In early January, Kazakhstan, the second largest state in the CIS, experienced an attempted coup d'état. Some experts have described what happened as a “hybrid terrorist attack”, when civilians were used as human shields. Under the guise of a peaceful protest, well-trained and armed professionals acted. Law enforcement agencies still have a lot of work to clarify all the details of what happened. But it is already clear today that the decisive steps taken by President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev made it possible to avoid heavy casualties and the transition of the so-called protests into a civil war.
The main lesson that the leadership of Kazakhstan learned from what happened is the need to reform the political and economic system in the country.
Of course, the republic's economy will not collapse, even from the “temporary fright” of Western partners. Since independence, the largest industries have grown dozens of times in volume, GDP has also more than doubled. Foreign investors who have invested more than $100 billion in business in the republic will definitely not turn their backs on Kazakhstan. President Tokayev will most likely adhere to the balanced international policy pursued by Nursultan Nazarbayev: to be friends with both the East and the West, guided by his own national interests.
Becoming the leader of the majority is the main challenge for Tokayev. The President of Kazakhstan noted the aggravated problem of social inequality in the republic and the inaccessibility of state support for ordinary citizens. The government was instructed to develop a set of measures to control inflation, and within two months to adopt a program to increase the income of the population.
Immediately in the wake of the tragic events, on behalf of the President, a social public fund “To the People of Kazakhstan” was created, which will deal with real problems in the field of healthcare, education, and social support. So far, business is expectedly in no hurry to participate in this initiative. But with the right political will and the right arguments, the government will be able to convince the largest corporations.
Remarkably, the first company to invest 10 billion tenge in this fund was the most successful company of the new formation – Kaspi, which over the past three years has turned from a commercial bank into the first fintech platform in Kazakhstan that combines classic financial services with retail, market- place and other modern digital services. In 2020, Kaspi.kz, founded by Vyacheslav Kim together with his friend and partner, Chairman of the Board of the Bank Mikhail Lomtadze, held the most successful IPO in the history of Kazakhstani business in London, following which investors valued the company at $6.5 billion. Unlike many people featured in the Kazakh Forbes, Vyacheslav Kim did not privatize state property in the 1990s and 2000s, but created a company from scratch and achieved success already under the new president of Kazakhstan. However, even before the creation of the state fund, Kim was independently involved in charity work together with the Sabi fund of Kenes Rakishev and Asel Tasmagambetova, just helping to develop small businesses. It is also no coincidence that it was Rakishev and Tasmagambetova, who annually invest hundreds of thousands of dollars together with the Kaspi shareholder to support small businesses, also became donators to the People of Kazakhstan fund.
However, Kazakhstanis should not flatter themselves, that all the oligarchs of the republic will follow the example of Kim, Rakishev and Tasmagambetova.
President Tokayev and his new government have a very big and difficult job to do. The change of the ruling elite, which the new leader has now actively taken up, does not yet promise automatic prosperity for all the people. Kazakhstan, like Russia, and any other republic in the post-Soviet space, will have to move long and hard towards a market economy. But the events of January 2022 may accelerate this process and make Kazakhstan a leader in emerging economies.