Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said he’ll write off bad loans held by a sixth of the central Asian country’s population, while signaling a sharp change in policy to end costly state bailouts of private banks.
The loan-forgiveness program is Tokayev’s first major policy announcement since he was elected president on June 9 in a choreographed transfer of power that began when longtime leader Nursultan Nazarbayev stepped down as head of state in March. His victory was met with rare and widespread protests.
Bank bailouts are also a sensitive issue in Kazakhstan, which has been mired in a decade-long crisis in which the government has pumped at least $18 billion into lenders to keep the sector from collapsing under the weight of bad debts. The central bank is conducting a review of asset quality, prompting speculation that a new round of bailouts may be in the works.
“My attitude is that there should be no governmental bailouts” for lenders, Tokayev, 66, said in an interview Tuesday in the capital, Nur-Sultan. “My assessment of this issue as a president is that the government should not get involved any more, any longer, with its loans as far as private banks are concerned.”