Karim Masimov: "It’s not a post, that adorns a person"

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24.01.2008 01:02

- Karim Kakimzhanovich, are you ambitious person?

- As the head of the state has set an ambitious task to join 50 most competitive countries of the world for people of Kazakhstan and for the government, working in the government each of its members should set ambitious tasks to fulfill the commission of the head of the state.

- Don’t you think of turning captain of pilot?

- Many tasks are set for the government, and it is not that important, if you are pilot or captain, the most important is to fulfill these tasks.

- As is customary to think, policy is a kind of aquarium with piranhas. In policy there is no place to friendship and to common human relations. Can you be referred to the category of “fish of prey”?

- You know, the leader should not be good and nice, he should be right and strong.

- When you became the only deputy prime Minister, the President expressed his confidence that the huge experience and pragmatism of the Prime Minster, plus your knowledge of tendencies in the economy will make a tandem Akhmetov – Masimov sufficiently effective. How do your relations with Danial Akhmetov develop?

- Tasks, set for the government, are fulfilled to the right degree, and we can draw a conclusion that a tandem, offered by the president, bring practical results.

- The President ambitious task – to join 50 competitive countries of the world within the next 10 years. National strategy is required for its achievement. How do you see it, whether it is or not.

- The strategy of joining 50 most competitive countries of the world was made public in the Address of the head of the state on the 1st of March this year. We should make a qualitative break through in our development, which means on the one hand, that we should create competition inside the country I the economic sphere, and on the other hand – to bring about projects of the international level.

- National export strategy is required for accomplishment of competitive concept. The basic parameters of our economy are such, that raw material imbalance in the structure of the foreign trade exists. ¾ of our export accounts for mineral raw materials. Some deliberative body, which should be created with an equal participation of the state and private business is required for the export strategy. What do you think about it?

- I completely agree that the government can not elaborate and fulfill any strategy alone. Cooperation of the government with the private sector is required for solution of tasks, set by the head of the state. For the time being such cooperation fruitfully operates. Our enterprises have their own export strategy, which is coordinated with the strategy of the government, and I think, we will fulfill all the tasks, set for us.

- It is clear that the process of joining the leading countries of the world, as the new independent state’s striving after carrying out its own policy, is always accompanied by some pressure from the outside. In conditions of the global competition the leaders of the large countries are not always ready to acknowledge equality, and Russia is an example. In this situation the most relevant for Kazakhstan is providing own economic, trade, power energy and information security there were attempts to elaborate complex strategic document in the issues of providing security. How work in this direction is carried on? Does Kazakhstan have its own strategy?

- Geographical location of Kazakhstan, its foreign policy, which is determined by the head of the state, in principle, determined success of our export strategy. We are located between the two markets – They are Chinese People’s Republic and Russia, our traditional partner. In conditions of globalization we have an opportunity to closely cooperate with the European and American markets and markets of the South-East Asia. The most important is to find those niches, in which the Kazakhstani economy, the Kazakhstani companies may be and should be competitive. We know how to do it, and if there is partnership with a private sector, we will solve this problem.

- One of the priority tasks of the government in the near future is Kazakhstan’s joining WTO. How realizable is it from the standpoint of the huge amount of unsolved problems within the frameworks of the CIS, EurAsEC, CAC and other unions? Don’t you think that this task is difficult and for the time being, insoluble for Kazakhstan?

- There are no easy tasks, all tasks are difficult. But if we look at realities of the day, our neighbors – Chinese People’s Republic, is a member of WTO. We possess information that the Russian Federation and the United States of America agreed on signing protocol on joining WTO. It means that Kazakhstan almost has no alternative just to join WTO. We should be even more competitive, we should get tempered and win in the competition.

- I supposed that Kazakhstan would be joining WTO in tandem with Russia. Are we late? What is our fault?

