Prepared by Dinara Shakhar
1. Do businessmen require their own political party in order to protect their interests in society
2. As per achieving a certain level of economic stability, the authorities have announced a course of political moder-nization in Kazakhstan. What, in your opinion, should this modernization entail?
chairman of the board of Kazakhstan Commertsia JSC
1. Not necessarily. Businesspeople are an active part of society, and can maintain different political interests, likes and tastes. However, all of them are united by the desire for political stability. And, the most important thing is that the authorities would not protect “their own” businesspeople, and that the requirements of laws and norms be applied equally to everyone.
2. Modernization of the po-litical system announced by both the authorities and the opposition is actually similar. They only differ in certain accents and in their priorities, which I do not consider worth dwelling upon. I believe an amendment should immediately be introduced into the constitution for assisting in the vitally important fight against corruption, which damages the basis of the state. Without establishment of strict, effective control on the part of the people, the source of power, it is impossible to defeat the many-headed dragon of systematic corruption. Such a norm should be introduced only as a constitutional amendment. As is known, the constitution is a public agreement between the authorities and the people. How can such an agreement exist without mutual responsibilities, obligations and sanctions? The performing of responsibilities cannot be done without control of one party over the actions of the other. The form and contents of the controlling body can be defined only if the legislative branch really wishes it. This norm should include such a compulsory point as: immediate reaction by the authorities to public criticism of state figures, regardless of their rank and duties, as expressed within public speeches, in the print media, or on radio and television channels, with a mandatory rule as to informing the populace about the investigation and measures taken.
Even such ideas as national unity, which involves the consolidation of all ethnicities within the republic, and Kazakhstan’s [goal of] entering the list of the 50 most developed nations of the world, as declared by the President, are still subject to erosion caused by corruption. This is why there is a fear that the national idea, which in my opinion should be the basis of the country’s development strategy and political modernization, still needs to be developed, yet cannot even be born, let alone exist, in an atmosphere of corruption.
3. We will definitely change. As a whole, the business com-munity has grown up enough to have reached the level of maturity at which it may command respect. The authorities should realize that the business community would sooner or later make them take into account its interests, and provide equal rights with foreign investors, even providing advantages on certain issues, especially those related to national security and the country’s development strategy. As for 2006, we are awaiting actions by the authorities confirming that we have been heard.
Kairat Mazhibayev, president of Resmi Group Ltd.
1. I do not think that business requires “its own” party. This is reminiscent of such trends as may be popular from time to time, as having their own bank, restaurant, land site or an apartment building in which only “their people” should live.
In my understanding, a party should present original ideas differing from those of other parties, some public goals and strategies for their achievement, as directed for improving the quality of life and those rules for regulating this, both as applied to society as a whole and among certain associated members. In addition to that, an openness and lack of fixed rigidity among the elected should be the foundation for such a party’s long-term performance.
Business itself, in its full composition (as in a cross-section), meaning small, medium-sized and large businesses, as well as its divisions into such spheres as financial, industrial, agricultural, the service sector and others, may be dissimilar, and might not be unified or analogous at its core, due to the nature of business itself. As business needs to be as competitive as possible, in such reforms as the Industrial Innovation Strategy, a natural conflict of interests exists, for example, between “industrialists” and “post-industrialists”.
At different stages, the various representatives from business must have the opportunity to choose a political platform. This is, in my opinion, what will become a condition for preventing [the establishment of] any type of dog-ma or monopolies in ideas.
Besides, considering the fact that the bulk of the Kazakhstani economy is private, who should be included among the representatives of business? Should we include ordinary employees, or only the owners and top management of business? This [last] would be incorrect, as it would create a system that is too narrow and fragile…
2. Modernization, rather than radical changes, precisely reflect the needs of most of society regarding further development in the system of state governance. In my mind, modernization means an increase in the possibilities of the public to assess and influence the effectiveness of the governance system, especially on the local level. Transparency and gradualness are necessary conditions for achieving this.
3. I do not know how to correctly define the term “business climate”. If you mean here, the investment climate, then it would be better to pay attention to the opinions of the world’s leading agencies and economic publications. This would be more professional.
Tamara Omarova, chairman of the board of First Investment
1. Let us divide up the term business into large and oligarchic, medium-sized and small, just as is done in our country. With regards to large business, it already has its own political parties, which are really fighting for their place of power on Mount Olympus. With regards to medium-sized and small businesses, I do not see any necessity in creating a political party. More effective would be utilization of the existing parties, many of which have included into their programs the development of small and medium-sized businesses.
2. Political modernization is a beautiful term, quite pleasant sounding and modern, which has come to us just like many things from the West. If considering this term in its full meaning (as per current trends), it is quite obvious that political modernization supposes matching the political system with the contemporary state of society. That our society has changed a lot is not a secret, with new goals and tasks appearing. This means that the political system should meet the realities of modern times, and certain changes should be introduced, which is already happening. Our election laws have changed, there is talk about altering the system of party representation in the Parliament to a proportional one, and so on.
