06 March 2009

«Through Crisis to Renovation and Development»

Dear people of Kazakhstan!
Dear fellow countrymen!

People all over the world are feeling the impact of the economic crisis.
As you know, its tidal waves have reached — and affected — the shores of even the most advanced nations.
We have been able to resist the crises of various scale and scope. As we look back, it was certainly no easy task to build a brand new state for us after the Soviet Union collapsed. Restoring a badly-deteriorated economy, putting it on a new path of development was, in a way, not unlike creating mountains on flat ground. We overcame those difficulties.
Then, at the end of the last century, our independence faced yet another test as the East Asian financial crisis broke out. We were able to withstand that crisis by taking effective and timely measures.
We have been hardened by our experience in difficult periods.
We defined a new direction for the country and kept moving forward steadily.
The current global crisis is a temporary phenomenon. Our people have been coping by remaining calm. Here, we overcome all difficulties by mutual efforts.
The Government is taking measures to help cope with the crisis. The National Fund’s vast financial resources have been put to work to ensure smooth development of the domestic economy.
Social guarantees will be fully preserved. There is no doubt that we will overcome this crisis. Crises come and go. Values, such as independence of the State, interests of the nation and the well-being of the future generations, last forever.
Soon, we will celebrate a great occasion, the 20th anniversary of Kazakhstan’s independence. In terms of global development, two decades is not a long period of time. For us, those two decades equal an era. Our ancestors had dreamed of national independence for centuries.
That is why each year of our independence is very important for our nation. We will make great efforts to ensure our continued independence. Thanks to cooperation of our people there are no peaks and obstacles that we cannot overcome.

Dear fellow citizens of Kazakhstan,

For almost two decades now we have been building, day by day, a new country.
A country that is open and prosperous.
A country where the well-being of Kazakhstanis has been improving from year to year.
A country that is politically stable and has provided security for its citizens.
A country that no one will ever see as a source of external threat.
The development strategy adopted by Kazakhstan for the next few decades, and the experience of translating it into this nation’s real achievements has given us confidence in our own strength and the feeling of certainty that we have chosen the right path.
It is for this reason that, from the outset of the crisis that hit the global financial markets more than two years ago, we developed and have been consistently implementing a comprehensive set of anti-crisis measures.
We have closely watched domestic and external developments, and have taken prompt and decisive measures. This is why the global food crisis has not become a national disaster for us.
However, the current economic crisis that has already affected the entire global economy is still testing our strength. This crisis came to us from without. Its origins are not in this country — they are rooted in the imbalances of the global economy.
The crisis could not have been avoided, nor could have everything been foreseen. The leading economies of the world have already spent more than 10 trillion US dollars, or almost 15 percent of the world’s GDP, to overcome it. But there has been no change for the better so far.
The crisis has successively engulfed the American continent, Europe, and Asia.
In all probability, it is going to be a long crisis. According to analysts, the global economic downturn has yet to bottom out. I expressed my view on the global developments in my article, Keys to the Crisis. It may be somewhat controversial, but we, the Kazakhstanis, have contributed our ideas to the general quest for a way out of this crisis. This is not a simple crisis, and the proposed solutions should be most diverse.
I am convinced that this global crisis will change the international financial system and, maybe, the political ways in which the states are run. There are many of those who feel that the economy needs to be controlled «in the manual mode», and regulation becomes key to finding a way out of the crisis.
Therefore, a profound and radical approach will help the international community find the ways that will safeguard us against any future zigzags of the global market economy.
This is why the radical measures that I proposed are going to be discussed by the global community.
My proposal is a contribution to the search for solutions to global problems.
But the current reality is that the contracting business activity worldwide has brought down the demand for oil and metals, Kazakhstan’s principal exports.
Within a year, the price of oil and metals dropped by almost three quarters and one half, respectively. Our main trading partners and closest neighbors, Russia and Ukraine, devalued their currencies by 40-45 per cent. We, too, had to let the tenge depreciate in the interests of our producers. Otherwise, Kazakhstan’s products would have lost their competitiveness. We would have continued to burn through the country’s gold and foreign exchange reserves.