- We are not late, it is now a period of consultations on cooperation between the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan in the issues regarding positions, related with joining WTO. And it is completely unbiased that Russia is the first to sign protocols. It means that we will follow Russia. But I won’t call any specific problems, I am not giving any public information.

- It is not a secret that according to the experts agricultural complex will the most vulnerable after joining WTO. How will this problem be solved?

- There is a so-called green basket, yellow basket – in respect to the government and budget support. For the time being we don’t even negotiate of support, which is required, and for which we have abilities. Landowners should work at labor productivity and at quality. Agriculture is a huge resource, which still remains among the assets of our state for the next spurt ahead.

- The government of Kazakhstan attaches priority significance to the development of social sphere. It plans to allocate 728,5 billion tenge for the social block, which is 34,4% of expenditure part of the budget. But nevertheless, the rate of poor population in the country is still high. How does the government solve this problem?

- The most important in poverty control is creation of the new working places, and the government works at it. The second is support of the vulnerable groups of the population, of those, who can not take care of themselves. Here the government also knows what to do. But I am repeating, the root of the problem is in creation of the new working places.

- You have said that the rot of the problem is in creation of the new working places. According to the Ministry of labor, there is still a disproportion in Kazakhstan – in the presence of unemployment in the home market there are still vacant positions (for the time being there are about 17 thousand vacancies). At that many people come from abroad. Does the government have the ability to influence on labor-market. Is this problem being solved?

- At present there is a serious problem, which the government has not solved yet, and which we still have to work at – training and retraining of the staff. We have the so-called structural unemployment, there are structurally vacant working places. It is probably one of the most important tasks – to fill this niche in the educational process, which still exists, to let the population, getting in the cities from the rural localities to possess required qualification, finding the worthy place in the process of urbanization and industrial development of our country.

- Creation of “Samruk” and “Kazyna” mega-holdings is positively assessed by the government. Indeed, it’s hard to argue that ad exemplum of the other countries sooner or later “Samruk” will influence Kazakhstan’s competitiveness and its coming out to the world space by means of transnational companies. But there are doubts regarding “Kazyna”. It is more creative project, results of which are unpredictable and depend on political and management risks, changes of the world current situation of prices and sudden changes in currency rates. What do you think about it?

- "Samruk” is a holding, which, in correspondence with the commission of the head of the state, will help us to bring in the new methods of corporative governing of the country. It means that we bring in management, principle of governing , which was accustomed in the developed, post-industrial world. And now we understand that we still have many opportunities. And as you have noticed right, “Kazyna” is a creative project. What is its peculiarity? “Kazyna” can do nothing without partnership with a private sector. For each dollar, invested by “Kazyna”, there should be dollar, invested by the private sector.

- As in America...

- As in the whole world. Someone should take risks, because purely state financing of these or those projects, ends pitifully as a rule. And this principle underlies in forming of activity of “Kazyna” holding company.

- This year the government raises the issue of improvement of the acting pension system again. What measures are taken to prevent possible problems in future for the so-called self-employed citizens, of whom there are almost three million people in Kazakhstan. What steps should the government take not to let these people after retirement to be left with nothing?

- I would like to calm you down, please, don’t be afraid, these people won’t be left with nothing, I state it officially, because the government knows, what reforms should be held in the sphere of provision of pensions, to answer all the retired people adequately in 2015 - 2017.

- According to the Cabinet of Ministers, a disproportion is observed in Kazakhstan – increase of wages surpasses increase of labor productivity.

- I completely agree with you, this problem exists. It is related with surplus liquidity and additional profitability of the sector of raw materials. This problem is characteristic not only for Kazakhstan. It is a new task for us, and we should and will work at it.

- It was stated about the intention to hold up increase of wages in 2008.

- Nobody says about holding up of increase of salaries. We only say that increase of salaries should be adequate to the increase of labor productivity. Only this way.