3. I want to believe very much that everything that has been said by the President will be realized.
Abylai Myrzakhmetov, president of the Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of Kazakhstan
1. Both yes and no. At present, none of the existing parties precisely expresses the interests of the business community, but at the same time, during further party building in Kazakhstan, this issue could be resolved.
2. Extension of authorities’ role pertaining to elected bodies (Parliament, maslikhats – local legislative bodies), development of local self-governance, the ability to carry out elections to municipal bodies (at the level of villages, districts and cities), the election of oblast akims (gover-nors) by regional maslikhats, and enhancement of the role of NGOs as a whole.
3. Yes, the business climate, in addition to that of business, must change, especially prior to the nation’s entering of the WTO. First of all, we need to lower the tax burden, fight corruption, and decrease administrative barriers.
Raimbek Batalov, council chairman of the Kazakhstan Entrepreneurs’ Forum
1. Until not long ago, business circles maintained very cautious, and sometimes even negative, attitudes toward creating a party among the business community, which is understandable. An entrepreneur must be sure that such a party would be able to protect his interests, as well as solving business’s problems in general. A businessperson would only trust such a political power. Thus far the attitude toward this issue is not unified.
Here arises the question: How can such a party be created? If this is done as per instructions from the authorities, than a businessperson who already understands the situation will not accept such a party.
Besides, what does it mean to “protect the interests of a businessman within society?” His interests should be defended in the legal and economic spheres. If this is achieved, then the volume of the shadow economy decreases, its “wilder” forms would become more civilized, and the authority of business would be elevated.
I am a businessman myself, and with regards to business I support the policy not of the “stick and carrot”, but of “carrot and stick”. First, defend a businessman from bureaucratic tyranny, and give him real – not virtual – freedom. Eliminate all corruption. Put him into a just environment. And, only following this, use all administrative and control methods on those who [still] do not wish to work honestly, who still desire to live in the shadows. Both the tax code and tariff policy should be put in order. The removal of any procedural barriers is necessary. As well, modern business infrastructure must be formed. The Strategic Action Plan developed by the Entrepreneurs’ Forum for 2006-08 concentrates on all these issues.
2. Extension of the Parliament’s functions, more effective communication between public organizations, including both those of entrepreneurs and of the executive branch, and public monitoring of these mechanisms of interaction [apply to political modernization]. Here, I mean that model of dialogue designed many years ago. This discourse could be heard by any citizen who is able to evaluate the facts and phenomena, both within politics and economics. For an entrepreneur, the term modernization is economic jargon, and has only one meaning, which is renewal. Just like that, he would believe in political modernization were he to see changes within the framework of his activity. If the authorities were transparent, business would also become so. This is one of the elements of democracy.
3. Prognoses do not always come true, even when people are talking about the weather, not to mention the business climate. I am confident of only one thing, at present Kazakhstan is interesting for doing business, and for the business circles to realize their ambitions. I believe that it was not an accident that the head of our country placed an accent on support of initiatives and suggestions from entrepreneurs in last year’s state of the nation address.
I will make a note regarding this. In European countries 60% of all suggestions made by businesses are then realized. In the USA, this index is even higher, with 80% of initiatives by businessmen being achieved. This concerns the introduction of changes into legislation, various norms, and resolutions.
Still, it is very far for us to match the European level of business initiative realization, but nevertheless our ministries and agencies have positively accepted more than 500 of our suggestions. Since the very start, the Entrepreneurs’ Forum has always raised the most important issues. We will continue our work in the future in order to eliminate multiple barriers created by a long-standing bureaucratic hegemony.
Do you imagine that this tyranny appeared only now, or even in Soviet times? You are absolutely wrong. Recently, I read that in the nineteenth century every merchant was made to pay 5 silver rubles to an official, just to prove that he already paid the tax (Semirechinskiye Vedomosti, July 1898). This was a pure racket in our understanding, showing that our ancestors lived just as we do…
But, enough about the past.
What do we expect today? First of all, consistent execution by the government of those obligations that it has taken upon itself regarding small and medium-sized businesses. At the end of last year, they were defined quite succinctly during cooperation between government working groups and representatives of our forum. We would like to see concrete and businesslike support of our Strategic Action Plan, which has been directed toward moving business out of the shadows and significantly changing the business climate of the country, which will permit increasing of the social status of business within society. We also expect more openness from the executive branch.
What awaits us ahead? Western investors in their predictions for the immediate future do not foresee any complications. However, one can hear fearful notes in their evaluations of the long-term prospects. These possibilities will depend upon the political state of affairs in the years to come.
In short, our businessmen should always be careful. On the other hand, they must learn to be the masters of their own country.