Dear citizens of Kazakhstan,

Regrettably, there are more severe trials to come and the pressure of the crisis remains unrelenting. And this is something that you should be aware of.
But you should also rest assured that we are more than just prepared for these trials.
We will overcome them and will emerge from this crisis an even stronger and more prosperous state.
We will preserve our positions in the global community.
Establishing the National Fund was part of our purposeful policy to accumulate savings.
You will remember how much controversy there was about whether or not the fund should be established or whether it would be better to distribute it little by little to everyone. What would we be doing now about paying wages and pensions, with the budget revenue down by 20%?
We did the right thing by establishing the fund in the good times. This is what should be done by states that care about tomorrow.
Thereby, we created a margin of safety, enabling our economy to withstand any potential shocks like this.
In order to create a viable and resilient economy, we consistently implemented difficult structural reforms, built up our export potential and began to diversify.
This is why we have a considerable reserve today, and we are in a position to conduct a sound and effective anti-crisis policy. Most countries have responded to the current global crisis by adopting stimulus packages. Kazakhstan was one of the first nations in the world to promptly respond to the increasing turbulence in the global economy and start implementing proactive measures.
To maintain the stability of the financial system, we provided banks with additional liquidity. That was done to support the economic activities of small, medium, and large enterprises.
The insurance coverage for household deposits was increased from 700 thousand to 5 million tenges. The government helped mitigate the banking sector’s risks associated with external borrowings and capital adequacy. 545 billion tenges was allocated to support housing construction and to deal with the problems of unit holders in real estate investment associations.
To maintain business activity in the country, we provided unprecedented financial support to small and medium enterprises in the amount of 275 billion tenges. Further resolute steps were taken to reduce administrative barriers. A new tax code providing for significantly lower rates of the main taxes was enacted.
The corporate income tax has already been reduced to 20 per cent this year, or by one third compared to last year, and the rate will be 15 per cent in 2011. The VAT rate was lowered to 12 per cent. The regressive scale of the social tax rates was replaced with a flat rate of 11 per cent. Tax benefits are available to enterprises that are making investments.
All of this has provided a most important incentive for the development of the non-commodity sector of the economy, and small and medium business. The law on state procurement offers preferential treatment to domestic producers, which is also designed to support small and medium business.
280 billion tenges was allocated for the development of the agribusiness, and 120 billion tenges was made available for infrastructural projects.
All in all, an additional 2,700 billion tenges was injected in the national economy to counter the crisis. You will agree that this is a powerful stimulus for countering the implications of the global crisis.
We are acting with resolve and quickly because we know what needs to be done — and when it needs to be done — to reduce the impact of the gl??bal crisis on our economy and society.
The response was helped by the joint and timely efforts of the country’s Government and Parliament.
I want you, my dear fellow countrymen, to understand that all of us must rally to withstand the pressures of this period of time. The government must guarantee that all of its commitments to increase social benefits and wages of the public sector workers are honored in full.
In line with the earlier plans, the wages of those employed in the public sector and stipends will be increased by 25 per cent in 2010, and by a further 30 per cent in 2011.
The average amount of pensions will be increased by 25 per cent and by 30 per cent in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Also, by 2011, the base part of the pension will be raised to 50 per cent of the subsistence level.
As you know, the government provided support for [college] students who were left without the means they to pay for tuition. All in all, the government will additionally provide 11 thousand grants and 40 thousand loans for the students.

