy for the Political and Economic Development of the country up to 2005. According to the strategy, the government started a program of privatization, economic reforms, and launched the transition from the Soviet planned economy to a market economy. From 1991 to 2000, a whole class of small and medium-sized businesses appeared in Kazakhstan. They bought 34500 objects of state property for 215.4 billion tenge (US$ 499.7 million). 

According to the Ministry of Economy, Kazakhstan has shown significant achievements in implementing large-scale market reforms in the post-Soviet space. The country has attracted more than $380 billion of foreign direct investments, which accounts for 70 percent of the total inflow of investments to the Central Asian region.

In 1997, the state faced another economic crisis caused by a sharp fall in the Asian market. This crisis hit all economic players, who, in pursuit of profit from investments in the rapidly growing economies of East and Southeast Asia, brought themselves to bankruptcy. The financial losses amounted to billions of dollars, which affected the economies of the countries of the former Soviet countries, including Kazakhstan.

Capital outflows were followed by a collapse in energy and commodity prices on world markets. This alignment led to economic destabilization in Russia, which influenced the reduction in the cost of Russian goods and, as a result, had an impact on Kazakhstani producers. To stabilize the domestic market, the Kazakh authorities reduced imports from neighboring countries, and devalued the Kazakh currency. It saved the country’s economy from large-scale turbulence.

According to the Asian Development Bank, Kazakhstan’s pragmatic economic policies helped the country to become an upper middle-income state and an economic and political leader in Central Asia.

Kazakhstan has managed to reduce poverty, increase the population’s access to primary education, and improve gender equality and social security for children and mothers. According to statistics, the share of the poor, based on the national poverty line, in comparison with 2001 in the country has decreased from 46.7 percent to 2.6 percent. According to the International Labor Organization, Kazakhstan has a consistently low unemployment rate. Since 2011, this indicator has never exceeded 5 percent.

For several years now, the Kazakh authorities have been following a program of diversifying the country’s economy. The government is implementing programs to modernize agriculture, improve the usage of public resources, increase productivity in the non-oil sector, and ensure the transition of the manufacturing industry to more promising industries with high export potential.

To maintain high rates of economic growth, Kazakhstan seeks to implement structural changes in the economy, which was reflected in the Address of the First President the Kazakhstan’s way 2050: Common Goal, Common Interests, Common Future in 2014.

Recently the country took the path towards an innovation-oriented economy aiming at the formation of a favorable business environment and investment climate and increasing the intensity and productivity of the national economy.

According to Kazakh expert Andrei Chebotarev, despite the pandemic and a general decline in GDP, by the end of 2020, the manufacturing industry grew by 3.9 percent. Gross value added is also growing, amounting to 9.3 trillion tenge (US$ 21.5 million) over the past year. Exports of high value-added products have also increased by 5%. 

The diversification of the economy made it possible for more and more local products to enter the markets nationwide. Their quality is in no way inferior to the quality of foreign manufacturers.

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Kazakhstan

Kazakhstan – Presidential decree improves human rights

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In February the European Parliament passed a resolution criticising Kazakhstan for its human rights record, highlighting gender issues, the situation of civil society groups and activists, and demanding the release of detained activists. Kazakh officials responded that the criticism was unfair and that the EU should not ignore or discourage efforts to improve the country’s record on human rights.

The plan’s priority areas include attempts to eliminate discrimination against women, boost freedoms of association, expression and freedom to life and public order. The plan also aims to increase in the efficiency of interaction with non-governmental organisations and to improve human rights in the criminal justice system to stamp out torture and ill-treatment of prisoners.

On June 10th 2021, Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev signed a decree to improve the country’s human rights record.

It included attempts to eliminate discrimination against women, boost freedoms of association, expression and freedom to life and public order. The plan also aims to increase in the efficiency of interaction with non-governmental organisations and to improve human rights in the criminal justice system to stamp out torture and ill-treatment of prisoners. He emphasised the rights of citizens with disabilities and victims of human trafficking as priority areas, in addition to ensuring the right to freedom of association, expression, and ‘public order’. The decree comes on the heels of two years of heightened dissent and protests in Kazakhstan.

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Tokayev has overseen several significant reforms, including the abolishment of the death penalty in 2019 and introducing direct election of mayors of rural districts and small towns. While the issue areas Tokayev mentioned specifically in his June 10th decree may not invite a sweeping overhaul of Kazakhstan’s political system, targeted policy changes could nonetheless have a consequential impact on many people’s lives.

The decree involved changes to the Criminal Code, as with reforms to regulations on peaceful assembly passed in June 2020. The new law relaxed constraints while preserving the state’s ability to restrict Kazakhstanis’ freedom of assembly.

Under the new law, organisers still need to submit advance notification to local authorities, who have the final say in whether a gathering is permitted. The location for gatherings is still at the discretion of local authorities as well

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While there are meaningful reforms, such as improving education and accessibility for people with disabilities or opening up space for women in the workforce, it seems likely that efforts to ensure Kazakhstanis’ civil liberties will involve increasing efficiency of interaction with non-governmental organisations.

