Amid Chinese expansionism, Kazakhstan passes law banning the sale and rental of agricultural land
Update: May 15, 2021 11:40 PM STI
Almaty [Kazakhstan], May 15 (ANI): Kazakhstan passed a law on Thursday banning the sale and rental of farmland to foreigners and foreign companies amid growing expansionism from China to appropriate farmland to feed its growing population.
Paul Bartlett, writing in Nikkei Asia, said the law, which was approved under pressure from opposition groups to do so, is a stricter amended version that dropped a proposal to allow leasing of forests to l foreigner up to 25 years old, an exception that had irritated critics. .
The government hopes the legislation will tackle an issue that has been a thorn in the side of authorities for years: fears that foreign powers, namely China, will take over the country.
In April 2016, the government proposed legislation to simplify the process of selling land to private owners through a series of auctions. The idea was to open up the agricultural sector to investors and develop it.
In response, people took to the streets to protest what they saw as a backdoor way to sell Kazakhstan land to international buyers, Bartlett wrote.
The protests culminated with rallies across the country – the biggest protests Kazakhstan has seen since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. More than 1,000 protesters have been arrested, Nikkei Asia reported.
The reaction angered then-President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who ordered a five-year moratorium on the issue, a freeze that was due to expire at the end of 2021. In February, President Kassym-Jomart Kemeluly Tokayev offered to consecrate the prohibition in law.
After some hiccups in April, when protesters took to the streets again over the logging concession, the law was amended in parliament and ultimately approved by Tokayev.
The question of land ownership is extremely sensitive in Kazakhstan and is always a safe bet to stir up nationalist passions. The traumas of the 20th century saw first Russian colonizers and then their Soviet successors destroying the nomadic way of life of ethnic Kazakhs by seizing their ancestral roaming lands.
These movements left millions of ethnic Kazakhs dead or displaced from the land that had formed the backbone of their existence.
Fears of Chinese expansionism remain, as illustrated by the plans for new protests against investment in the world’s second largest economy.
With a rare victory over the authorities on the forestry issue, opposition activist Zhanbolat Mamay, leader of the unregistered Kazakhstan Democratic Party, urged his supporters to come out on Saturday.
“We warn the authorities that the land will never be sold or rented to foreigners. We have to say this not only on social networks, but also in the square,” Mamay said in a Facebook post calling for a rally in the Place de la Republic in Almaty, The commercial hub of Kazakhstan.
“If we had remained silent the other time, the law allowing foreigners to exchange land would have been passed,” he added.
Kazakhstan remains keen to develop its agricultural sector as a way to wean itself from being too dependent on its natural resources. It is the ninth largest country in the world in terms of land mass, and around 75 percent of its territory is considered suitable for agriculture, but only around 30 percent is currently used productively.
But a conundrum remains for its leaders: how to reconnect with the public and reassure them about external relations in order to unleash the country’s untapped potential, Nikkei Asia reported. (ANI)