Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev announced the creation of a new “national fund” to which wealthy citizens, including those who got richer under former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, will be required to contribute.
He revealed the plan on Tuesday during an appearance before the national parliament, saying the fund will be named “For the people of Kazakhstan” and will be used “Solving real problems in the fields of health care, education and social services”.
Tokayev said he expects “Significant and regular contributions to the fund from companies”, to add, “Thank you to the first president [Nazarbayev], there is a group of very profitable companies in the country and a layer of wealthy people even by international standards. I think the time has come to reimburse the Kazakh people and to help them systematically and regularly.
The president ordered the government to draw up a list of eligible companies and determine an amount that will be paid into the fund annually. He also announced the creation of a program to increase wages in Kazakhstan.
Tokayev previously announced a five-year moratorium on raising salaries for government employees and regional leaders, saying he believed they were already earning enough.
The new initiatives come as Kazakhstan has been rocked by large-scale protests, with thousands taking to the streets in early January to protest the removal of liquefied petroleum gas price controls, as well as economic inequalities generalized.
Protests turned violent in places, and on January 5 Tokayev declared a state of emergency and called for assistance from the peacekeepers of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Russian-led alliance. .
On Tuesday, the president announced that the forces had completed their mission and would begin to leave the country this week. Kazakhstan’s interior ministry said on Monday that nearly 8,000 people had been arrested during the protests, and health officials said 164 people had been killed, including three children.
Nazarbayev, who ruled the country for nearly three decades, pursued a policy of liberalizing markets and attracting foreign investment, which enabled a small number of Kazakhs to become very wealthy. However, the standard of living of the majority of the country’s population has remained low and analysts have noted this inequality as a major force in recent protests.
Nazarbayev resigned from his post in 2019 and was replaced by Tokayev, a close ally. However, the former leader was appointed chairman of Kazakhstan’s Security Council, a constitutional advisory body, and many believed he retained power despite his formal resignation. Last week, however, he was removed from his post and replaced by the current president.
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