Remarks by President Tokayev on Pandemic

01 Apr 2020


Dear compatriots!

The situation in the world remains difficult. Almost 800,000 people have been infected in 177 countries. The rate of the illness is growing daily, seemingly approaching its peak.

The virus is testing the strength of all states.

Kazakhstan was one of the first to take the necessary measures. Thanks to putting in place the state of emergency, we were able to prevent the uncontrolled spread of the virus. Without this, the number of infected people could have been much higher. Following my instructions, quarantine measures have been strengthened not only in the capital and in Almaty, but also in all regions of the country.

I thank all Kazakhstan people for their understanding, calmness and endurance.

We will not allow panic, and the citizens should support the state in this. Right now, this is more important than ever.

Today the whole country is admiring the courage and stamina of Kazakhstan doctors and medical workers. They are real heroes who are saving lives.

I have decided on additional measures to support those who are at the forefront of the fight against the pandemic.

I believe this is the least we can do for our doctors.

Police officers, as well as military personnel, also deserve special thanks.

Unfortunately, work and life in this state of emergency always lead to significant economic and social costs.

Many citizens of Kazakhstan are facing great difficulties today. We are well aware of this.

The Government and governors have already begun to implement the first package of anti-crisis measures. Understanding the severity of the situation, I have decided on further steps to support citizens and businesses.

First. I instruct to index pensions and state benefits, including targeted social assistance, by 10% in annual terms.

This means an increase in the income of the corresponding categories of our citizens totalling more than 200 billion tenge.

Second. I instruct to expand the coverage of additional social benefits in the amount of one monthly minimum wage, which I spoke about on March 23.

I believe that this amount - 42,500 tenge - should be received not only by those who previously had official work and salaries. We need to help our citizens who worked informally and were and remain self-employed.

To do this, they just need to formalise their status, after which they will begin to receive a monthly social payment from the state for the entire period of state of emergency.

There are understandable fears that some citizens, who have a sufficient unofficial income, will still be eligible to receive this payment.

If you remember, we have already encountered a similar situation.

But we cannot harm hundreds of thousands of fellow citizens who are genuinely in need, because of certain irresponsible people.

Overall, the measures announced by me on March 23 and today will cover approximately 3 million of our citizens.

Third. I instruct to extend from April 1 to July 1 the right of uninsured citizens to receive medical care as part of the compulsory social health insurance system.

During this period, the service provided by medical institutions to citizens should be carried out in full, regardless of the status of the member of the compulsory health insurance system.

Fourth. It is necessary to expand the list of categories of citizens who should be provided with free grocery sets.

This assistance should be additionally provided to disabled people of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd groups, disabled children and those who are officially registered as unemployed.

This measure will cover more than 800,000 people.

Moreover, it is necessary to approve the minimum size of such grocery sets.

It is important to engage local small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) for production and delivery.

The Government needs to attract domestic IT companies to develop a platform that will provide an effective mechanism for monitoring the targeted spending of social support funds.

In the future, it is necessary to gradually move from products to the transfer of funds to be used to independently select and purchase such products.

Fifth. It is extremely important to conduct spring sowing campaign in a timely manner.

70 billion tenge will be allocated from the budget and transferred to farmers through the Agrarian Credit Corporation JSC. The rate for end borrowers will not exceed 5%.

I instruct to invest an additional 100 billion tenge for these purposes within the framework of the programme “The Economy of Simple Things”. The final rate under this programme has been unified across all sectors and amounts to 6%.

First and foremost, it is necessary to support small and medium-sized farms.

In addition, I set the Government the task to reduce the price of diesel fuel for agricultural producers to 165 tenge per litre or 15% of the market price.

Approximately 390,000 tons of diesel fuel will be allocated at a reduced price for this.

I emphasize that this cheaper fuel should reach the final recipients - farmers.

The work of so-called “operators”, through which the supplies pass, must be completely transparent.

The Government and the General Prosecutor’s Office should provide appropriate supervision and control in the regions.

There are a number of problems that are exacerbated under quarantine conditions - registration of mortgaged property at the Citizen Services Centres, notarisation, purchase of spare parts, etc.

Therefore, issues of spring sowing campaign should be under special control of the Government and governors’ offices.

In terms of food security, every day is critical.

Sixth. Due to the quarantine measures in the capital, the cities of Almaty and Shymkent, there is an abundance of working age people, primarily young persons.

Under the “Employment Roadmap”, the Government and governors should immediately start implementing specific projects in these regions.

People must have a source of income so that they do not sit at closed barriers without a livelihood.

