Statement by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev at the State Commission meeting on the State of Emergency
Currently we are all experiencing a difficult situation.
In this regard, the authorities have a great responsibility. This should not be forgotten.
We must fulfill this duty with honour.
We have received information about the work undertaken by the Government, the National Bank and other bodies.
Now we must consider other measures aimed at maintaining stability in the country.
First. Strengthening work to counteract the spread of Coronavirus.
As all of you know, the global infection is rapidly gaining momentum.
More than 300,000 people have contracted this virus worldwide.
The rate of infection is not slowing down.
The countries of the world are struggling significantly with this disease.
As per my instructions, a state of emergency has been declared in our country.
Quarantine modes have been introduced in the capital and Almaty.
I believe that these are timely measures.
The largest number of new cases throughout the world are currently registered in countries where strict quarantine measures were introduced too late.
To prevent the avalanche-like spread of the infection, it is necessary to tighten isolation measures.
Taking into account the constant flow of new information, and the negative and positive experiences of other countries, we should continue to prepare our medical system for any potential scenario.
To relax and say that we have done everything possible is not an option.
It is important to ensure the complete isolation of the quarantine zone in the capital and Almaty, and to prevent the possibility of entrance into the cities on foot. In the near future, it is necessary to determine the need to close other large locations.
There is a need to impose penalties for the violation of the requirements for persons placed under quarantine.
To ensure the safety of citizens, my decree limits the activities of mass crowds, and it is forbidden to conduct various events. However, I see that restrictions are often violated.
Since March 16 this year, there have been 18 instances of violations of the state of emergency, including in the regions of Akmola, Atyrau, East Kazakhstan, Karagandy, Kostanay, Pavlodar, North Kazakhstan and Turkistan.
Administrative penalties were imposed on the offenders in the form of a warning or a fine.
It is time to move to more stringent measures, as well as to widely publicise these in the media for preventive purposes.
Current experience is showing that the greatest burden on the medical system is exerted by people from the so-called “risk group”. These are people over 55 years of age, who have pre-existing health problems and those with chronic diseases.
It is necessary to prevent them from going to work as much as possible, and provide a home isolation model.
The time has come to temporarily close all public service centres, while ensuring the ability to receive all services online.
The requirements for the sanitary treatment of those public facilities where access is maintained must be strictly observed. There should not be any “savings” and “optimisations” here.
The State Commission should also determine the procedure for involving the Armed Forces in the disinfection of streets in Nur-Sultan, Almaty, Shymkent and other large cities.
Governors’ offices have communal equipment, which also need to be repurposed for disinfection.
Priority should be given to the disinfection of markets and surrounding areas.
Unfortunately, the time has also come to introduce additional restrictions on air, rail and road passenger transportation within the country.
All persons arriving by any type of transport from abroad must be quarantined, including from the EAEU countries.
It is important to tighten controls on arriving charter flights.
It is necessary to develop and communicate to all citizens and businesses the procedure for the period of emergency and quarantine.
It is necessary to clarify to people the new working environment of medical institutions: when to call doctors, how will work on other illnesses be conducted, who should be tested for coronavirus and at whose expense, who needs to be isolated, and how the isolation will be carried out.
The answers to these questions are still unknown to the vast majority of Kazakhstan’s citizens.
It is necessary to create one document - a memo, understandable to any person, and which communicates its key points to everyone.
The Ministry of Health needs to constantly monitor the readiness of our medical facilities and its staff. The availability of medical drugs should be studied taking into account the various scenarios for the development of the pandemic, including the most pessimistic ones.
Under the restrictive conditions, it is necessary that citizens do not feel isolated from the state.
All youth are now staying at home. The Ministries of Education, Culture and Sports need to consider the remote organisation of their creative activities; conducting online competitions, lectures and other learning events.
Particular attention should be paid to the organisation of systemic distance education, and retraining courses.
Second. Ensuring public safety during the state of emergency.
We cannot allow an increase in criminal offenses. In particular, theft, robbery, looting, and noncompliance with the legitimate requirements of the authorities.
In the current situation, criminal elements may become active. In this regard, it is necessary to strengthen measures around patrolling public spaces, increasing lighting and equipping officials with video surveillance.
It is necessary to mobilise the entire police force, and, if necessary, redistribute other forces.
I also ask you to make suggestions on including the Army and the National Guard for this work.
The Prosecutor General’s Office and the Supreme Court should urgently develop a process to ensure the rule of law and the fight against crime, and the administration of justice in a state of emergency.
