Destabilizing speculation

Kazakh leader targets socio-economic and political paradigm

On March 16, the President of Kazakhstan, Kassym-Jamart Tokayev, delivered his State of the Nation Address at the Joint Session of the Houses of Parliament: “New Kazakhstan: Path of Renewal and Modernization.” In many ways, it was a remarkable speech because it did not tiptoe into the difficult issues facing the nation and showed few signs of hyperbole or artifice.

With the failed January coup attempt on everyone’s mind (for more, see my article High Noon in Almaty), Tokayev gravely underlined to his listeners the urgency and seriousness of his tackling the issue of government reform and the creation of genuine social-economic development.

Clearly resolute, Tokayev stressed that sustainable socio-economic development at all levels of society will only be possible through radical reforms of Kazakhstan’s ossified political and economic structures.

A new Kazakhstan

Creating a “New Kazakhstan,” Tokayev said, will take more than technical and bureaucratic skills. In his speech, he appealed to human ingenuity and common sense, and decidedly seemed to emphasize that there would be no room for fanciful ideological frameworks that are unfair, disruptive and even dehumanizing for the people of Kazakhstan.

“People don’t need abstract ideas or promises, but rather tangible changes for the better,” he said.

Tokayev wants to change the existing economic order. Targeting not only the financial exchange structures but the “VIPs” themselves (the oligarchs and the political class who looted the country), he said: “Those who used to rely on schemes in backstage panicked. [because they are] lose their privileges and sources of income. It couldn’t have been much clearer.

Tokayev’s warning to the “VIPs” and their happy servants inside and outside the government was not an empty theater. It aims to crack down on entrenched fraud structures and eliminate “the practice of declaring success [in government] when in reality it is false.” He said indeed: Be on guardbecause the days of “business as usual” are over.

In other words, Tokayev, in a Central Asian vision, says that an economic system largely dominated by a corrupt political class cannot exist for the good of the few. It rejects any policy (or economic activity) that leads to exclusion, increases poverty or disrupts peaceful coexistence within the multicultural, multi-confessional and multi-ethnic society of Kazakhstan.

Alternative route to prosperity

A close reading of Tokayev’s speech suggests that in addition to reducing corruption, he also rejects neoliberalism – the economic model that idolizes “the market” because it is supposed to “work its magic” to bring “prosperity” with help from enlightened financiers and politicians.

If neoliberalism reduces the human person to a “Homo economicusor the idea that a person’s social behavior is primarily determined by economic goals and rational behavior, Kazakhstan prefers a different approach. And if neoliberalism justifies handing over a person’s humanity (the process of dehumanization) to financial elites in the name of a future economic paradise, Kazakhstan doesn’t care.

Tokayev simply does not buy neoliberalism. Rather, it emphasizes that successful government reform (central and regional) and effective economic relations depend on more mainstream approaches to maintaining a healthy society.

As such, he calls on the people and business elites (a more difficult task) to embrace the classic virtues of “patience, wisdom and endurance,” which, if embraced, will help bring greater economic prosperity.

Pinning his hopes on market forces and the chatter of unbalanced business elites has proven unwise, says Tokayev.

The president’s speech elevates cultural mores and fundamentals of morality – common sense should guide political art rather than ideology – above the dehumanizing idea of ​​a person as a means of production or source of demand for goods and services. The “New Kazakhstan” cannot be built on an economic theory that simply rewards privilege to the exclusion of the good of the whole human person.


To transform society, Tokayev wants to eradicate the disease of speculation, a dysfunctional judicial system and nepotism (terms he uses) and “finally eliminate all artificial monopolies both in the economy and in politics”.

“Monopoly,” he says, “leads to various societal diseases.” He criticized the oligarchs who amassed resources and wealth at the expense of the common good of the citizens of Kazakhstan.

As this process of fundamental reform unfolds, the media, Tokayev insists, must be accountable, that is, “As an effective channel of communication between the authorities and the people, the media can and should raise urgent matters. But it should be done with great civic responsibility, not working on orders from outside, contributing to the polarization of our society, and not for shady fees, participating in a hidden struggle of political clans.

Tokayev understands that the goal of decentralizing Kazakhstan’s political structures and “decreating” economic relations will not be a walk in the park, but rather fraught with difficulties and challenges due to entrenched national interests and unintended outside interference. identified (he surely knows who).

Unity and solidarity

The deepest point of Tokayev’s speech, however, is to reinforce the idea that national “unity and solidarity” are prerequisites for socio-economic and political maturation and, ultimately, indispensable ingredients for a society stable and healthy. Not all forces, domestic or foreign, that seek to introduce destabilizing and divisive policies or bills are welcome.

“We can lose everything if we don’t maintain unity,” Tokayev said.

Without saying it directly, Tokayev warned everyone that Kazakhstan would start the reform process in her own way, like Central Asia, not to fall victim to the “cult of consumerism and corruption”, nor indeed to any external intimidation.

As such, Tokayev put it simply: “We have to understand that no one from outside will do anything for us. Everything is in our hands.

Ideologues, especially from the neoliberal political class, should recognize that Kazakhstan’s path to socio-economic and political development will not be the same as before.

And so, Tokayev will be fully engaged in the process of transforming Kazakhstan while being wary of sages offering gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh as a panacea to cure the country’s political and economic ills.