Citizens who are ready to go to work under the “Employment Roadmap” will be given “allowances” in the amount of 2 monthly minimum wages (85,000 tenge) immediately after starting the work.

This will be in addition to the regular wage.

Mobile recruitment centres will be deployed, where the governors’ offices will run outreach activities, carry out rapid testing for coronavirus, and collection and transportation of workers to the new work places.

And, of course, employers are required to provide all those employed under the “Business Roadmap” with decent working conditions and protective equipment.

Seventh. I previously announced measures aimed at supporting SMEs, including tax preferences, deferred payments on loans, and much more.

Regarding the proposals of representatives of small and medium-sized businesses:

A large number of them are supported and are already being implemented by state bodies. This includes expanding types of priority business activities that can receive state support, reduction and unification of the loan rate, increase in the volume of state guarantees.

The Financial Regulatory Agency is working with banks and other financial institutions to defer and restructure payments on loans to SMEs.

I want to focus on this issue further.

Many entrepreneurs are asking banks not to charge interest on loans for the period of a state of emergency.

It should be understood that for banks this is a lost profit, a financial loss. Banks are also an integral part of our economy.

Therefore, I again ask second-tier banks to take a constructive approach, civic responsibility and solidarity.

In difficult times for the banks, the state provided them with significant assistance. Now the population and domestic businesses require support from you.

At the same time, if necessary, the state may take additional policy measures.

Overall, should the situation worsen further, the Government and financial regulators will take measures to resolve this issue.

Further. Our entrepreneurs need additional support in terms of reducing the tax burden. This is especially important when it comes to maintaining employment and paying salaries.

Therefore, the accrual and payment of taxes and other payments related to payroll is cancelled for 6 months (from April 1 to October 1 of this year) for SMEs that operate in the most affected sectors of the economy.

These sectors include: catering, selected trade sectors, transportation services, consulting services, IT sector, hospitality industry (hotels), tourism, etc.

The state commission on state of emergency will approve the final list and will update it as necessary.

In the requests of entrepreneurs, I also noted a call for non-assessment of any taxes for the period of the crisis.

On this issue I would like to note the following.

A prompt decision has been made: on my instruction, the Government has suspended the payment of all taxes by SMEs for the period of three months.

This means that the taxes do not need to be paid during this period, but will have to be paid later.

At the same time, we are carefully studying the economic situation. Depending on its state, we will make a final decision.

Furthermore. The Government is working with partners in the Eurasian Economic Union to cancel import duties for the most important imports for us.

The decision on personal protective equipment, raw materials for their production, vaccines, and diagnostic kits has already been made.

Work is continuing to reduce import duties for a number of food products, for which we are not self-sufficient.

The Government should ensure that requests from domestic businesses are taken into account and expedite this work.

It is also important to harness the potential of local small and medium-sized businesses.

Governors’ offices and the Government (through the “State Food Corporation”) should establish a mechanism for guaranteed purchase of products from domestic agricultural and processing enterprises at least 6 months in advance, i.e. introduce the so-called “forward purchase” system.

It is necessary to determine a clear mechanism for the integration of enterprises along the entire chain - from the field to the counter and provide them with soft loans.

Businesses, in turn, must assume counter obligations to ensure production volumes, maintain prices, maintain employment, etc.

Eighth. To implement this package of measures, I instruct the Government and the National Bank to use all necessary sources of funds, including the State Social Insurance Fund, resources and instruments of the National Bank.

The funds of the National Fund created by our First President – Leader of the Nation should be spent rationally.

In order to quickly and accurately bring the funds to the real economy, one should not exclude the possibility of direct financing through state development institutions: Baiterek, Agrarian Credit Corporation and others.

This mechanism, along with other preferences, should be aimed at helping medium-sized fast-growing companies that are focused on export. These companies can act as our “locomotives” in the post-crisis period.

Furthermore. Given the amount of financial resources and the scale of anti-crisis measures, the issues of ensuring targeted and efficient spending of allocated funds, and adherence to the principles of openness and transparency in supporting citizens and businesses are of particular importance.

This task is assigned to the Accounts Committee. It is also necessary to connect to this work regional audit commissions and public councils.

At the same time, special conditions of the state of emergency should be taken into account.

Dear people of Kazakhstan!

I understand that life has brought upon us difficult conditions.

But the coronavirus epidemic is a temporary phenomenon, and we will definitely defeat it.

The unity and cohesion of our society give us strength and confidence that together we will overcome all difficulties!

Additional words of support are addressed to patients infected with coronavirus. Do not despair! Despite its dangers, this illness is not fatal, it can be cured. We, the state and society, will do everything possible to help you.

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