It is clear that sometimes the loss of income can push people to commit crimes. But this is in no way an excuse.
At the same time, it is necessary to establish measures for the prevention of offenses with vulnerable groups, as well as intensify the activities of local police inspectors, and if possible, involve cooperatives of apartment owners.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the areas of trade, tourism and public catering are in the high-risk zone.
These sectors employ over 1.6 million workers.
The introduction of quarantine measures in Almaty caused an outflow of youth to the regions. According to media reports, more than 102,000 people, and 15,000 cars left the southern capital on March 19 and 20. These are students, workers in the fields of markets, service industry organisations, and trade.
Unemployed youth must be mobilised and involved in ongoing flood control measures, spring sowing, construction and other work with appropriate pay.
This can be arranged as part of the Employment Roadmap Programme.
Amid a pandemic, interethnic relations receed into the background. But this is only a deceptive perception.
Given the start of the spring sowing season, conflicts are possible due to land issues, along with the separation and use of irrigation water. Please inform me about any potential issues immediately.
The National Security Committee, the Prosecutor General’s Office, and the Ministry of Information and Public Development need to ensure the monitoring of the public mood and social networks.
In crisis conditions, every working enterprise, and every workplace is especially significant.
Today, there are situations where fiscal authorities paralyse the work of entrepreneurs for minor violations.
For example, accounts and accounting documents are seized when deadlines for the provision of tax reporting are not met.
Frequently, businesses continue to be unreasonably drawn into the realms of criminal prosecution.
I instruct to revise the methods of work with a focus on prevention, eliminating any instances of pressure on entrepreneurs from the authorities and fiscal authorities during the crisis.
Currently local officials and police are “crushed” by inspections, they are afraid to take responsibility and make decisions.
I instruct to review the priorities in the work of the anti-corruption service for the period of the emergency, focusing on prevention.
Another major issue is ensuring information security. It is important to prevent panic among the population and the destabilisation of public order.
In emergency situations, special control should be taken to curb rumours and provocative information. Any attempts to disseminate such information should be strictly prevented; authors should be identified and punished.
It should be explained to the population that one cannot blindly trust all information, one should not allow provocateurs and frankly senseless people to manipulate the trust of our citizens.
Given the changing situation and the growth in the number of cases, I instruct to ensure unified coordination and centralisation of the work of the media.
According to the new process, all information from government agencies on the coronavirus should flow through a single Ministry of Information and Public Development information centre.
The Minister of Information and Public Development will give daily briefings starting from March 23rd.
As part of this information work, it is necessary to effectively use all available digital resources.
A special website has been created - coronavirus2020.kz, through which it is necessary to inform Kazakhstan citizens about the situation and the measures we are taking.
It should be an official online source of verified and reliable information. We need to actively promote this platform among citizens.
Under the Ministry of Health, there is an Operations Centre for Monitoring and Accounting COVID-19, which I visited on March 21. It should ensure an uninterrupted and efficient operation.
Our citizens are on the frontline today - doctors, police, and other specialists who do not rest on weekends, rarely see their families, and put themselves at great risk. But, despite this, they continue to fulfil their civic and official duty.
I sincerely thank you.
I instruct the Government and governors’ offices to find additional funds and ensure the payment of a bonus in the amount of one monthly salary to doctors, police officers and other specialists involved in the fight against coronavirus.
Third. Ensuring social stability across the country.
We will have to take drastic measures during the state of emergency to ensure the well-being of our citizens.
We have all the resources - the state budget, the National Fund. These need to be used correctly.
Kazakhstan’s citizens need to be informed of this. Most people in stressful situations are afraid because of the unknown.
As soon as possible, people should get a clear understanding of how they will be helped in this difficult moment.
Any delay will generate rumours, uncertainty, protest and panic.
Anti-crisis measures of the Government and governors should be developed as soon as possible.
Their key points should be conveyed to citizens in a simple and understandable manner.
Under the current conditions, many people have lost sources of income, with their wages in decline. Many of Kazakhstan’s families have virtually no “safety net”.
Therefore, I instruct the State Commission to work out a set of measures within two days. These including in the following areas.
Firstly, for the period of the state of emergency, in addition to the already adopted ban on the calculation of fines and penalties, the payment of principal and interest on all loans of the population affected by the crisis should be suspended.
I expect full understanding and civic solidarity from banks.
Against a backdrop of a deteriorating situation regarding personal finances, many citizens are forced to apply for unsecured loans from non-banking organisations - pawnshops, online lenders, and microfinance organisations.
