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Kazakhstan's president fires government

February 21, 2019

Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev has dismissed the government, saying they have not improved the country. Nazarbayev plans to propose measures of his own to strengthen social welfare.

Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nasarbajew
Image: imago/ITAR-TASS

Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev fired the government on Thursday over what he described as its failure to improve living standards and make positive changes in the country.

"In many areas of the economy, despite the adoption of many laws and government decisions, positive changes have not been achieved," Nazarbayev said.

Nazarbayev to announce measures

Nazarbayev, who has ruled since the country became independent after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, wrote on the presidential website that he will soon propose "a range of measures to strengthen social welfare and raise people's quality of life."

Nazarbayev said the focus will be on more support for the poor, improving living conditions and regional development. He said poorer families were seeing stagnant incomes and spending more of their earnings on food.

The announcement follows a series of protests by Kazakh women calling for more financial support for children and safer housing after a fire that killed five children.

Nazarbayev was elected as Kazakhstan's first president in 1990 and has remained in power for close to three decades. Official tallies for 2015's presidential election gave him 97.75 percent of the vote. While presidents in Kazakhstan are theoretically limited to a maximum of two five-year terms, term limits for Nazarbayev were removed in May 2007.

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Battling a lagging economy

While some ministers and deputy ministers are likely to be reinstated, the decision brings an end to Bakytzhan Sagintayev's premiership, which began in 2016. Sagintayev was viewed by some as part of a leadership transition in the country.

Nazarbayev's statement comes amid rising dissatisfaction in Kazakhstan, as its commodity-dependent economy struggles to recover from a 2014 plunge in oil prices and Western sanctions against key trade partner Russia.

"GDP growth is mainly achieved due to raw materials," Nazarbayev said in the statement. "But the government together with the National Bank did not manage to fully create real incentives and tools for high-quality growth of the economy."

Kazakhstan has been making a slow recovery since the 2014 dive in oil prices. World Bank data show that in 2015 and 2016, GDP increased by 1.2 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively, before edging up to 4 percent in 2017. The World Bank's GDP growth projections for 2018 predict less growth in 2018, at 3.7 percent.

law/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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