Dear citizens of Kazakhstan,

We have the challenging tasks of overcoming the consequences of the crisis and laying a groundwork for future economic growth. Everything that has been done to date was intended to deal with the current problems brought about by the ongoing crisis.
I suggest that we should not stop, that we should move forward and implement a new plan to further modernize the economy and execute an employment strategy to support the post-crisis development of this country.
It was during the most difficult years that we began and completed the construction of a new national capital — Astana, at a time when nobody believed that we would be able to do that. Let us emulate that positive experience.
Yes, new resources will be needed. For this purpose, I believe it would be appropriate if the revenues from the commodities sector that have traditionally saved in the National Fund could be used to implement the new plan in 2009-2010. The total amount would be around 600 billion tenges and would come in addition to the transfers from the National Fund that have already been approved.
This is an ad hoc measure, but a necessary one. At the same time, we will preserve the stock of the country’s gross reserves that we have available now. That is, 47 billion US dollars. This will give us a guarantee of stability should the current crisis go on. Another source of resources is rigorous cost-cutting across all spending items of the budget and strict financial discipline. Hence, I am instructing the Government to optimize the expenditures of the republican budget and control the use of the budget resources on a weekly basis. This request is also addressed to our parliamentarians.
The extravagance that became a habit during the period of strong growth must give way to reasonable consumption and frugality. Let’s face it, during the years when we came into money, the expectations went up, the staffing levels were inflated, the number of business trips increased, and all kinds of large-scale cultural events were organized. We will all need to think about it.
Those who breach financial discipline should be held accountable with all severity required at a time of crisis. All non-priority expenditures — administrative, investment, etc. — should be reduced to zero. This applies to the local budgets as well.
The money thus saved will, first of all, give us an opportunity to implement an employment strategy for Kazakhstani citizens. Not only will this strategy help us cope with the shocks of the crisis but it will also guarantee that the economy develops efficiently after the crisis is over. It should create new opportunities for every family in Kazakhstan.
The adequate provision of employment opportunities must become the main gauge to measure the ability of members of the Government and each akim to ensure sustainable development of Kazakhstan’s economy. Each akim, each minister must know how many jobs have been lost and how many new jobs have been created locally during a week. This is the foundation of sustainable development.
To support employment and personnel retraining at the regional level, I direct the Government to earmark at least 140 billion tenges.
Resources should also be made available from the local budgets to co-finance the employment strategy.
We will create new jobs for those who will lose employment. We will be able to provide jobs for at least 350 thousand Kazakhstanis, which is in addition to the public works that are currently underway.
We have opportunities for developing the labor market, and there is no need to invent them. This is what the additionally allocated money will be used for.
First, rehabilitation and modernization of utilities. These are water, heat, electricity supply and sewage facilities and networks.
I instruct the government to estimate, together with the akims, the cost of what will need to be done for these purposes, and to see to it that not only these efforts receive financing, but also that most rigorous control is exercised over each tenge provided from the budget.
This is invisible work, but we will have to do it anyway. It is the foundation for future development. This will give us an opportunity to create a vast number of new jobs in cities and locally. We will raise the purchasing power of our population. If we are to work in a smart way, those who become redundant need to be retrained in new trades. The housing and utilities sector should have been put in order a long time ago. Let us deal with this now.
Second, construction, rehabilitation and maintenance of local motorways, and renovation of the social infrastructure, primarily schools and hospitals. This task is for social enterprise corporations whose duty is to ensure the maximum employment of the population. The financial side is the responsibility of the Government and the akims. We must reach agreement now and openly tell the public that we will complete the schools and hospitals that are already under construction. We will postpone new projects because of the prevailing situation, but we will use the money to repair the existing schools, hospitals and first-aid stations. Again, we will create new jobs. Also, the construction of motor and rail trunk roads that was earlier planned will have to be put on hold. But the money will be used to put the roads around the regional centers and cities, and inter-regional roads, in a better shape. By doing so, we will improve our logistics.

