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Dollar peg advocate named Kazakhstan's economic reform czar

Kitco News

ALMATY, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Kairat Kelimbetov, a former Kazakh central banker known for briefly pegging the Central Asian nation’s currency to the dollar, was named on Monday as head of a newly established strategic planning and reform agency.

Kelimbetov, 51, has also served as economy minister, presidential chief of staff and chief executive of oil-rich Kazakhstan’s sovereign wealth fund. He has retained his position as the governor of Astana International Financial Centre, a government-sponsored investment hub.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said this month he was establishing the agency to map out long-term reform plans and oversee state statistics.

Kelimbetov, who chaired the central bank in 2013-2015, annoyed many in the Kazakh financial establishment with radical changes such as scrapping a system of competing private pension funds and pegging the local tenge currency to the dollar.

The central bank abandoned the peg soon after Kelimbetov’s departure in 2015 as the tenge came under pressure from plunging oil prices.

However, President Tokayev, who came to power in 2019 with the backing of his predecessor, veteran leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, has supported the introduction of limited currency controls such as mandatory foreign exchange sales by state companies.

Tokayev has also urged the authorities to ensure greater exchange rate stability in order to attract investment. On Monday, he also named the members of the reform council designed to review the new agency’s proposals.

The list includes Suma Chakrabarti, the former president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and Timur Kulibayev, Nazarbayev’s billionaire son-in-law who leads a powerful business lobby group. (Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov Editing by Gareth Jones)

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