Kazakhstan has witnessed significant government reshuffles this week, a few days after President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev delivered his address to the nation on September 1. These changes, aimed at restructuring key government and ministry positions, mark a significant step towards advancing the country’s political and economic reform agenda. More about the latest appointments is in the latest article of Kazinform.
Five restructured ministries
Addressing the nation last week, President Tokayev announced Kazakhstan would have two new ministries – the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation and the Ministry of Transport, and with some functions taken over by new ministries, overall, five ministries were restructured.
Now, there are 20 ministries in Kazakhstan.
The Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation took over the use and protection of the water fund, water supply, and drainage from the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources.
The Ministry of Industry and Infrastructural Development was divided into the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Industry and Construction.
Ministry of Transport, which has existed in Kazakhstan until 2014, will be responsible for railway, road, inland water transport, commercial shipping, the airspace and the activities of civil and experimental aviation, natural monopolies in the field of air navigation and airport services.
Ministry of Industry and Construction will oversee industry and industrial development, mining and metallurgical complex, mechanical engineering, coal, chemical, light, woodworking and furniture industries; construction industry and production of building materials, energy saving and energy efficiency, regulation of production of precious metals and their turnover, special economic zones, state management of subsoil use in terms of solid minerals, with the exception of uranium mining, among other areas.
The Ministry of Information and Social Development was restructured into the Ministry of Culture and Information and the Ministry of Tourism and Sports.
Commenting on the shake-up, Kazakh political expert Daniyar Ashimbayev commended the move, saying it is high time for separate agencies to oversee such strategically important sectors as water and transport.
«Historically, this is in due time. There was a lot of experience with them. This idea is very good – it is better to have more compact specialized state bodies instead of gigantic ministries, where the authorities change regularly, and important issues take a back seat,» he said.
According to ecological expert and former deputy of the Parliament Aizhan Skakova, experts have long been raising the need for a separate agency to manage water. The nation has been grappling with serious water problems, but the key factor inhibiting any progress is poor management.
«Since 2019, Kazakhstan has been taking second to last places in international rankings for efficiency of water management. This is also due to geographical factors, because our country does not have access to the sea or ocean. Nearly 40-50 percent of water resources come from neighboring countries, which makes Kazakhstan, to some extent dependent. Water resources and problems need to be taken seriously because it is a strategic resource,» she told Kazinform in an interview for this story.
Reshuffle in ministerial positions
Serik Zhumangarin, former Deputy Prime Minister – Minister of Trade and Integration, was appointed on September 2 as Deputy Prime Minister. Zhumangarin was born in 1969 in Aktobe and, until 2004, was a businessman. From 2020 to 2022, he chaired the Agency for the Protection and Development of Competition. In his role, he will oversee trade policy, the agro-industrial complex, land relations, and cooperation within the Eurasian Economic Union and the World Trade Organization.
Tamara Duissenova, 58, was also named Deputy Prime Minister, with Tokayev relieving her of duties as Minister of Labor and Social Protection, a position she held since April 2022. Duissenova, a graduate of the Tashkent Institute of National Economy, started her career in 1988 as a teacher at a secondary school in Shymkent.
Yerzhan Sadenov became the new Interior Minister, replacing Marat Akhmetzhanov, who, in turn, was appointed Akmola region governor. Before the appointment, Sadenov, a native of the East Kazakhstan Region, served as Deputy Interior Minister since January 2022. Tokayev said the ministry under new leadership has «serious tasks.»
«It is necessary to continue the development of the service police by offering mutually beneficial forms of cooperation with the population, which will allow in practice to ensure compliance with the principle of zero tolerance for offenses. The system of protection of the rights of minors also requires serious correction,» Tokayev said at the meeting on September 2 with Sadenov and other senior heads in the ministry.
Marat Karabayev became Minister of Transport after serving as Minister of Industry and Infrastructure Development since January 2023. In different years, Karabayev, 36, occupied senior positions in ministries, overseeing industrial development and safety, entrepreneurship, and the military-industrial complex.
Aida Balayeva was dismissed as Deputy Chief of Presidential Staff and was named Minister of Culture and Infomation. Balayeva, 49, has been in charge of domestic policy during her work in the Presidential Administration and the Almaty akimat. Between May 2022 and January 2022, she was Minister of Information and Social Development.
Arman Shakkaliyev was named Minister of Trade Integration, rising from the position of vice minister that he held since October 2022. He is a graduate of the Gumilyov Eurasian National University, Buketov Karaganda State University and Kostanay Engineering and Economic University.
Svetlana Zhakupova was appointed Minister of Labor and Social Protection. She was relieved of her previous position as Commissioner for the Rights of Socially Vulnerable Categories of Population, which she had occupied since June 2023. The position of the commissioner is a relatively new position in Kazakhstan, introduced in March this year.
Zhakupova, 55, was Vice Minister of Labor and Social Protection from 2013 to 2014, Deputy Minister of Health and Social Development from 2014 to 2017 and Vice Minister of Labor and Social Protection from 2017 to 2019.