Third, locally important facilities in each specific populated locality. This could be landscaping and planting of trees, repairing roads, community centers or other facilities at the discretion of the local authorities. Targeted transfers should be made available for such purposes. Resources should be provided to district maslikhats as bodies of local self-government. Let them make their own decisions as to where this money can be best used to deal with the local problems and employment issues. I am making the akims personally responsible for the effectiveness of this work in general.
We should make the most of the potential of the local producers to implement all of the above projects. If the required production capacity is lacking today, it needs to be created, and this opens up new business opportunities.
After all, we are approaching the 20th anniversary of our independence. Work should be undertaken across Kazakhstan to prepare for the occasion. These are unforgettable years for our generation and for our nation. There had been nothing like this in the history of the Kazakh nation or all of Kazakhstan.
Therefore, we need to start this work now. I believe we should give some money, probably 50-100 million tenges, to each local akim so that they could address the current problems of the members of their communities facing some distress and issue micro-credits under the supervision of the district maslikhats.
That way, we will not only be addressing employment issues, but will also be creating incentives for the emergence of new production capacity in our country. Fourth, it would mean creating more social service jobs and organizing internship programs for the young.
The existing employment act allows us to use budget resources for these purposes. In 2008, more than 13 thousand individuals benefited from these programs. Our task today is to expand the coverage of the existing programs.
I am issuing instructions for an additional 8.6 billion tenges to be allocated for such purposes. Then we will be able to provide jobs for 96 thousand people. At the same time, we must increase the maximum period during which unemployment benefits are paid from the State Social Insurance Fund from 4 to 6 months.
Our employment strategy during the global crisis envisages full-scale retraining and professional development programs.
I am instructing the Government together with the akims to organize retraining of specialists on the basis of the existing training institutions.
Our citizens need to learn — in the rest of the world, people learn all their lives. In this regard, there are opportunities and there is a need for retraining and learning new skills that are in demand today. We are now requiring all large construction companies to allocate funds to train people in other trades. That is how it should be everywhere. If the Government and the akims organize this work properly, the people will embrace training opportunities and will learn new skills.
Systematic retraining and professional development efforts must be intended to accomplish the following.
Everyone who wants to take up a new profession should be given an opportunity to receive training.
Labor resources should be made available to meet the future requirements of the economy, particularly in agriculture.
Foreign workers should be gradually replaced with domestic labor. We are planning to reduce their number by one half and replace them with our people.
Also, despite the global crisis and the difficulties we are going through during this period, we cannot afford to focus solely on dealing with these difficulties. Our future depends on further modernization of the economy and development of the basic infrastructure.
We will continue financing and implementing promising investment projects that are already underway.
This primarily refers to modernization of oil refineries.
We have three oil refineries but we continue to buy lubes and are not self-sufficient in terms of jet fuel. This needs to be addressed now. We should gradually move to full self-sufficiency for these oil products.
We will continue building a petrochemical facility in Atyrau. We will complete the construction of the Moynak hydroelectric power plant this year, and will continue expanding and upgrading the GRES-1 power plant in Ekibastuz. Only four of the eight units are operational there. This electric power is readily available and cost-effective. We will continue working on the GRES-2 power plant in Ekibastuz to build a third generating unit, and the construction of the Balkhash cogeneration plant will begin this year.
We plan to build the Beyneu-Bozoi-Akbulak main gas pipeline and to modernize the Western Europe — Western China motor transit corridor. Preparatory work will begin this year. There will be 5 thousand people working there, and there will be up to 50 thousand workers in 2010-2012.
This is going to be an artery that will turn Kazakhstan into a transit corridor between Europe and Asia.
We have started organizing production of electric locomotives, passenger cars and goods wagons, road binders, and chemicals.
I would like to make a special mention of the agribusiness sector whose development will enable us to address two tasks that are extremely important for this country: achieving food security and diversifying the exports.
Therefore, we decided to continue financing the investment projects seeking to develop export-oriented production facilities, including those to establish and develop dairy farms, poultry factories, fattening stations, and to organize fruit and vegetable farming with the use of drip irrigation, install assembly lines for farm machinery, develop meat-processing and fine wool processing facilities, the infrastructure for exporting and deep processing of Kazakhstan’s grain. Consideration should be given to other important construction projects, including the continued construction of the Koksaray water reservoir and other major irrigation facilities.
Our target was to make 60 thousand hectares of irrigated land available for use in the Kyzylkum area. Work should be started at the sites for which feasibility studies and access roads are available. Farm produce processing is a highly important sector. Today, we import 80% of canned vegetables and fruit, half of meat products and 53% of powder milk. If all of this is to be produced locally, city dwellers should go to work in the farming industry.