Boosting Kazakhstan’s human rights record could bring economic benefits, with potential foreign investors attracted by a more stable, lower-risk economic environment.

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Climate change

COP26 challenges for Kazakhstan

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The eyes of the world will soon be focused on the  Scottish city of Glasgow and fresh efforts to tackle climate change, writes Colin Stevens.

COP26 in Glasgow is a gathering of the world’s leading economies and what they intend to do to tackle a crisis said by some to be even worse than the coronavirus pandemic.

But what is happening to address this most pressing of issues in other parts of the world?

This website is looking at the impact of climate change and climate adaptation in other countries not taking part directly in the UN event in the Scottish capital, including Kazakhstan.

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With a total surface area of 2.72 million square kilometres, Kazakhstan is the world’s largest landlocked country and the ninth-largest overall. Located at the centre of the Eurasian continent, Kazakhstan strategically links the markets of South East Asia and Western Europe.

Its projected climate change impacts vary across the country but Kazakhstan has already begun to experience an increasing number of droughts, floods, landslides, mudflows and ice jams that affect agriculture,fisheries, forests, energy production, water, and health.

Changing rainfall patterns are increasing the intensity and frequency of droughts. With the majority of the country’s topography classified as steppe, desert or semi-desert, climate change is placing an additional burden on the country’s water resource management and the livelihoods of almost 13 percent of the population that lives in high drought-prone areas. Due to low rainfall, severe water shortages occurred in 2012 and 2014 as a result of the reduced water levels  of two major rivers in the country.

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The increasing occurrence of floods and associated mudflows  have resulted in the displacement of thousands of Kazak people.Such events last year in the southern parts of the country impacted 51 settlements, inundated more than 2,300 houses, displaced around 13,000 people, and caused economic losses, estimated at US$125  million.Overall, almost one-third of the Kazak population lives in regions that are prone to mudslides, including the nearly 1.8 million citizens of Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty Recent climate projections predict that these will occur more frequently with the increase of torrential rains.

So, what are the climate challenges facing Kazakhstan? 

Well, the over-reliance on oil production makes the Kazakh economy  vulnerable to market forces tied to the demand for oil-based products so experts say that climate-proofing its economically-significant sectors will be required to deliver more sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

The development of a National Adaptation Plan is a step in that direction, which the government recognises as a fundamental process to future-proof its investments against the potential impacts of a changing climate

Kanat Bozumbayev, the country’s Minister of Energy, says, “In Kazakhstan, we are committed to climate-proofing our economically-significant sectors, to deliver sustainable and inclusive economic growth” and there have, without doubt, been some successes in the fight against climate change.

Kazakhstan has, for example, prioritised the reversal of desertification, water scarcity, and the degradation of land through reforestation and restoration of abandoned farmlands.

While such efforts are focused on mitigation, Kazakhstan is in the  process of developing and capacitating climate change adaptation plans and integrating them into legislative and institutional arrangements. One example of an adaptation strategy currently being developed is the introduction of adaptive growing technologies to compensate for the expected decline in favourable climate conditions needed for spring crops.

A Brussels-based expert on climate change told this website, “While Kazakhstan has a rapidly growing economy, the rural population and  farmers outside of the main urban centres face significant climate change risks to their livelihoods stemming from increased aridity, water management challenges and extreme weather events.

“The average annual air temperature increased by 0.31C in the 10 years since 2000, with the most rapid warming was taking place in winter. The main shift that has occurred due to this rise in temperatures is the increasingly arid climate of Kazakhstan’s desert and semi-desert areas, as well as locations adjacent to them. Degradation of glaciers has been recorded.”

There has also been an increasing number of forest fires, said to be linked to climate change.

Climate change may have a negative impact on the health of the population both because of intensification of thermal stress in southern regions and the spread of disease.

 However, Kazakhstan increasingly recognises the importance of reducing the country’s vulnerability to climate change and has  started to expand its investments in climate change adaptation,notably its national communications to the UNFCC.

But, despite some progress, there is no escaping the risks posed by climate change.

Projected climate change impacts vary across the country and Kazakhstan has already begun to experience this in ways.

The COP26 summit will gather world leaders, civil society pioneers, activists and the youth to implement action towards achieving the goals provided in the Paris Agreement and the UN Framew On the eve of the event, COP26 Regional Ambassador for Europe, Central Asia, Turkey and Iran David Moran recently paid a visit to Kazakhstan to discuss the efforts to tackle climate change and the forthcoming conference. 

At the meeting, the Kazakh government announced plans to develop and adopt a long-term strategy to low emissions and decarbonize the economy. Moron noted that Kazakhstan can contribute in a positive and ambitious way in terms of these commitments. 

With an eye on COP26, Moran said, ““Kazakhstan is also a major energy producer. We are looking for ambitious champions who can switch away from fossil fuels and coal in particular, to clean, renewable energy that can be inspiring to other countries as well."

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