Yermek Marzhikpayev, 54, was named the new Minister of Tourism and Sports. With degrees in law, finance and history, Marzhikpayev began his career in 1991 as a physical education teacher, boxing coach, and high school history teacher. Before the appointment, he has headed the Akmola region since 2019.
On September 4, Aidarbek Saparov, 57, replaced Yerbol Karashukeyev as Minister of Agriculture. In his address, Tokayev criticized the poor development of the sector. The new leadership will have a challenging task dealing with long-standing structural problems in the industry.
Saparov served as deputy governor of the North Kazakhstan region between 2010 and 2011, First Vice Minister of Agriculture between 2019 and 2022, and headed the North Kazakhstan region before the appointment.
By a September 4 presidential decree, Nurzhan Nurzhigitov, 57, became the Minister of Water Resources and Irrigation. Since the start of his career in 1991 as a mechanic on a farm in the Zhambyl region, he spent most of his career in the region.
Kanat Sharlapaev, 42, became the Minister of Industry and Construction. Before the appointment, he was chairman of the Baiterek national holding. A graduate of the Saratov Socio-Economic University and Cranfield School of Management, he has more than 17 years in the banking sector, working in different offices of Citi Bank.
On September 5, Yerlan Nyssanbayev was named Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources. Nyssanbayev previously served as an advisor to Astana Mayor on greening. He began his career in 1983. In various years, he worked in the commercial sector and government structures.
Public administration reform
Another notable move in the reform of public administration is the reorganization of the Presidential Administration. The updated structure of the Presidential Administration will include the Chief of the Presidential Administration, Secretary of the Security Council, Head of the Office of the President, Assistants to the President, Advisors to the President and departments of the Presidential Administration.
Gizat Nurdauletov was appointed Security Council Secretary on September 1. Before the appointment, Nurdauletov, a 64-year-old statesman and native of the Zhambyl region, served as Assistant to the President of Kazakhstan – Secretary of the Security Council. Security Council is a constitutional body formed by the President of Kazakhstan in charge of implementing a state policy to ensure national security and defense.
The President will have assistants on domestic policy and communications, on economic affairs, on external affairs, on legal issues, and on science and innovation.
Ruslan Zheldibay, the former spokesperson of the President, was named Assistant to the President on internal policy and communications, quite a senior position for Zheldibay at age 32. He is a graduate of the Kazakh Economic University and the University of Warwick.
Erzhan Kazykhan was named Assistant to the President for external affairs, a position quite similar to his previous one – Special Envoy of the President of Kazakhstan for International Cooperation. Kazykhan is a career diplomat, serving as the country’s ambassador in the United States, United Kingdom, and Austria, among other posts.
Yerzhan Zhienbaev, 42, is now an assistant on legal issues, previously serving as Deputy Chief of Staff since October 2019.
Aset Irgaliyev, 37, will be assisting President Tokayev on economic affairs. With vast experience in public service, including the latest position as chairman of the Agency for Strategic Planning and Reform, Irgaliyev is a well-known economist in the country, a graduate of the Kazakhstan Institute of Management, Economics and Forecasting, the International School of Business in Sweden, the University of York, and the University of Nottingham.
The positions of deputy heads of the Presidential Administration are abolished, and four departments of the Presidential Administration have also been cut.
The reshuffle aligns with Kazakhstan’s broader economic reform agenda. Diversification and economic resilience are top priorities voiced in the address for a nation heavily reliant on its oil and gas sector.
According to Daniyar Ashimbayev, indirect signs indicate that the reform was prepared long ago, and certain appointments were spontaneous. The administrative reform stemmed from last year’s address and took place in the first half of the year when the functions on a number of key issues were transferred from the government to ministers.
The appointment of professionals with financial and economic expertise suggests a commitment to promoting sustainable growth through diversified industries and indicates a strategic move towards advancing the country’s political and economic reform agenda.
Interestingly, Tokayev’s leadership did not align with the formula – economy first, then politics – widely used before Tokayev came to office. In his vision of state development, Tokayev placed the focus first on political reforms and now – as we see from the address – on the economy.
Since he came to office, Tokayev initiated major political reforms, which the nation had not seen in more than 30 years. The latest was the move to limit presidential powers and presidential term from two five-year terms to a single seven-year term, an unprecedented phenomenon for the region.
Yet, a lot still needs to be done. The government is not doing its job well, as evidenced by criticisms voiced by Tokayev in the address, said Daniyar Ashimbayev.
«(…) In fact, the President, realizing that the tasks set have not changed for decades, insists stubbornly that let’s first complete the basic issues, and then we will talk about a brighter future,» said the expert.
The success of these reforms will not only impact Kazakhstan but also have broader implications for the geopolitics of Central Asia.
However, challenges lie ahead. Kazakhstan must effectively implement these reforms to address deep-seated issues such as corruption, political inclusivity, and economic diversification.