In our estimates, export orientation will help create more than 500 thousand new jobs and will add about 8 per cent to the GDP growth rate over the next five years. Therefore, in line with the strategic choice that we have made, we continue to work consistently in those sectors of the economy where we can achieve real competitiveness and carve out niche for ourselves in the external markets.
* * *
The current difficulties are not the first trial that has befallen us.
We overcame the deepest crisis of the transition period in the early 1990s.
At the time, the economy contracted by up to 60 per cent, and the annual inflation was in four digits.
We survived the second global crisis that originated in the Asian financial markets in the late 1990s. The oil price was down to 9 dollars per barrel. We could not pay pensions and wages. But we surmounted those difficulties.
Some time will pass and we will be able to say that we have overcome the current crisis as well.
We have every opportunity to emerge from the existing situation (if even not without objective losses) prepared for a new round of growth.
Crises will be recurrent, and our objective is to learn how to manage them. So far, we have been able to do so.
Today, we are being forced to regroup our forces and resources, and we are doing this under the pressure of the external circumstances. However, that does not mean that we have changed our course. This course is charted in the National Development Strategy until 2030. Life has introduced adjustments. But I emphasize that we stay the course.
Prosperity, security and better well-being for all Kazakhstanis remain the triune priority for our state.
We have an anti-crisis plan, and sufficient resources have been made available from the official reserves. The Government as a whole, and the prime-minister, the heads of government agencies and the akims are personally responsible for implementing the planned anti-crisis measures. The existing problems and the way they are handled is a test of maturity and stability of our society and our state. I think we will pass the test. We are going to enter a new phase in our development and to multiply our achievements. I am convinced that we will rise to the challenge. We need the cohesion of our nation to achieve the objectives set.
Therefore, I call on all citizens of Kazakhstan to get down to implementing the said measures, show zeal and perseverance, frugality, support and care for your kith and kin, and all those who need help.
I appeal to the deputies of the Parliament, the maslikhats and the Nur Otan party. The voters who voted for our party have placed enormous confidence in us. Now, during the difficult time of crisis, we must live up to this confidence and spearhead the broad-based anti-crisis movement in society.
Together with the Government and the local authorities, we need to address the specific problems of the people, and exercise special control over the implementation of the anti-crisis measures and the spending of the budget resources allocated for these purposes. I appeal to the People’s Assembly of Kazakhstan, to all political forces. Now is the time when it is not what you say but what you do that will be used to judge if you really care about the people.
Let us rally to overcome the most severe crisis in the history of this planet!
Let us not embitter the people, let us support them in word and deed. This is precisely what the state is doing now. Preserving peace and accord in this country remains an important task.
I appeal to all civil servants. The accountability of each government official to the people who we are serving is increasing manifold now. There is a need for more frequent on-site visits and meetings with work teams and the public. It is necessary to explain the measures being taken by the government and to rally people to deal with the problems.
I appeal to the law-enforcement officers. We depend on you for peace and tranquility in the streets of our cities and villages. Resolute and tough measures must be taken to fight crime, corruption, fraud and violations of the law. During this difficult time, every effort must be taken to ensure the safety of our citizens and the entire society.
I appeal to the mass media to take an active civic stance! You are called a «fourth estate» for a reason! The media must now act as a «counselor» to the people, advise them on the best way to overcome difficulties and survive during these difficult times. Citizens should be educated using the positive experience of other people as an example. The same role is assigned to our academic and artistic intellectuals. There should be more publications that promote such sentiments as confidence, personal activism, tolerance, patriotism, and love for the Motherland. Members of the Nur Otan party should more often reach out to households to explain what retraining opportunities are available, how loans and micro-credits can be obtained, and what needs to be done during the difficult years. It is important to go from door-to-door, to visit every family and become a helper and advisor to the ordinary people. It needs to be communicated that there is nothing to be afraid of, that this is a large country, and there are plenty of work opportunities.

Dear citizens of Kazakhstan,
The success of the new phase in the country’s development will largely depend on the actions we take and the decisions we make.
We have the necessary resources and experience to withstand the pressures of the global crisis. We have a clear anti-crisis program. All the objectives that have been set are achievable!
I am confident that we will overcome all the difficulties and will make our Kazakhstan a strong and prosperous state enjoying the world’s respect.

Dear audience!
Fellow countrymen!

There is only one force that can overcome difficulties, and that force is unity. Unity is necessary to protect our land, to preserve independence and to reach success today. It is the unity and cohesion of our people that have preserved our nation in difficult times.
Our long-suffering nation retained its identity even in the difficult years of the USSR era. In the other FSU republics, the first years of independence were marred by unrest and bloodshed. In Kazakhstan, unity and harmony helped avoid that.
I believe that in this difficult time our nation will show its solidarity and unity.
Always demonstrate your tolerance, wisdom and calmness.
You all probably know these wise words: unity is the foundation of any state.
We need to stop empty rhetoric.
I would like to wish everyone good luck!

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