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Development Plan for Astana Agglomeration Approved

The plan for the agglomeration of Astana through to 2028 was approved by the government of Kazakhstan on February 27th. The country’s capital since 1997, Astana has since grown and developed into one of the most modern cities in Central Asia. In addition to the city, the agglomeration will include more than 40 nearby towns and villages. Over the past 10 years, the population of Astana has increased by 46%. Records show that in January 2024, it exceeded 1.43 million and by 2035, is expected to grow to 2.3 million people. The key aims of the Astana agglomeration are the improvement of urban development, the modernization of social, engineering and transport infrastructures, environmental sustainability and safety, and safeguarding against emergencies. A unified urban planning policy will enable the synchronization of plans for the development of the capital and adjacent Akmola region, including the creation of eco-towns on an area of over 940 hectares. The new transport and logistics infrastructure will comprise six logistics complexes, a service centre for the maintenance of electric locomotives, and subsidies for suburban routes. Over 400 km of existing roads will be repaired, and 300 km of new roads and four bridges built in agglomerated towns and villages. To attract investment and supply food, 25 facilities to produce food and 12 for industrial goods will be built in an industrial zone covering 300 hectares. At the meeting, Kazakhstan’s Prime Minister Olzhas Bektenov highlighted the fact that the main problem to be addressed by the agglomeration is the sharp population increase in the suburbs and the daily migration to the capital and back, which significantly impacts the entire infrastructure of Astana, its ecology and safety. In recognition of ongoing problems faced by many suburban villages, such as water supply, waste disposal, a stable electricity supply, and the condition of roads, the prime minister stated: "I believe that the implementation of the plan should solve these pressing issues. Moreover, we need to create permanent jobs in the suburbs. Astana as the core of the agglomeration creates prerequisites for sustainable development of the adjacent territories. This will help smooth out the existing imbalance between the living standards in the capital and neighboring settlements."  

Kazakhstan Uses Income Declaration to Fight the Shadow Economy

Kazakhstan's third stage of universal income declaration is underway. As part of the current stage, declarations must be submitted by entrepreneurs, company founders and directors, and their spouses. In 2025 yet another new stage of declarations, will commence which will oblige all adult citizens to submit declarations. Currently, many entrepreneurs and small business owners use mobile transfers, which are intended for personal purposes. Such actions are illegal and violate the guidelines of the Entrepreneurial Code - Article 27, which stipulates that an entrepreneur may only use business accounts when carrying out commercial activities. It's specified in the law that mobile transfers and payments made for personal purposes are not taxable. Regarding taxation of individuals in Kazakhstan, every adult citizen is obliged to pay taxes to fund the budget. Currently, individuals pay taxes applicable to their wages. One tax and two mandatory contributions are withheld from an employee's official salary in Kazakhstan: Individual Income Tax (IIT); contributions for compulsory medical insurance (VOSMS); and mandatory pension contributions (MPC). Individual income tax (IIT) is levied on the income of employees and transferred to the state treasury by the employer. According to Article 322 of the Tax Code, such income includes wages and salaries. In addition, income classified as in-kind (transfer of goods, securities, provision of services to an employee, non-paid transfer of property, etc.) and material benefit (cancellation of debt to an employee, sale of goods to them, etc.) are subject to personal income tax. According to paragraph 1 of Art. 320 of the Tax Code, the individual income tax rate for all types of income is 10%. All Kazakhstan citizens who have a car are also subject to transportation tax. It includes excise tax on fuel and lubricants -- the larger the engine volume of the car, the higher the tax burden due to high consumption of fuel and lubricants; a vehicle tax -- the larger the engine displacement, the higher the tax burden; utilization fee, and fee for the initial registration of a motor vehicle. Real estate owned by citizens is also taxed in Kazakhstan. The amount of tax depends on one's type of property and is calculated for each object separately. The value of property for tax purposes is determined on the basis of a formula by multiplying several indicators: the base cost per square meter, which depends on the specific city or type of settlement; usable area of the property ( in sq. m.); a coefficient indicating the physical deterioration of the dwelling, which is determined by taking into account the age of the building from the date of commissioning and depreciation; a functional wear coefficient, which depends on the floor, location, amenities, engineering condition and type of heating; a zoning coefficient, which takes into account the location of the property in a particular community; and the MRP change factor, which shows how much this indicator has increased compared to the previous year.

