IN the depths of the global financial crisis, Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev has taken proactive steps to help his country weather the storm. Just over a year ago, Mr Nazarbayev, proposed five key reforms or what he calls 100 concrete steps which are Kazakhstan's answer to global and internal challenges and are aimed at bringing the Central Asian republic into the club of the world's 30 most developed countries.
The reforms tie in with Kazakhstan's 2050 Strategy masterplan, and dovetails with the goals set earlier in the Nurly Zhol new economic policy and National Plan "100 Specific Steps on Implementation of Five Institutional Reforms" and other key policy documents. The reforms include formation of an effective state apparatus; ensuring rule of law; facilitating industrialisation and economic growth; developing national identity and unity; and enhancing government accountability. The National Commission for Modernization led by Prime Minister Karim Massimov was established and is composed of five working groups consisting of domestic and foreign experts. The first reform will ensure the modernisation in the procedure of admission to civil service, with a more comprehensive system that will be based on meritocracy.
The second reform focuses on ensuring the rule of law in Kazakhstan and involves a transition from the five-step justice system (first instance, appeal, cassation, supervisory and re-supervisory) to a three-level (first, appeal, cassation). In addition, eligibility requirements and mechanisms of selection of judges will be tightened, the scope of the jury court will be extended and the Astana International Arbitration Center will be created.
The third reform aims to attract more investors to boost economic growth and diversify industry by promoting a more business-friendly environment. For example, the current practice of civil servants making declarations of incomes will be extended to declaring expenses as well, from January 2017. Additional measures include strengthening the institution of a business ombudsman, who will act on behalf of entrepreneurs.
Other steps to attract investors will centre on establishing a multi-modal Eurasian transcontinental transport corridor that will facilitate quicker delivery of goods between Asia and Europe via Kazakhstan. Other transport infrastructure developments include the construction of a new airport to service the growing needs of Almaty.
Finally, the establishment of the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC) with a special status using a separate judicial system based largely on English law and the use of English as an official language alongside Kazakh and Russian is expected to turn Astana into a major financial hub for the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries and West Asia.
The fourth reform will focus on national identity and will be implemented through a number of projects, such as patriotic act "Mangilik Yel", large-scale project of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan "Big Country - Big Family" that are called to "strengthen the Kazakh identity and create conditions for the formation of an integrated civil community."
The fifth reform seeks to boost accountability in the government. State agencies will be free to achieve their goals independently but heads of the state agencies will report annually on the achievements of their departments.