Therefore, it is critical to clean up the sector.
Cheating citizens is unacceptable.
I instruct the Agency for Regulation and Development of the Financial Markets, the General Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of Information and Public Development to carry out a large-scale operation to verify compliance with the law and to punish violators by raising awareness widely in the media and social networks.
This is necessary so that Kazakhstan’s citizens who are at risk know that their rights will be firmly protected by the state.
Secondly, during the quarantine period in Almaty alone, the number of business employees decreased by 266,000 people. A similar situation is observed for individual entrepreneurs, 80% of whom have suspended their activities.
Thus, according to preliminary calculations, the current situation has negatively affected the financial conditions of approximately 500,000 citizens.
Therefore, during the period of the state of emergency, I instruct the initiation of monthly payments to people who have lost income due to the state of emergency, to the amount of one monthly salary (42,500 tenge).
In total, at least 1.5 million of our fellow citizens can count on this assistance.
If necessary, we have the reserves to increase this amount, as well as coverage and expansion of types of support.
I instruct the State Commission to develop an effective and transparent payment mechanism.
Selection of recipients will be determined by specially created regional headquarters with the participation of the public and the National Entrepreneurs Chamber “Atameken”.
At the same time, businesses, including SMEs, must also take measures to preserve jobs and not dismiss employees.
This is critical for our people. Knowledge that there is security in employment will help our citizens to endure the hardships of this current period.
I instruct the State Commission, together with the National Entrepreneurs Chamber “Atameken”, to formulate a set of measures to support employers, especially SMEs.
In addition, the regular provision of free groceries to large families, people with disabilities, and other socially vulnerable groups should begin. This should consist primarily of domestic products.
Thirdly, unfortunately, we are faced with situations where unscrupulous people have decided to take advantage of a difficult situation and cash in on the population. Relevant authorities are identifying and preventing such attempts. This is the right thing to do. As the French say, “À la guerre comme à la guerre” – At war as at war.
To systematise this work, it is necessary to approve a list of socially significant goods, according to which we will introduce state regulation of prices.
In all regions and cities, we have enough food and basic necessities.
At the same time, each governor of the region needs to establish a real account of the availability of goods of primary demand. An informal approach is unacceptable here. It is necessary to work with both businesses and the public to prevent panic-buying of essential goods.
Governors should communicate between themselves to control interregional flows of goods and eliminate local deficits.
Together with the Government, it is necessary to ensure the availability of sufficient reserves of goods, establish mechanisms for their delivery to the shelves, strictly control prices and exclude speculation.
Fourthly, in connection with the introduction of quarantine measures, we have called on the population to stay at home.
Remote working encourages people to more actively use mobile technology.
In this regard, for the period of a state of emergency, I instruct the expansion of access to mobile communications and the internet, especially to educational resources, social networks and instant messengers.
During this emergency period, even in case of arrears, the provision of communication services should be continued. Access to all Kazakhstan’s internet resources should be free.
Earlier, I gave instructions to reduce the payment of utility bills during the quarantine period. Almaty promptly responded and made appropriate decisions.
Now the State Commission should work out systemic country-wide measures.
Overall, the Kazakhstan’s people are waiting for these measures from us. Today, I instruct citizens to familiarise themselves with my instructions and immediately begin to implement them.
Fourth. Support for the national economy.
We are witnessing a “perfect storm.” The pandemic, the battle between the oil superpowers and the record drop in stock indices have been imposed on an already imbalanced global economic system.
In such circumstances, we must provide an adequate economic response, rely on healthy, competitive entrepreneurship, help it survive and become stronger.
It is important to quickly identify those sectors of the economy that are most effected by the state of emergency, thus experiencing reduced demand from the population, and implement a series of measures to support them.
One of the effective mechanisms to support these sectors will be the suspension of payments of principal and interest on all loans of small and medium-sized businesses affected by the current situation.
I also instruct to develop a set of measures for tax stimulation of business activity and ensurin price stability.
I consider it necessary to provide SMEs a deferral of payment of all types of taxes and other obligatory payments for a period of three months, without charging fines and penalties.
It is also necessary to consider the need to temporarily reduce VAT on agricultural products and food products, zeroing customs duties on critical imports, and so on.
This task should take no more than one week.
Maintaining employment is crucial. Within the framework of the individual anti-crisis plans for work with large enterprises formed by the Government, measures are required to preserve jobs and stable wages. We will use these measures as the situation develops.