Kazakhstan Continues Countdown Ahead of Move to Single Unified Timezone

In less than two weeks, the stroke of midnight will unify all of Kazakhstan in a single timezone. On the night of February 29th-March 1st, residents of twelve regions - as well as the cities of Astana, Almaty and Shymkent - will have to move their clocks back an hour unifying the country in a single timezone (UTC+5). But not all citizens are happy about it, with some arguing it will impact their health. Residents of the East Kazakhstan region are especially fierce in defending their perceived rights. Earlier this year, a lawyer from Ust-Kamenogorsk filed a grievance against then-Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov demanding compensation for damages due to the time change. For that reason, scientists were dispatched to the region to explain the benefits of the timezone change to local residents. Among the advantages they noted were the elimination of time barriers between residents of different regions of Kazakhstan, more favorable conditions for doing business, streamlining the work of government agencies and emergency services, and improved coordination of transport and communication. Professor Sultan Tuleukhanov, head of the Department of Biophysics and Biomedicine of the Kazakh State University, agrees with the residents of East Kazakhstan. "There is such a concept as desynchronises, a type of inconsistency. In particular, it's a change to the chrono-structural parameters of biological rhythms of the human organism," he noted. Desynchronosis causes irritability and fatigue while also reducing the efficiency of the body. However, according to other specialists, residents of most regions will experience this only in the short term. There is one more concern, however. In some cities, it will get dark earlier after the time change, meaning people will have to work under artificial lights and turn on electricity earlier, meaning expenditure on electricity will increase. Yeraly Shinasilov, the director of the national dispatching center of the system operator, KEGOK (Kazakhstan Electricity Grid Operating Company), said that the change of time zones will only affect the finances of residents slightly. "Our consumption grows about 2% every year. Due to the fact that our peak demand will move to an hour earlier, it will all dissolve into the natural growth of consumption during the year," he stated. Only time will tell how effective the single time zone will be for Kazakhstan.

Understanding the Changes in the Kazakhstan Government

On February 5th, President Tokayev dismissed the country's government by signing a decree on its’ resignation. The move was expected following weeks of discontent expressed by the president. On an aggregate level, the country has had a successful 2023. Significant reforms were passed and Kazakhstan made substantial diplomatic gains. Economic growth was near 5%, and $13.3 billion in foreign investment was secured in the first six months of 2023. This was achieved despite supply chain disruptions brought on by the Russia-Ukraine war. However, Smailov’s and his cabinet have failed to reel in inflation and attract additional investments to the country. The Ministry of Finance of Kazakhstan, did not succeed in preparing a new Tax Code of Kazakhstan. The Minister of Emergency Situations is also under fire for its dysfunctional earthquake early warning systems which became known during a recent quake that scared Almaty residents. While certain ministers are anticipated to retain their positions, others are expected to be replaced. The Presidential Administration, along with Tokayev, have consistently shown their willingness to make bold decisions when required.

Kazakhstan’s Government Resigns Amidst Sweeping Reforms

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has dismissed the country's government by signing a decree on its’ resignation. According to the Constitution of Kazakhstan, First Deputy Prime Minister Roman Sklyar will temporarily perform the duties of Prime Minister (PM). At the same time, all other ministers will continue to work in the same mode until the head of state approves the composition of the new government. The resignation of former Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov's government underscores a shift in Kazakhstan's political scene. Smailov assumed office on January 11th, 2022, following public discontent that erupted into riots. During his tenure, many events transpired, but the most memorable for the population were serious problems with municipal heating in a number of regions; forest fires in the Kostanay and Abay regions; explosions at mines in the Karaganda region, and the earthquake in Almaty. All this evoked plenty of criticism regarding the composition of the government. While the precise reasons behind the resignation remain undisclosed, it serves to highlight the dynamic nature of politics in Kazakhstan. Further details, including the process of this transition and potential candidates for the roles vacated, are expected in the next two days following an extended meeting of the government with the participation of Tokayev. Prior to the government’s resignation, Tokayev had increasingly expressed dissatisfaction with progress in addressing socioeconomic issues and stagnation in general. Over the past two years, Tokayev has implemented sweeping reforms aimed at democratizing the country and breaking up economic monopolies. "In Kazakhstan and in general, a change of government is perceived as a crisis phenomenon, but it is by no means a crisis phenomenon here,” said Director of the Eurasian Monitoring Center, Alibek Tazhibayev. “One should proceed from the fact that the economic and political situation is changing. Therefore, we can say that this government, which acted under the leadership of Alikhan Smailov for more than two years, coped with their key tasks. They had the main goal of passing deep-rooted reforms, holding a referendum, launching the mechanism of democratization, and implementing the concept of a 'Listening State'." In a post on his Facebook account, Smailov expressed his "gratitude to President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev for his trust in heading the Kazakh government in such a difficult time. These two years were a turning point for the society," he stated.

Year 2022 Marked the Beginning of the End of Nazarbayev’s Rule

The year 2022 was marked by significant changes in Kazakhstan, particularly the end of Nursultan Nazarbayev's rule. This change was symbolized by the removal of his monument on 12 January of 2024 which stood in front of a university in Astana. The monument was taken down and put into storage, explained by the Ministry of Defense as a result of changing the university's name. During the violent protests in January of 2022, protesters in Taldykorgan tore down another monument to Nazarbayev located in front of the mayor's office. Prior to this, Nazarbayev held substantial influence in the country, with the capital named after him and streets bearing his name. According to Radio Free Europe, experts say that after the January events, Nazarbayev's influence waned while that of the current president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev increased. This began a period of distancing from Nazarbayev within the country. The capital returned to its former name of Astana, the status of "Leader" granted to Nazarbayev was removed from the Constitution, and the protections that shielded him and his family from criminal prosecution were lifted.

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