Joking on the subject of the “new-old” government of Kazakhstan has already lost its humor. The new government has already become a cause for sarcasm even before it has actually started to work. The government maintained practically every minister, with the rare exception of some remapping, and so any reshuffling was but a change from one chair to another – is this not just subtle political humor?
Danial Akhmetov, the new-old prime minister, has yet to make progress in his renewed seat, and already rumors have arisen of his impending resignation in the summer of this year. Humorous is the fact that analysts predicted the resignation of this prime minister more often than they had done for any previous one. Yet, Mr. Akhmetov has stubbornly remained in his seat.
However, whether he possesses a sense of satisfaction regarding the present composition is not known, as after all in the new Cabinet of Ministers Mr. Akhmetov maintains only the peripheral role of being “on duty during the rotation.” Strategic planning was entrusted to a single deputy prime minister, Karim Masimov. Though from the point of view of mere aesthetics, the distribution of roles is seen to be quite harmonious: Masimov is a strategist who is outwardly always imperturbable, while remaining “deep inside himself” (the effect of his Chinese education?), who contrasts with his vigorous, self-starting supervisor.
This is not the first year in which President Nursultan Nazarbayev has required that the government begin to utilize modern “electronic” technologies, and to this end he has given instructions for the appointment of merely one deputy prime minister so as to stimulate this process. Now, Mr. Akhmetov is left with nothing to do but push his subordinates into introducing the program of e-government. On the other hand, e-government is a convenient and practical concept. At least, equipment cannot find itself in such an equivocal state, as has happened with our current government. A week after the President presented his new-old prime minister to the Parliament, he held a meeting with the new Cabinet of Ministers. The head of state utilized almost the entire meeting in order to criticize the previous government. He noted that the “new” ministers would decisively put their respective ministries in order. The new ministers then enthusiastically nodded enthusiastically in agreement, while inside frankly condemning their own predecessors.
The President instructed Energy and Mineral Resource Minister Baktykozha Izmukhambetov to order the system of tenders for reserves. Already, within half an hour, Mr. Nazarbayev was again guiding former Energy Minister Vladimir Shkolnik in his new position as Minister of Industry and Trade, using the terminology that he is an “experienced person, versed in science and innovation.” Remember, Mr. Shkolnik not only has a doctorate, but also an energy specialist, which is why he should be close to that sphere as well. This did not prevent the former Energy Minister from being severely criticized by Mr. Nazarbayev. However, his new place of work, the Trade Ministry, according to the head of state, has “practically functioned on its own without its minister being present recently.” Though, this ministry “focuses its work in many industries, including industry, construction, competitiveness, tariffs, WTO entrance, applied sciences, innovation and marketing.” So, Mr. Shkolnik has much with which to busy himself.
At the same time, Sauat Mynbaev, without whom the Trade Ministry practically functioned on its own, was directed to supervise preparation work in establishing Samruk Holdings for management of state assets.
Mr. Nazarbayev provided very important instructions to Nataliya Korzhova, the new Minister of Finance, to handle the customs and tax committees, as well as that for state purchasing, which “are called by people as very corrupt organizations full of unprofessional staff.” At the same time, Arman Dunayev, the previous Finance Minister, has been sent to direct the Financial Supervisory Agency (FSA). The President has also criticized that agency for its ineffective work, as well as inflation growth. Still unclear is the future destiny of Bolat Zhamishev, former FSA head. Though, trends in the current political season do not exclude the possibility that he could be left out of the government service…
The Ministry of Agriculture became subject to presidential criticism for low effectiveness, “We directed huge funds to agriculture, and desire to increase subsidies and expenditures, but there is no transparency in the allocation or utilization of these disbursements.” At the same time, the person who has been running this sector for many years, Akhmetzhan Yesimov, sits in this ministerial post.
As per the President, the Ministry of Education and Science “is still on the lookout for the optimal method of managing science and innovation.” At the same time, the previous minister found herself back within her earlier position.
This genre of meeting held on 23rd January was “reminiscent of a family melodrama”: the wise father haranguing his children for their disorder, while the children are aware of the fairness of his words. However, the intrigue of the situation is whether or not they will do something about the situation. A Hollywood scriptwriter would definitely include a character who, in a fit of honorable conscientiousness, would plead to be dismissed for “failing to justify” the high level of trust given him. But, not in our country.
The only ministry to almost immediately react to presidential criticism was that of foreign affairs. Mr. Nazarbayev shamed Foreign Minister Kasymzhomart Tokayev for the truancy of his subordinates – the ambassadors – as well as the indecipherable management of state property (he meant the story of selling the ministry’s historical buildings in Almaty). In less than a month, the Kazakhstani “foreign office” announced reprimands for some of the plenipotentiaries, and the start of internal investigations, though there followed not even a single resignation.
Nonetheless, according to information from the President himself, during the history of the current government there has been one refusal of a position. To be honest, though, this was not done as a request to be dismissed, but as an impulse of professional enthusiasm. As per an acknowledgement by Mr. Nazarbayev during a press conference on the day of the abovementioned meeting, he had offered Zhanar Aitzhanova, the position of Minister of Industry and Trade. However, she preferred to remain in the position of vice-minister in the same ministry. The head of state cited her reply, “I am happy to accept your offer, but I must finish with the issue of Kazakhstan’s entrance into the World Trade Organization.” This is such a female sacrifice to make.
Now, a few words about women in the current government. The number of them remains the same as in the previous government. Female ministers gained in the most vulnerable positions, including in the spheres of finance (Nataliya Korzhova), justice (Zagipa Baliyeva), education (Byrganym Aitimova), and social protection (Gulzhan Karagusova). These positions are unsafe because the situations in those spheres affect the stability of the country. Mr. Nazarbayev invited himself into the hands of females. Besides, the aforementioned ladies represented themselves as reliable, loyal and industrious supporters of the President.
Out of the four new faces in the current government, Nataliya Korzhova, Kamaltin Mukhamedzhanov, Baktykozha Izmukhambetov and Yermukhamet Yertysbayev, only the last can be called a true newcomer to the level of the executive branch (the presidential administration is not taken into account, as it is mostly a body for making political decisions, rather than executing them). One more peculiarity of this appointment is that it is practically the first time when a person who had once been in opposition to the authorities has come to power. The example of the coming and going of Oraz Dzhandosov, Altynbek Sarsembayev and Gaziz Aldamzharov belong to a different series. Those were movements upon the track of “authorities-opposition-authorities-opposition”. As regards to Mr. Yertysbayev, this is a completely different case. He first gained experience in public politics, and later accepted a position as minister. What good will come of it is difficult to predict. The only thing we can do now is to sympathize with the authors of the TV show “Zheti Kun” (on the Habar television channel), who have lost their permanent expert commentator.
Regarding Mr. Yertysbayev’s appointment, analysts first said that this former political advisor to the President has been delegated to the government in order to realize the program of political reforms promised by Mr. Nazarbayev himself, and earlier promoted by the ex-counselor. However at the government meeting, after assigning various social and economic tasks to the ministers, the President failed to mention anything regarding the political development of the country. The head of state characterized the tasks of the Minister for Information, Culture and Sport in the following manner, “Culture, information and interethnic relations are those spheres that should always be open and accessible. The ministry should provide information on the activities of the President and the government through the mass media.”