Tokayev’s New Reality

Earlier, we said we would not comment on the second Address of President Kossym-Jomart Tokayev to the People of Kazakhstan made on September 1, 2020, for we did not want to «drown» ourselves in the details and particulars of this populist document. Instead, we would like to analyse  — «Kazakhstan in a New Reality: Time to Act».

It is in this document that Kossym-Jomart Tokayev and his team have formulated and registered the political compromise currently reached by all the key players in the halls of power.

In particular, the acting head of the state has announced the following decisions: 

  • to create (or restore if you will) the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the Agency for Strategic Planning and Reforms (the second one will function under the direct authority of the President),
  • to place the Statistics Committee of the Ministry of National Economy of the Republic of Kazakhstan under the authority of the new agency,
  • to create the Higher Presidential Council for Reforms whose decisions are to be final,
  • to terminate the institution of executive secretaries at the ministers and state agencies.

Below, you will find several quotes from Section 1 («The New Model of State Governance») and Section 8 («The Fair State for Protecting the Interests of the Citizens») — text in bold by

«The reforms in this sphere should be conducted in a systemic way.

Let us start by saying that we will change out approach to state governance, personnel policies, the system of decision making and the responsibility for the implementation of these decisions.

Under the conditions of the pandemic and the crisis, the current system of state governance is working at its peak capacity. The solving of the operational tasks requires time and resources. However, under no circumstances must we forget about the long-term objectives. For this reason, I have decided to create the Agency for Strategic Planning and Reforms under the direct authority of the President».

«We are creating the Higher Presidential Council for Reforms that will make all the final decisions. For a more objective assessment of today’s volatile situation, the Statistics Committee is to become a part of the Agency».

«As it happened, the state apparatus is now playing the role of the main planner, executor and assessor in the state planning system. This is wrong».

«At the same time, it is vital to ensure continuity and institutional memory and not allow for a decline of the professional and ethic attainments. Here I would like to raise the issue of the institution of executive secretaries.

When the said institution was established, it was thought that its irremovability would free the ministers from carrying out the administrative and personnel-related tasks and ensure the stability of the state apparatus. Alas, this didn’t happen. Moreover, the absence of understanding between ministers and executive secretaries is not uncommon. As a result, the common goal suffers». 

«The Structure of the Ministry of Interior must be re-examined and the latter must be freed from performing the non-essential functions which will help to increase the efficiency of the operations of this important agency.

Since we have entered the era of natural and man-made disasters, I believe it necessary to restore the Ministry of Emergency Situations».  

In our opinion, the aforementioned decisions of President Tokayev are but an attempt to improve the system of state governance and adapt to the new conditions via the bureaucratic methods. At the same time, it is a way to strengthen his political standing both in the state apparatus and in the ruling elite. Let us explain this last point.

Let us start with restoring the Ministry of Emergency Situation via isolating it from the structure of Ministry of Interior. It looks like Akorda (with the approval of the Library, of course) has decided that, under the current conditions, it is more preferable to divide the sub-verticals of power that are involved in a) maintaining the order inside the country and b) preventing emergency situations and controlling the damage they do.

Considering what is happening in Kazakhstan-friendly Belarus where, after the recent presidential elections, the events have unfolded according to a very unexpected scenarios, this seems like a rather reasonable decision.

As for liquidating the institution of executive secretaries of ministries and state agencies, this decision has been long overdue. Nazarbayev’s attempt that followed the recommendations of his advisors to form a certain opposition to the heads of the agencies inside the state apparatus so that the said heads would not abuse their authorities as much failed a long time ago. However, the necessity to maintain certain external control of the government remains; apart from that, the need of making right decisions and proposing good ideas has intensified sharply. For this reason, Kossym-Jomart Tokayev and his team have chosen to go back to the idea tried out by Nursultan Nazarbayev more than two decades ago.  

In this regard, the newly created (or restored) Agency for Strategic Planning and Reforms and the Higher Presidential Council for Reforms will perform the same function as the Agency for Monitoring of Strategic Resources (aka Agency for Strategic Planning and Reforms). And their top-managements will invariably become the monitors of the Prime Minister and the other ministers (as it was done at the time when Akezhan Kazegeldin (on the photo) was the head of the Government and when the Agency for Monitoring of Strategic Resources was chaired by his former ally and then vocal adversary Galymzhan Zhakiyanov) as well as the generators of alternative decisions for the topical problems.

Therefore, «the new model of state governance» a-la Kossym-Jomart Tokayev is that very new thing of which they say «any new idea is a well-forgotten old one». 

In other words, it is a repetition of what the future «Leader of the Nation» Nursultan Nazarbayev had been practicing at the time when the Kazakh authoritarian political system was beginning to be restored after the perestroika collapse and the first years of the country’s independence.


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