October 15, 2013 / 3:08 PM / 6 years ago

Former Kazakh central bank chief sees continuity despite his abrupt exit

* Says departure a personal decision

* Disagrees on pensions grab

* Rules himself out as Nazarbayev successor

By Kiryl Sukhotski and Douglas Busvine

MOSCOW, Oct 15 (Reuters) - Monetary policy in Kazakhstan will not change course despite the abrupt exit of former central bank head Grigory Marchenko, who insisted that he left the job for family reasons and played down a row over pensions reforms.

Marchenko, whose career has spanned policymaking and the private sector, told Reuters on Tuesday he had handed in a resignation letter to President Nursultan Nazarbayev in July.

Only the timing of his departure, on Oct. 1, came as a surprise, he said in an interview with Reuters Television during a visit to Moscow.

“I agreed to do the job for two to two-and-a-half years and spent four years and nine months there,” said the 53-year-old technocrat, who has been linked in recent years to the top jobs at the International Monetary Fund and the Russian central bank.

“It’s part of the cyclicality of my life and career,” said Marchenko, who served two terms as National Bank governor and in other roles was an architect of the ex-Soviet state’s financial and pensions systems.

He was replaced by Deputy Prime Minister Kairat Kelimbetov, who has championed the de facto nationalisation of the country’s private pension funds.

Marchenko said he had disagreed with the pensions move, while a delay in equalising the retirement age for men and women to 2018 would add $7.5 billion to the cost of reforming the country’s retirement system.


Nonetheless, Marchenko predicted monetary policy continuity, noting that while he and Kelimbetov were not personal friends, they had worked together on the nine-member board of the central bank for the past two years.

“People tend to hold (central bank) governors personally responsible for what they do,” said the Moscow-educated economist. But, he added, “ninety-nine point nine percent of decisions are taken by consensus”.

The Kazakh economy is growing at a healthy rate of 5.5 percent, foreign direct investment is strong and inflation has been below 6 percent for several months, Marchenko noted. Barring external shocks that should continue.

Marchenko said he was now putting himself “out to tender” for a new job, as he did before going into the private sector in the late 1990s, when he worked for Deutsche Bank, and in 2004, when he took the helm at Halyk Bank.

Marchenko first served as an adviser to Nazarbayev’s team as long ago as 1992. Asked whether he might succeed the 73-year-old leader, who has run the oil-rich state of 17 million for more than two decades, Marchenko denied he had any political ambitions.

“Astana, as the administrative capital, is always about jostling. We (at the central bank) were never part of it - we were based in Almaty,” he said.

“Kazakhstan has a constitution. Whatever happens, there should be elections,” he added. “It’s clearly an issue. What is going to be the president’s decision - I don’t know. But I am clearly not part of that jostling.” (Writing by Douglas Busvine; Editing by Dmitry Solovyov)

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