Kazakh president appoints new prime minister

Kazakh president appoints new prime minister
Interim PM Askar Mamin has been made the permanent PM.
By bne IntelliNews February 26, 2019

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has appointed Askar Mamin as the Central Asian nation's new prime minister, the presidential press service said on February 25. The decision follows his abrupt sacking of the government last week.

On February 21, Mamin was assigned a role of acting prime minister, but it appears Nazarbayev has decided to stick with his interim choice as the permanent PM. Mamin replaced Bakytzhan Sagintayev who had held the post since 2016.

Nazarbayev on February 21 signed a decree to sack the cabinet of ministers. The move was accompanied by a statement in which he blamed the cabinet for failing to reduce the Kazakh economy’s over-reliance on commodities exports or improve the livelihoods of Kazakh citizens. The sacking appears to be a demonstrative move — a common approach used by the ex-Soviet autocrat to redirect anger away from himself towards his subordinates.

The move also came amid growing protests across the country about the living conditions of ordinary Kazakhs. They were sparked by the deaths of five children from one family whose home in the Kazakh capital of Astana burned down.

Nazarbayev’s statement on February 21 claimed that the new government would focus on improving the lives of Kazakhs, and social programmes would be implemented to raise the quality of life and support low-income citizens and socially vulnerable groups. Regional development policy would be “drastically” revised, it promised.

Kazakhstan has been attempting to diversify its economy away from oil export-dependence in the past year by betting on foreign investment, most of which has come from China. The opening up of Uzbekistan, following the death of another ex-Soviet dictator, Islam Karimov, in late 2016 may have also played a role in hurrying Kazakh authorities to enact their own investor-friendly reforms and attempt to attract foreign companies.

Chinese investments in Kazakhstan’s infrastructure and rising oil prices helped drive the nation’s 4.1% growth rate in 2018. Despite the ongoing economic recovery from 1% growth recorded in 2016 amid low oil prices, ordinary Kazakhs have not been able to capitalise on the benefits of the improving macroeconomic indicators. That has boiled up into common discontent with the government - some of this public anger took the form of anti-land reform protests in 2016.

In March last year, Nazarbayev promised to implement a number of social initiatives - the effects of these programmes are unlikely to show immediate results, however.

Nazarbayev has also accepted the resignation of central bank chairman Daniyar Akishev. He has nominated Erbolat Dossayev, who previously served as deputy prime minister, as his successor.