President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan announced the dismissal of his Cabinet on Monday. The decision came alongside mounting criticism of the administration’s handling of economic challenges, including inflation and infrastructure issues.
A decree issued by Tokayev’s office confirmed the acceptance of the Cabinet’s resignation, led by Prime Minister Alikhan Smailov. Roman Sklyar, the deputy of Smailov, has been appointed as the acting premier. However, the reason behind the Cabinet’s resignation was not explicitly stated in the decree.
Retired Earth sciences researcher John Quakes, however, speculated on X that “the talk on the street is of a quiet Russian takeover of the country happening behind closed doors.”
Tokayev had previously voiced concerns about the government’s effectiveness, particularly regarding its failure to tackle inflation and address the country’s aging infrastructure. These criticisms underscore the challenges faced by the administration amid economic uncertainties.
Smailov, who assumed the role of prime minister following violent protests in January 2022, mainly held a technical position, with Tokayev wielding significant political influence.
According to the country’s laws, the ruling Amanat party is tasked with nominating a candidate for prime minister, subject to approval by parliament. Tokayev is scheduled to convene a meeting with top officials on Wednesday to outline priorities for the incoming Cabinet.
The uranium play
Interestingly, coinciding with the dissolution of the government, Tokayev engaged in discussions with Meirzhan Yussupov, CEO of uranium miner Kazatomprom, regarding the company’s performance and future plans.
Yussupov reported that Kazatomprom achieved significant milestones in 2023, with uranium production and sales reaching over 21,000 and 18,000 tonnes respectively. Notably, transportation through the Trans-Caspian International Transportation Route accounted for 64% of all uranium shipments from Kazakhstan to Western countries.
During the meeting, Tokayev was briefed on Kazatomprom’s ongoing investment projects and initiatives aimed at fostering social and economic development in the regions where the company operates. Discussions also revolved around efforts to expand and replenish the mineral resource base.
Concluding the session, Tokayev assigned specific tasks aimed at enhancing Kazatomprom’s performance, underscoring the government’s focus on bolstering strategic sectors to drive economic growth.
This happens as Kazatomprom, the world’s leading uranium miner, is said to be encountering production hurdles that may impact its output targets over the next two years, contributing to the challenges in the global uranium supply chain.
In a press release, Kazatomprom stated, “Kazatomprom expects adjustments to its 2024 production plans” due to issues related to the availability of sulfuric acid, a critical operating material, and delays in construction at new deposits. The company had initially planned to increase production to 90% in 2024, a decision based on successful contract signings with new and existing customers.
As the instability in demand is expected to push the uranium prices further and while Kazakhstan navigates through these transitional phases, attention now shifts towards the formation of a new Cabinet and the implementation of policies geared towards addressing pressing economic concerns while fostering sustainable development.
Kazakhstan finds itself at a pivotal moment as Tokayev’s decree dissolves the government, signaling a significant shift in the country’s political landscape. This move, however, didn’t emerge in isolation but rather represents the culmination of mounting dissatisfaction and challenges on both economic and diplomatic fronts.
The economic overview of Kazakhstan in 2023 presents a mixed bag of successes and shortcomings. Despite celebrating robust economic growth, with GDP nearing a 5% increase and a substantial influx of foreign investment totaling $13.3 billion in the first half of the year, concerns lingered. Prime Minister Smailov’s administration faced criticism for its inability to curb inflation and attract further investments crucial for sustained growth, especially amidst global supply chain disruptions triggered by the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
The dissolution of the government goes beyond mere symbolism; it underscores Tokayev’s discontent with the prevailing conditions. Key ministries, such as the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Emergency Situations, faced scrutiny for their underperformance. The failure to introduce a new tax code and inadequate earthquake early warning systems in the aftermath of seismic events exemplified the urgent need for change.
As Kazakhstan braces for anticipated changes in the Cabinet, speculation abounds regarding ministerial reshuffles. Tokayev’s administration has demonstrated a willingness to make bold decisions in response to pressing challenges, signaling a potential overhaul in key government positions.
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