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Kazakhstan to review youth policy
Officials hope to develop ‘road map’ for future of youth
By Olga Pavlovskaya
ALMATY – The Kazakhstani government is reviewing its youth policy, mindful that young people comprise 30% of the country's population.
In June the government established the Committee for Youth Affairs and Policy Management – the first-ever such body in the country. The committee is under the auspices of the Education Ministry and will develop a youth policy, monitor its implementation and evaluate the results, the Education Ministry said.
“A single authority to tackle youth problems should have been established long ago,” former MP Bakhyt Syzdykova, a public activist who pushed for creation of the committee, said. “The issue was raised back in 2008, when public hearings on youth affairs were held for the first time.”
A youth affairs department operated only in Almaty at the time, which seemed unfair, she added.
Syzdykova called for “establishing a Youth Affairs Agency – a body with a much broader range of authority, whose leaders would be able to work directly with (President Nursultan Nazarbayev), skirting the numerous bureaucratic barriers.”
The creation of the committee helped make 2012 a “very good” year for Kazakhstani youth, Shakhmardan Baimanov, executive director of the Youth Congress of Kazakhstan, said.
Other measures include:
- Adoption of a new youth policy planning document is likely this year.
- The law on state youth policy in Kazakhstan will be revised.
- “Social escalators,” such as a youth research centre, are set to be established.
- The government will form a Youth Affairs Committee at the national level and departments of youth policy at the oblast level.
“All of this is very inspiring because the need for such changes has been discussed for a long time,” Baimanov said.
Today, the youth affairs divisions at the oblast internal policy departments are seriously understaffed, so establishing a special government agency for working with youth should streamline this work, Baimanov said.
While many elements of the youth policy planning document remain obscure, authorities already have announced some.
For example, the draft planning document advanced by the Committee for Youth Affairs and Youth Policy Management legally guarantees housing to university students during their studies, Education Minister Bakytzhan Zhumagulov said. This commitment will require building 23 new dormitories to accommodate 10,700 students and renovating 53 dormitories over the next three years, he said.
Arman Nurpeisov, a second-year student at the Kazakh Academy of Tourism and Sports who couldn’t obtain a room at his school dormitory, supports that idea.
“Although the dorm rooms are crammed, with at least four or five persons sharing a room, for me, living there is almost a dream,” he said. The lack of dorm space caused him and a few fellow students to share a flat not far from school, but they have to work part-time after classes to pay for it.
“If the state is required by law to provide housing for all students, then we'll be able to devote more time to studies without having to think about earning our daily bread,” Nurpeisov said.
The youth policy planning document should become a kind of “road map” for youth and the state, Baimanov said.
“Its main goal is to determine the course and directions of the government's youth policy in the economic, social and political areas,” he said. “Also, the document should reflect all present-day realities and envisage measures to protect the younger generation from external and internal challenges and threats.”
Youth associations are actively contributing to the draft planning document by organising roundtables and meetings with youth to discuss this topic, Baimanov said.
The draft planning document is still under development and is in the process of reconciliation with local executive agencies, which are supposed to discuss it extensively with youth. The next stage will be adoption of a set of regulations, including a youth policy bill now under consideration by parliament.
The 127 amendments that parliament has passed relate to housing problems for university students and young families, support for young business owners, discounts on public transportation and expansion of young people's rights in the country's social and political life.
Businessman Mikhail Dnishev, 23, the owner of a service station in Almaty, hopes the draft planning document will provide “substantial tax breaks and fewer inspections and other forms of government interference in young people's businesses -- at least during the first three years of operation.”
Youth involvement in the country's social and political life has notably increased in the past few years, according to Prime Minister Karim Massimov's press office. The number of youth associations has doubled from 502 in 2006 to 1,043 today, and last year 14% of youth organisations contributed to the implementation of socially significant republic-wide projects.
Funding for youth policy implementation totalled 947.2m KZT (US $6.3m) in 2011 and will increase by 200m KZT (US $1.3m) this year, the press service said.