What can be done?

To summarize the content of previous articles of this series this is what the current situation is: the ruling elite of the country headed by president Nazarbaev, had failed the task of historical proportions of creating a sovereign and independent Kazakh republic on the ruins of former USSR. 

Yes, such a government does exist. For now. Yet, it is so inherently weak that it is afraid of any unapproved activity, even the weak one, not necessarily in the realm of politics, but also in the areas of social life and labor. The economy of the country is uncompetitive both in the world and in the region. The quality of population and thus labor resources is low, while the number and level of occurring challenges constantly rises.

Another frightening factor is that there is no example of successful top-to-bottom modernization process in the Euro-asian region or of the one that doesn’t require burdening people. It is enough to recall the successful policies of Peter I, Alexander II or Joseph Stalin, to realize that such historical breakthroughs always come at the expense of regular people, exacerbating their problems and suffering.

However, such an approach requires that the people abide to the will of the rulers. Meanwhile, under conditions of globalization and high levels of participation of the republic in the world economy, it is practically impossible to close off its borders or to isolate itself from the global media. In other words, it would impossible to create another North Korea or even Turkmenistan, in our country.

This means that as soon as the pressure on the population will start to rise, be it directly, through increases in taxation or indirectly, through currency devaluation, the resistance from people will rise accordingly. Their reaction could vary: from active protests to withdrawing in the comfort of their homes and family life, and from emigration to escaping into the shadow economy.

As a result, a question arises that no one can answer: how is Akorda going to empower regular citizens to modernize the government, economy, political and social spheres.

Because it isn’t enough to just declare the onset of the third wave of modernization, as Nazarbaev recently did, as part of his annual presidential speech. You also have to actually do it. So the question is, how can it be done and what mechanisms will be implemented?

If, like before, only government apparatus and quasi-government bodies will mobilized, the results will also be the same as before, that is half real and half fictional, partial and sectorial. It is the absence of mechanism for involvement of large swaths of Kazakhstani population in the process of modernizing of the country that is the main problem of the current ruling power.

In proving the thesis let us look at apartment owners co-ops in the cities. There, an absence of clear and direct incentive among the apartment owners, coupled with administration’s lack of ability to economically or bureaucratically influence the member of the co-op, lead to some disheartening results: the hallways are dirty, the condition of buildings is poor, there are problems with safety, and so on. There are exceptions to this trend usually in the form of new apartment complexes, where there are company and building managers and an opportunity to collect higher membership fees or co-ops with caring and activist leaders.

Kazakhstan, in some sense resembles an apartment owner’s co-op, except the one that operates an entire country. This is why it is important to ask a question of whether Akorda is going to include Kazakh citizens in yet another process of modernization, and if it is – how is it going to do it?

It is worth noting that this question concerns almost all portions of Kazakhstani society including the ruling elite. For instance, will the members of abovementioned elite remit their multi-billion profits from foreign business ventures, in order to invest them back into the economy? Are they ready to stop embezzling government budget and abusing their positions of power? And so on.

We are convinced that the ruling elite will be unwilling to sacrifice personal benefits for the interest of the country. What is the point then for the owners of large and small business, entrepreneurs and contractors in participating in the process of modernizing the country? What is the benefit for them?

It is this absence of a working mechanism for incentivizing of all spheres to achieve nationwide results that has led and still leads to all successful modernizing efforts in the Euro-asian region to be implemented from top down. They were and still are conducted under high bureaucratic pressure, with anybody as a possible victim including government workers, CEOs of companies, government contractors, social activists and regular people. Moreover, those policies were carried out by robbing regular citizens.

When considering all of the abovementioned, the possibility of success of the so-called third modernization wave, announced by president Nazarbaev, is close to zero. How can we confidently forecast this? Because it is one thing to announce the plans, and a completely different thing to realize them. Additionally, a successful and effective mechanism for galvanizing and involving all Kazakhstanis, can only be political in nature which is something Akorda and elbasy himself are not ready to do.

If there will be an effort to modernize the country the same way it was done before, using pressure from the top, the government will face the reality of Kazakhstanis leaving the country in hordes and thus damaging the economy. And they will be right to do so, since it is the only viable option for them. As a result, we might face the situation that happened back in the 1920s and 1930s, when Kazakhs emigrated abroad en masse, saving their own lives and lives of their close ones. Of course, there won’t be an exact repetition of those tragic events, but an exodus is possible, and moreover inevitable, if the pressure from the government will exceed a certain limit and certain troubling events will take place, such as terrorist acts with many victims or mass interethnic clashes. In short, some turn of events that will have large emotional consequence and will become grounds for large-scale efforts for self-preservation.


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