- But how the government will influence inflation, increase of prices for consumer goods? Until today all the efforts in reduction of temps of inflation did not bring to any considerable results? Won’t such measure as reduction of the state’s expenditures for the social programs be selected?

- I repeatedly met with the representatives of the International Monetary Fund, and discussed measures of inflation control with them. There are two aspects of this problem. There are, let’s say, surgical measures, which the government is now taking somehow to hold up increase of money supplies, monetary supply and so on. But the key problem is deeper, it lies in the level of competition inside the trade markets. And there is a huge amount of work here. regulation of the competition by the state is a factor, which will help us to adequately react on challenges, related with inflation.

- Karim Kakimzhanovich, at the end of the last year the Prime Minister said that we should open the way for the western banks. And one of or bankers said that they are not afraid. Are they really, for if the western banks appear here, our population will go there. First of all, it’s service, secondly, low rates for crediting…

- Our banks are really tempered in competition, and on this stage, coming of the western banks to our country will not cause problems, which could occur 10-12 years ago. Many of the western banks are already present in Kazakhstan, and they can stand competition not always. And the issue of crediting is determined by the market conditions for the time being. Vice versa, appearance of the western banks will promote the increase of corporative management level in the bank sector. Our banks are now making expansion to the other countries. And bank, financial sector of our country is an export product, which was formed in our country almost from the very beginning. And at present it is one of the best in post-soviet space.

- The government admitted “overheating of the economy”. The working group of the government, which is headed by you, was formed for analysis of the factors of overheating of the economy and elaboration of control measures of this process. When the results of analysis of the situation will be presented? And how can you comment the existing opinion that “freezing” of the revenues from oil 9 directing hem to the National fund) is a mistaken concept and that such attempts did not bring positive results in the CIS countries?

- There are many speculations on this issue, whether there is or not overheating of economy. Actually, it is the issue of digits. We have such analysis. And we clearly understand tasks and challenges, set for us. And I am not saying that the situation is unclouded. One of the core problems is lack of development of stock market for the time being. And the consequence is excessive monetary supply. The head of the state has recently raised this issue on the sitting of the Security Council. It means that we should work at the development of stock market more efficiently and right. What do I mean? It’s not just bringing some additional financial instruments to our stock exchanges, but also transparent system of economy. More transparent, transparent system of joint stock, to let us meet the international standards. It is not a simple way, but we move in this direction.

- It seems to me that we should somehow prepare population to coming out to the stock market. It has recently been discussed about “Samruk” that it possesses its own postal service and so on. And people still don’t know and don’t believe in it. What should be done to let people believe and started buying “Samruk’s” stocks?

- Well, not “Samruk’s” stocks, but shares of the companies, which “Samruk” consists of. It is very important, because the whole population, ideally, 15 million people, became a little bit venture capitalists. To let each of them possess at least a small share of large companies’ property. This task was repeatedly set by the head of the state for the government, for the financial community. But at present this problem is not solved yet. I hope, we now will break through in this direction.

- The President has recently raised the issue of Siberian rivers’ transfer to Kazakhstan. Import of water is now considered almost as the only variant of supply to the regions, lacking of water, but at the same time it’s clear that without Russia’s agreement this issue won’t be solved. Are there any consultations in this regard? What is the probability of positive solution of this problem? Has the approximate cost of this project been calculated?

- I would like to raise this problem a little bit wider. It is not only in transfer of a part of rivers’ flow, but also in supply of pure drinking water in general. It is the huge problem, which will be raised not only for Kazakhstan, but also for the whole world in 20 years. In 20 years water will be more expensive than some power energy resources. That’s why the government of Kazakhstan works at elaborations of the program on clean drinking water so strenuously.

- And what does science offer in this respect?

- The Kazakhstani science is now actively consulting with the international institutes. There are still now simple and ready solutions of this problem.

- Months have passed since the Presidents of Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russia and the Ukraine agreed to prepare the agreement on creation of the single economic zone. You have headed the working group. Is there any development? Will the situation change after the parliamentary elections in the Ukraine?