I instruct the Government, local executive bodies and quasi-public sector entities to suspend the accrual of rental payments for their property from SMEs from March 20 this year for a period of three months.
Local executive bodies should jointly consider the possibility of exempting commercial property from rent. Governors have all the tools to achieve this.
As experience of past years has shown, during an unstable economic situation, it is necessary to prevent a “crisis of non-payments”.
The Ministry of Finance is obliged to tighten control over the implementation by state bodies of contractual obligations in the framework of public procurement.
All payments for rendered services and works must be made within 5 days. Tightening demand for additional securities should be excluded.
State bodies and quasi-state-owned companies should not levy penalties and include a supplier in the register of unreliable suppliers, if the failure to fulfil the contract is connected with the current challenging economic situation.
It is required to rapidly create a register of domestic producers and introduce a special regime of public procurement, providing for the abolition of the need to make a security deposit or a bank guarantee.
I have signed the corresponding decree, and I await concrete actions from the Government.
The regional headquarters should constantly monitor local large producers, and carry out individual work to support them, including through the allocation of working capital at a preferential interest rate, the provision of spaces on supermarket shelves and other measures.
I have instructed to increase funding for the Economy of Simple Things programme to 1 trillion tenge.
These are significant funds, provided at an affordable rate of 6% per annum. They can be used primarily for investment purposes.
In addition to this, I have decided to provide an additional 600 billion tenge for lending to small and medium-sized businesses for working capital at 8% per annum.
The special programme “Employment Roadmap” will be another tool to maintain business activity and employment. This tool performed well during previous crises.
I have already instructed the financing of it at a level of not less than 300 billion tenge.
Based on the incoming applications from the regions, we have reserves to increase it to 1 trillion tenge. This will create 250,000 jobs and help us to realize not only local projects, but also a number of country-wide ones, including the construction of reservoirs, dams and other structures.
The National Bank should assist the Government in financing this initiative.
Furthermore, it is currently extremely important to achieve stabilisation of the tenge exchange rate.
To this end, I entrust the National Bank, the Government and the management of quasi-state companies to ensure the mandatory sale by companies operating in the quasi-state sector of a portion of their export earnings in the country’s foreign exchange market. Also, taking into account the existing obligations, I instruct you to draw up a schedule for the phased return of foreign currency deposits of quasi-state-owned companies to the financial system of Kazakhstan.
I believe that national companies should pay dividends to the state for last year in the amount of up to 100 percent of net income.
Fifth. Transition to a new model of managerial decision making.
The entire state apparatus will have to quickly rebuild, and move away from typical work.
Governance in such a difficult situation should be radically transformed, it is necessary to take responsibility and make strong, bold, effective decisions.
For my part, I have already signed a number of anti-crisis decrees, which provide the public administration system with the right to make operational decisions to deal with the consequences of the crisis.
Thus, government agencies have every opportunity to resolve any issues that arise - in the budget process, price regulation, government procurement, the provision of benefits, etc.
I want to convey to each member of the Government and every governor - the time has come to work in a different mode.
Those who do not understand the acuteness of the current moment, and try to act in the old fashioned way with a mentality of “no matter what happens”, should accept new modes.
Otherwise, we will not win this battle.
It is important to ensure the coordination of the activities of state bodies, including when covering the activities and work of the State Commission.
I instruct the Prime Minister to take control of this situation.
* * *
This crisis will serve as a shake-up for the state apparatus and domestic business. These lessons must be kept in mind.
Therefore, in addition to operational measures, we have to develop and adopt systemic approaches with a view to life after the stabilisation of the situation. In fact, we are on the verge of a completely new world, in which Kazakhstan has to find its rightful place.
I want to emphasize that despite the complexity of the situation, it is far from catastrophic.
We have all the capabilities and reserves.
The key is that we started to prepare in time for the most unfavourable scenario and that we understand what needs to be done.
The total package of anti-crisis measures, excluding tax preferences and support at the local level, will amount to 4.4 trillion tenge or 10 billion dollars.
By properly utilising these funds, we will no doubt emerge victorious in the fight against the crisis.
In such a situation, all state bodies must conduct jointly intensive work.
This is the time when our unity and cohesion will be tested.
Each crisis has two sides. Of course, it is dangerous, but on the other hand, it is an opportunity.
Epidemics and crises are a passing phenomenon.
Our goal is to use the opportunity to the maximum, come out of this crisis without losses, and become even stronger.
If each of us fulfills our duty with responsibility, I believe that we will quickly come out of this difficult situation!
I wish you success in your work!
I wish our country health and peace!