New Reforms to Promote Competition, Modernise Agricultural Sector

Kazakhstan is continuing to scale back government and quasi-public involvement in its economy in efforts to protect and promote competition. Last year, 108 laws and 972 bylaws were audited to identify rules that hinder competition; 144 such hindrances were found, Minister of National Economy Timur Suleimenov told a Jan. 30 government meeting.

Amendments were made to the relevant legislative acts through the draft law “On Amendments and Additions to Certain Legislative Acts of the Republic of Kazakhstan on Improving Business Regulation,” which is being considered by the Mazhilis (lower house of Parliament).

In addition, Kazakhstan approved the Comprehensive Plan for Privatisation for 2016-2020. The plan originally included 734 facilities to be privatised; 367 facilities worth 164 billion tenge (US$508.4 million) were transferred to competitive environment in 2016-2017 as envisioned by the plan.

Steps to reduce the state’s participation in entrepreneurial activities will continue as envisioned by the State of the Nation address, “New opportunities under the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” published Jan. 10.

“At present, the ministry has established a working group to determine the list of state institutions and subjects of the quasi-public sector for transfer to the competitive environment or liquidation, as well as their consolidation. Information on the work results of the group will be submitted to the government in three stages: in April, May and June,” said Suleimenov.

The government completed 212 investigations into competition protection in 2017, and 187 found violations. Fines of 2.01 billion tenge (US$6.23 million) were imposed, and 594 million tenge (US$1.84 million) has been recovered so far. Eighty-one investigations of competition protection law violations are underway now, with a focus on the retail, primary and secondary wholesale coal markets and retail fuel sales markets.

In 2016, Kazakhstan’s antimonopoly authority was admitted as a participant in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) competition committee. A visit by OECD experts is expected this year to review the implementation of changes in antimonopoly legislation introduced in 2015-2016. A large-scale OECD review on competition law and policy is scheduled for next year.

Kazakhstan is also continuing its large-scale modernisation of its important agricultural sector, seeking to incorporate advanced agricultural technologies. Digitising state regulation and technological renewal are the two key tasks, according to Agriculture Vice Minister Arman Yevniyev.

Increasing productivity and efficiency as well as involving IT businesses in agriculture are the goals of digitising the country’s agricultural complex. To this end, a digitisation office has been set up. Sixty-two of the Agricultural Ministry of Kazakhstan’s 101 services are only partially automated, but 89 services are planned to be switched over in the next two years.

The introduction of new technologies and precision tools is also key, as it allows for greater productivity with fewer resources using, for example, satellite and computer systems, sensors and autopilot steering systems and other methods for assessing fields and field variability. Measures supporting the use of these new tools are expected to decrease losses in the field by 25 percent, Yevniyev said.

The ministry is also planning to introduce a smart farms system to help monitor and control livestock, manage greenhouses and keep online records. The ministry plans to launch pilot projects for a number of upgrades in the Akmola and Karaganda regions.

This year, the agriculture sector will also receive block chain technology and the opportunity to order grain carriers online, said Yevniyev. Work has begun to launch online trading to allow foreign buyers to purchase grain by 2020.

This year, the ministry will develop a detailed logistics map of the agricultural complex, including existing and planned terminals and storage and distribution centres. Overall, digitisation efforts are expected to have an impact of around 40 billion tenge (US$124.4 million) by 2025, Yevniyev noted.