|| CENTER FOR POLICY STUDIES:
Application for: INTERNATIONAL POLICY FELLOWSHIPS, 2003
Project issue area: THE POLICY PROCESS
Applicant: JANNA NAURYZBAYEVA
The Policy-making Process in Modern Kazakhstan:
Mapping the Current Situation
This research project is aimed at shedding more light on the mechanisms of the political system in Kazakhstan, in particular on the policy-formation and policy decision-making processes.
The main anticipated results of the project are:
- Better understanding of the policy-making process in Kazakhstan;
- Increased knowledge of political decision-making evolution;
- Familiarity with the policy research methodology and quality increase of policy analysis.
The past decade was filled with dramatic transformations in all aspects of social and political life in Kazakhstan. The breadth and depth of changes have transformed the political "lay of the land," to the extent that the state has become "terra incognito" for the outside world while remaining unpredictable, and - in some cases - even unrecognizable, to its inhabitants.
At first glance, there are the main attributes of a democratic socially-oriented state with a market economy in Kazakhstan: the Constitution, that guarantees a standard set of human and citizens' rights; power-sharing system (bicameral Parliament, directly-elected president, relatively independent judicial system); opposition parties; non-governmental sector; rapidly-developing market institutions.
Foreign experts note that the Kazakhstani government has demonstrated relatively good abilities in transition management by achieving macroeconomic stability, establishing one of the best financial systems in the CIS, and creating a favorable climate for attracting foreign investments.
At the same time, the international media regularly highlights the participation of the Kazakhstani state's leaders in large-scale corruption scandals. Some international organizations continue to criticize the "unacceptable" actions of local authorities against opposition leaders, strongly recommending the simplification of political party regulations and decreasing of state-sanctioned pressure on the media.
In considering these varied aspects, a contradicting image of Kazakhstan emerges. On the one hand, it is a country with leading ambitions in pursuing sound economic and social reforms in the post-Soviet area. On the other, it is a corrupt country with an unstable, stagnated political system tied to an authoritarian regime bent on avoiding political modernization by all means. Some experts argue that, despite Kazakhstan's achievements, the existing political system can be visually compared with a "black" box. While its outer facade is decorated with democratic trappings, the inside is filled by a patron-client system. These inner mechanisms correspond little if at all with the formally-recognized rules and procedures, and are thus relatively insensitive to society's real needs.
Recent events in Kazakhstan's political arena have proven the aforementioned metaphor correct. Indeed, many political decisions are made with little or no participation from the interests groups and institutions that often shape policy in the West. Rather, key elites undertake measures to exclude (potential) competing groups from the decision-making process. This, however, does not exclude the presence of other forms of socio-political interactions within the decision making. In some areas, the political system demonstrates an essential level of openness and readiness to discuss different forms of cooperation, based on formal rules and recognized institutional frontiers.
Given that a system's openness is one of the key factors determining its stability and potential for further development, a range of provocative questions can be raised: where, to what extent and why is the system either opened or closed. How does it affect policy long-term goals and system stability? What conditions and mechanisms should be created for the system to be more open/transparent? The answers to these questions can have theoretical as well as practical consequences. Foremost among them figures the necessity of possessing knowledge in order to design appropriate methods to support the evolution (reconfiguration) of the system.
2. Research methodology
Based on the political system theory, this project will focus on the policy formation process (policy decision-making process) by describing its main actors, stages, procedures, and interrelationships (using certain internal policy issues).
A. The Kazakhstani political system is heterogeneous in its levels of openness in the policy formation process;
B. System openness varies with different policy issues. The political system is more likely to be open to engagement and dialog on issues with low political and financial gain potential of inside-system actors. The higher the gain potential, the less the system is likely to be open.
1. During the project, three cases will be analyzed to draw conclusions and statements to test the hypotheses.
2. Certain internal policy issues will be taken as the cases to expose the mechanisms of policy formation (the decision-making process) on the "low gain potential - high gain potential" scale (a list of cases and its justification is given below).
3. Each case is accompanied by a map, describing:
a. Procedures, formally approved for each given case on each stage of the policy decision -making;
b. List of potential and actual actors (participation level).
4. The following decision-making stages will be considered for each case analysis:
a. Input - demand and support input mechanisms;
b. Intra-system conversion - forms and reactions of the system to demand and support content;
c. Output - correspondence of output (political decisions) to environment needs demand;
d. Feedback - environmental conditions and attitude toward the output.
5. The next step will define the correspondence of actual, real-world procedures to formally recognized ones - availability of procedure divergence in the cases.
6. A comparative analysis of the cases will be done in the final stage of the project. Each case location on the "minimum system openness - maximum system openness" scale will be defined in accordance with the following factors:
a. List and participation level of interested actors;
b. Procedure divergence stage;
c. Distortion level as a result of inside-system conversion (correspondence of the output to environmental influences on the input).
Three cases were chosen for this research to fully illustrate the policy-making process in Kazakhstan: three laws that concentrate and regulate the policy in social services provision, tax regulation, and political party registration. They are, respectively:
a. Law "On State Social Procurement";
b. Tax Code;
c. Law "On Political Parties".
Why the process of design, promotion and adoption of laws was chosen for the cases?
Law-making provides an interesting prism through which to examine the policy-making dynamic in Kazakhstan, as its attracts and amplifies the interests of a wide variety of political actors and institutions. This project will disaggregate the variety of actors, their approaches, interactions, procedures and mechanisms as they drive forward the policy decision-making process.
Why these laws were chosen?
The aforementioned cases (laws) were selected on the basis of their level of gain potential for the inside-system players (elites) in each scenario. Given that the documents regulating social policy have minimum gain potential, the institutions (political, economic, media) that define the main rules and borders for acquiring and delivering authority have maximum potential for the inside-system players.
The time factor was another criteria for the case selection. All the proposed cases (laws) were introduced under the same Constitution, Parliament, President, (Government) within the period of 2-3 years. Besides, the social-political sphere did not undergo any fundamental changes during this period in Kazakhstan, which allows us to compare these three cases undistorted.
Why three cases were chosen?
The best scenario for hypothesis test would be research across five cases, where each of the cases would demonstrate different levels of openness of the policy-making process. Still, all the cases would be located more or less equally on "minimum system openness - maximum system openness" scale. The limited timeframe envisioned, however, necessitates limiting the number of cases to three. This is the minimum needed to define "minimum", "average", and "maximum" on the scale.
(As it appears, more than five cases would not add any significant value to the research itself.)
3. How the results of the research might be utilized
Independent researchers and institutions have not yet acquired broad acceptance for their services in the policy formation process, either in Kazakhstan or in other Central Asian countries. The lack of qualified experts and researchers, underdeveloped policy-analysis methodology, lack of information, and unwillingness of policy-makers to collaborate with independent research centers top the list of reasons for this.
Furthermore, the notions such as "public policy", "the policy process", "policy-making" are fairly new in post-Soviet space. Academics, decision-makers and those who try to influence policy tend not to possess enough knowledge to constructively understanding or contribute to the goals, objectives and content of this process.
Thus, the results of this project could be used for:
- First, to broaden understanding of the mechanisms, goals and content of the policy process;
- Second, to facilitate development of policy analysis;
- Third, to design concrete recommendations and strategies to advance the policy decision-making process and policy issues based on the acquired results;
- Last, due to CAID`s range of activities, the results of the project can be disseminated and used among its academic network and a full range of policy-makers. Ideally, project results, including their usage and promotion, will trigger follow-up activities in Kazakhstan as well as other CA countries, thus leading to mutually-reinforcing cascades that increase the cooperation between and effectiveness of research institutes and state bodies alike.