The goal of President Tokayev, since his inauguration, has been to position himself as the ‘hearing President’ - the figurehead of the ‘hearing state’. The President has taken significant steps in achieving this goal. He has announced a series of domestic, social, economic and political1 policies aimed at improving the quality of life for citizens of Kazakhstan.
The President has consistently emphasized his commitment to the principle of the ‘hearing state’. In response to this, such initiatives as the National Council of Public Trust2 have been established as platforms in which wider society can discuss different views and strengthen the national conversation regarding government policies and reforms.3 These significantly reduced bureaucratic delays and provided citizens the opportunity to voice concerns to the highest levels of government.
In an effort to increase public safety, President Tokayev has strengthened the penalties for those who commit serious crimes, including sexual violence, drug trafficking, human trafficking, driving vehicles after drinking all types of alcohol, poaching, violence towards park rangers, domestic violence against women and serious crimes against individuals, especially children.
At the request of the President, the Mazhilis have adopted a number of important amendments in these areas.4 On December 30, 2019, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev signed a number of amendments to codify these amendments into law.
These adopted amendments significantly strengthen the protection of the rights of women and children. As a result, crimes such as rape and sexual violence have been reclassified from medium to severe punishments (from 5 to 8 years). For committing rape or acts of sexual violence against children, criminals now receive sentences of 20 years or life imprisonment. A similar penalty is provided for the murder of children.
In addition, the law provides life sentences for those selling drugs to a minor via the internet, and in nightclubs, cafes, and parks.
Kazakhstan continues strengthening anti-trafficking measures. President Tokayev’s new initiatives provide new measures of punishment in the form of prison sentences from 7 to 12 years for crimes related to human trafficking.
The criminal liability for poaching has also been substantially strengthened. Now, for those proven guilty of poaching, the maximum sentence an individual can receive has been increased from 5 to 12 years in prison. With these new legal amendments, the state has strengthened the protection of the rights of park rangers who care for the safety of nature. According to these new laws, the punishment for attacks on the inspectors for the protection of flora and fauna has also been increased.
The legislative initiatives of President Tokayev are aimed at further strengthening public safety and ensure that the state guarantees the rights of individuals. As a result, Kazakhstan continues to enhance legal powers, strengthens legal punishments for serious crimes and consistently develops the rule of law.
I welcome the important pledge by President Tokaev of #Kazakhstan @TokayevKz to decriminalise defamation and narrow definition of 'incitement to inter-ethnic enmity'. Will follow and support the future legislative initiatives.— OSCE media freedom (@OSCE_RFoM) December 23, 2019
All these new initiatives are in line with the social, economic and political measures taken by President Tokayev to further modernise Kazakhstan, which include the following:
Healthcare – An additional 2.3 trillion tenge ($6 billion) is to be allocated towards developing healthcare systems and a further 2.8 trillion tenge ($7.2 billion) to be allocated towards covering the healthcare costs of citizens.
Social Security – President Tokayev has instructed that social rehabilitation centers will open nationwide to support those in need and that funds from the State Social Insurance Fund will be diverted to provide rehabilitation aid for those with disabilities. Children from low-income families will also receive a guaranteed social package, including free school meals and transportation to and from school.
Employment – The government should ensure that private companies adhere to a special quota on hiring people with disabilities, as well as to count volunteer work as work experience.
Modernising the pension system – As employers are not yet in a position to provide a mandatory 5% pension, the term of introducing mandatory pension contributions by employers will be postponed from 1 January 2020 to 2023.
Education – President Tokayev has instructed that scholarships to undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students are raised by 25%. Strict measures are also to be taken against educational institutions which print fake diplomas.
Currency stabilizing – The National Bank, in order to increase public and investor confidence in the tenge, will announce the exchange rate of the National Fund’s currency market on a monthly basis and adopt a new monetary policy strategy.
Reducing the economic involvement of state businesses in competitive markets – The government has been instructed to make proposals by April 2020 to further reduce the list of state enterprises, especially in big cities, in order to increase the size of the private sector.
Anti-corruption measures – President Tokayev has strengthened the fight against the shadow economy, businesses will be provided with tools to assess and verify the legality of their potential business partners through a database drawn from the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs.
Foreign labour – The 2020 quota for foreign labour will be reduced by 40%, to see a decline from 49,000 in 2019 to 29,000 in 2020.
Foreign debt – The Ministries of the National Economy, Finance and the National Bank should develop, by April 2020, the Unified Register of External Debt in the form of a digitised database.
Parliamentary pluralism – A law will be passed to allow representatives from other parties to hold Chair positions on some Parliamentary committees, in order to foster alternative views and opinions.
Political rallies – Special places for peaceful rallies in central areas will be allocated and a new draft law outlining the rights and obligations of organizers, participants and observers will be passed.
Political party registration – The minimum membership threshold needed to register a political party will be reduced from 40,000 to 20,000 members.
Foreign visitors – President Tokayev has cancelled the mandatory registration of foreigners with the migration police during visits to Kazakhstan. Involvement of women and youth – Women and young candidates must make up 30% of party election lists.
Libel Law – President Tokayev has ordered that Article 130 of the Criminal Code on defamation will be decriminalised and transferred to the Administrative Code. Criminal justice – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been tasked to begin the process of acceding to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which deals with abolishing the death penalty.
President Tokayev announced major political reforms package to support a “support culture of opposition” and loosen public assembly requirements. The President said in his first State of the Nation on September 2, 2019, “ We need to strengthen the creative foundation of the political process so that pluralism becomes an important element in enhancing economic well-being and human capital.” ↩
The council’s structure includes the council’s chair, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, deputy chair and Presidential Administration Head Krymbek Kusherbayev, the council’s secretary Karin and more than 40 activists and experts from across various sectors. Among them are human rights activist Aigul Orynbek, information technologies specialist Baghdat Musin, journalist Mikhail Dorofeyev and economist Oraz Zhandosov. ↩
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