09/03/2021, 08.59
KAZAKHSTAN
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Nur-Sultan: President Tokaev aims to counter economic and linguistic crisis

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Economic problems accentuated by the pandemic will falling cost of energy resources heavily felt. Inflation at record levels; agriculture affected by drought. In 2020, 96% of financial reserves will be used to meet debts. Clash with Moscow on the spread of Kazakh.

 

 

 

Moscow (AsiaNews) - In his third "message to the people," Kazakh President Kasym-Žomart Tokaev focused on economics and the development of the national language. In 2019 Tokaev replaced the "eternal president" Nursultan Nazarbaev, who, however, continues to control the country from the chair of the State Council.

The themes emphasize the "priority purposes of economic and social development in the near future," without even touching on politics, which is considered a minor issue and already defined without discussion. The main problem is the exit from the pandemic nightmare, with the economic crisis accentuated by the lowering of prices of energy resources, a key component of Kazakhstan's exports. Inflation is at record levels for the fourth year in a row, and agriculture is struggling due to this year's extraordinary drought.

Before the assembled chambers of parliament on Sept. 1, Tokaev explained that the resources of the national fund, where revenues from the energy market are calculated, are increasingly being used in recent times to cover budget deficits. "Our financial reserves are not infinite," the president said, tasking the government and the State Bank to come up with a plan to keep finances under control.

There is a need for "diversification of the economy," a thesis that has been repeated for many years, even under Nazarbaev, with no real exit strategy from energy dependence in sight. The second president of independent Kazakhstan, which is celebrating 30 years since the end of the Soviet yoke, wanted to recall a fundamental principle of liberalism: "Growth and development do not require excessive state intervention in the economy," which otherwise "leads to high levels of corruption."

For the first time in its history, Kazakhstan had to take on a debt of 1.5 billion euros at the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (promoted by China). In 2020, the Kazakh government had to use 96% of its financial reserves to meet its debts.

To stimulate the economy and domestic consumption, Tokaev announced several measures, including raising salaries for state employees. As of 2022, the minimum salary for civil servants will be raised to 60 thousand tenge (119 euros), from the current 42,500 (about 84 euros). However, the president warned against "parasitic attitudes of those who think of using social programs only for their own interests," which in turn are caused by "paternalistic approaches, which lead many citizens to simply expect something from the state." Tokaev added that "the unfounded desire to receive social benefits deprives people of the ability to earn a living through their own efforts." In recent years there have been many protests, among various categories of workers and citizens, over limited state measures of economic support.

A very controversial topic concerns the gradual transition to the Kazakh national language, freeing itself from the Russian dependence of Soviet (and before that imperial) derivation. Several Russian politicians have intervened in recent months, accusing Kazakhstan of "Russophobia". The President wanted to reassure that "the Russian language has the status of an official language in our country, and we have no intention of hindering its use", but at the same time "the spread of the Kazakh language should not be limited".

The decision to support Kazakh will not be questioned, as "one of the main approaches of the state policy: every citizen who ties his future to our country, must pay attention to the study of Kazakh language". Russian "is one of the six official languages of the UN, and with Russia we share the largest geographical and cultural borders", but one must also "jealously guard the unity and harmony in our society, in which inter-ethnic and inter-confessional harmony is fundamental", Tokaev concluded.

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