- It happened not last year, but in 2003, when the President of the Russian Federation Mr. Putin, president of Belarus Mr. Lukashenko, and the present of that time (and I stress it) in the Ukraine Mr. Kuchma, and our President Mr. Nazarbayev agreed to create high-level groups on common economic space. I really did head it from the Kazakhstani side. But after that many changes happened, and I left the government, and then returned to it. Now the group from our side is headed not by me, but by the Minister Shkolnik. This group works, but it still have not achieved great success. Mainly it is related with the economic situation both in the Ukraine and in Belarus.

- The opposition now blames power for being proud of false economic achievements, from which it gets into euphoria, but not desiring to hold real political reforms. You were at the cradle of forming of the native economy, isn’t it offensive to hear these charges?

- In his speeches the head of the state exactly said that the presence of the opposition provides legitimacy to power, that’s why constructive opposition is required from the point of view of democratic processes in the country. As for the political reforms, the state commission on democratization, chaired by the head of the state, has been formed, which works already, and which soon offer its suggestions, after what some decisions will be made. And the fact that opposition criticizes power is a normal event, and we have an understanding attitude to it.

- Karim Kazhimkanovich, you are one of the initiators of decision on creating “Air Astana” air company with the foreign share. In past years, when there was much criticizing and attacks, haven’t you changes your opinion in this regards? In recent time the issue on creation of one more large air company with the state share has been discussed. Will it be a passenger company, and when it will be created?
- To my mind, there is now necessity for the state to create one more company – it’s enough to have a state share holding in one company. And if some private investor wants to create a company, we will only welcome it, because competition is a motive power of progress. But I consider creation of competition between two state companies inexpedient.

- Rating agencies call you the fifth or the sixth influential official of Kazakhstan. How do you manage to stay on this rating height, and what is the secret of your success&

- Rating is a crafty thing. Actually, it’s not important if you are the fifth or twenty-fifth, the most important is to  do your work honestly and not to seek after some ratings.

- At present it is talked much about “centers of influence” at power and about various political groups. I know that there are different groups around the President. To which of them you can be referred?

- As all the people, working with the President, I consider myself the President’s assistant and refer myself to the President’s team. And I will stay there forever.

- You have called yourself the President’s assistant. Have there been such situation, when the president strongly criticized you for something?

- I will lie if I say that it didn’t happen.

- Can we say that Kazakhstan possesses sufficiently qualified specialists in the field of hi-tech? or it will be counted on a banal “import of brains” from abroad?

- The country, which would not work in the direction of “head hunting” is bad. Each country, thinking of the future, should have its own program for “head hunting”. Both people, living in the country, and those, whom we invite, will win of it.

- It is often spoken about expansion of China in the CIS countries. For many years you lived in China. What is your attitude to our neighbor, and what forms of cooperation between China and Kazakhstan do you consider the most acceptable?

- The issues of relations between the Republic of Kazakhstan and Chinese People’s Republic were laid primarily, from the moment of our country’s obtaining independence. We regulated almost all the arguable issues, signed the agreement on boundaries – neither Czar Russia, nor the Soviet Union could do it. Only our sovereign Kazakhstan managed to do it. We have established warm neighboring relations, and our nation, our country, should receive some additional benefits from cooperation with this huge and headily developing country.

- You have a rather diverse sphere of applying strength – policy, finance and science. If you were offered selection, what would you prefer?

- Harmonic development of the personality is the pledge of success. If I prefer something, I will lose in something else. Harmony should be in everything.

- It is known that Taekwon-do and Thai boxing were the integral companions of your youth. Did the oriental martial arts teach you to stand life blows?

- In youth I rally went in for oriental martial arts. Of course, now I am not practicing warrior. But the most important for the warrior is not physical strength, but strength of spirit for the individual development.

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