On April 19, the Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan at the Academy of Public Administration under the President of Kazakhstan in Almaty held a meeting of the national expert platform “KAZISS GPS: Gylym. Pikir. Sayasat” on the subject of “Local self-government – a school of Democracy“. The moderator of the discussion platform was the Director of KAZISS Yerkin Tukumov.
The Head of State emphasized the fact that a strong system of local government is the basic foundation for the direct participation of citizens in improving the quality of life in their home community in his March Message. “Today there are 2,345 local communities in Kazakhstan. Obviously, the scale of local government reform is extremely comprehensive. There is a Concept of Development of Local Self-Government until 2025, the role of maslikhats is changing significantly, the revenue base of local government will increase from the current 6 to 13 in 2024. There are also plans to expand the powers of keneses, the transformation of akims of rural districts into local government administrations, and most importantly, the adoption of the Law “On Local Self-Government in the RK”.
How all these reforms will affect the local government system, which model of local self-government will result from the reforms, and whether local citizens are ready to work actively on self-government – these and other important issues I propose to discuss today at the meeting of our national expert platform”, – said the Head of the Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies.
The level of self-organization in society demonstrates a society’s ability to take responsibility, to manifest its position actively, and to influence the decision-making process. Local self-government as an institutional formation is an important element of self-organization and development of civil society. The involvement of citizens in the decision-making process allows them to exercise their right to govern and influence the decision-making process in the state. More qualitatively, this right is implemented at the local level when solving local problems. Thus, local self-government is a peculiar school of democratic organization of local life. It teaches the public to self-organize, which is necessary for quality solutions of issues in accordance with the interests of citizens.
Kazakhstan is forming its own model of local self-governance institution in the process of formation and dynamic development. Certain successes and results have been achieved since the adoption and implementation of the Concept of Local Self-Governance in 2012, which are positively perceived by civil society. Nevertheless, this is only the beginning of a long journey. As civil society as a political institution matures, new conditions for further transformations arise.
As noted by the Professor of the Eurasian Law Academy named after D. A. Kunayev Yerkimbek Rakimbayev, it is necessary to distinguish clearly between the powers of representative and executive bodies at the local level. “It is necessary to train appropriate personnel for them. An innovation in the sphere of local self-government is the creation of communities. The Congress of Local Communities of Kazakhstan, which we created, has developed a strategy for the decentralization of power between the central and local governments up to 2025. Within the framework of this strategy we are working on the issue of appropriate bills to regulate the activities of local communities,” said Yerkimbek Rakimbayev.
Ruslan Akhmaganbetov, senior lecturer at the Department of Political Science and Political Technology at Al-Farabi Kazakh National University, said that the development of local self-governance requires addressing the issue of decentralization. According to the speaker, it is necessary to simplify the approval procedures between the village, the district and the region. “Local issues should be solved locally. And local government needs funds to solve their own problems. The distribution of funds should correspond to the number of population, and it is also important to leave most of the funds collected locally, distributing a fixed share to the districts, the region and the center,” he summarized.
According to the Director of the Center for Regional Studies of “Economic Research Institute” JSC Kaisar Nigmetov, the reform of local self-government should include the issues of changes in inter-budgetary relations. “The distribution of budgets must continue, otherwise the dependence of local institutions will persist. Expansion of powers and competences must be supported by economic resources. To date, only rural districts with a large population and located on economically profitable land benefit from decentralization,” he said.
The expert in public monitoring Ruslan Asaubayev believes that local executive bodies need to learn how to work together with the population. “As experience shows, local executive bodies have problems in organizing gatherings of the local population. Today, even having prepared a good law on the local community, in practice there may be problems of implementation. Now we have rural akims elected. In the same way it is necessary to elect members of future Kenes. This will increase the role and responsibility of local communities”, – said the expert.
“All functions of the state overlap with each other. According to the President’s Address, we need to conduct a functional analysis and delineate the functions. We need to understand that our administrative-territorial division is the territories where people live. They differ only in size, but they have a lot in common”, – said Sergey Khudyakov, the Director of the Institute of Development of Local Self-Government in his speech.
Political scientist Petr Svoyik stressed that the authorities need to bring down such a system of self-government, which will interest the population. “For the convenience of local residents it is necessary to digitize this scheme. Self-government is also power. It should be given territory, resources and opportunities for implementation,” said the political scientist.
According to Andrei Chebotarev, the Director of the Center for Current Research “The Alternative,” there are three factors that make it clear where to go. “The first factor is the political will to decentralize. The past leadership with the super-presidential model of government had centralization. They created local self-government according to the 2-in-1 principle. Committees, territorial councils of local self-government – there was no understanding of what these structures were doing. That is why there was no understanding of the model to follow. We looked at the Polish, French, Russian and Kyrgyz models. Now the current President Tokayev has proclaimed a course on decentralization, the election of akims, etc. The second factor is human. People, to be honest, are consumers. We cannot create a DCI at the house level. The third factor is the depth of economic issues. There are disputes between the Ministry of National Economy, the Ministry of Finance and the acting akims, because everyone has his own economic interest and understanding. But the most important thing is that if you do not establish business and agriculture, there will be no use of the budget of the 4th level. If no one is engaged in this activity, there will be no taxes,” the expert added.
“We live in the digital age, but we behave like in the analog world. We need to develop applications, for example, for the DSI, thereby solving the problem of participation. Digitalization will help close the issue of passivity. Digital solutions will allow for the participation in local government of employed citizens, as well as those who participate in pendulum labor migration. It is also advisable to distinguish between districts within regions and within cities. In order to overcome confusion, I suggest calling urban districts districts districts,” said Askar Nursha, the advisor to the director of KAZISS under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
Lesya Karatayeva, the political scientist and head of analytical projects at the ECPM: “The issue of people’s readiness to participate remains open. We can see that people are not always active at the DSI level. Careful preparatory work is needed”..
“In order to solve the problems of local government, you need to bring people together to solve issues on their own. You have to be able to find potential in the aul. Our potential is people. Kazakhstan has opportunities to open scientific and production projects for each region. Digitalization has a place, it is relevant. Ideally, we need 2 levels of management – the republic and the rural areas. With digitalization it can work. But in the current reality there are 3 levels – the republic, the region and the rural areas,” added Sarkytbek Moldabayev, the Professor of the Academy of Public Administration under the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan (Almaty region branch).
Eduard Poletayev, the political scientist, international journalist, president of the “World of Eurasia” public foundation: “There are two approaches to LSG – either to separate it from the center, or to make it strongly tied to the state”.
According to Milana Kurbanova, the Head of the Analytical Department of Alem Research, digitalization makes it possible to monitor the activities of local governments online. “Based on the research conducted in the media space, it is proposed to establish responsibility for the quality of decisions made at the local level, as well as for the failure to meet deadlines for the implementation of tasks. As measures of influence it is possible to use material and administrative incentives for subjects of local self-government”, – said Milana Kurbanova.
The political scientist observer Zamir Karazhanov believes that today local self-government deals with both security and environmental issues. “There are local executive bodies and local self-government bodies. These institutions should not duplicate each other’s functions. The development of local self-government depends on the activity of civil society. Today we observe the passivity of citizens, but this is not because citizens do not want to participate in political life, but because they do not know how to participate in it. It is necessary to organize forms of civic participation, it is necessary to develop institutions of local self-government”, – concluded the speaker.