MOSCOW -- Kazakhstan's president fired the government Thursday over what he called its failure to raise living standards and diversify away from oil and gas in the Central Asian nation.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who has ruled since the country became independent after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, said he will soon propose "a range of measures to strengthen social welfare and raise people's quality of life."
Nazarbayev said the focus will be on more support for the poor, improving living conditions and regional development. Poor families, he said, are seeing stagnant incomes and spending more of their earnings on food.
"In many areas of the economy, despite many laws being passed and decisions of the government, positive changes have not been achieved," he said.
The announcement follows a wave of protests by Kazakh women calling for more financial support for children and safer housing after a fire in which five children died. The mayor of the capital city, Astana, was heckled last week when he addressed a meeting of mothers with large families, before some of the women took to the stage to present their own demands.
An interim administration will be led by Askar Mamin, who previously held the post of first deputy prime minister, until a new government is appointed. Hours before Nazarbayev's address, Mamin had called in a statement for a "more aggressive and proactive" trade policy to help Kazakhstan boost its exports.
The installation of the new government is unlikely to face any serious legislative opposition since Nazabayev's Nur Otan party holds an overwhelming majority in parliament. The previous prime minister, Bakytzhan Sagintayev, had held office since 2016.
Kazakhstan's oil wealth has enabled the country to build a glittering new capital in Astana, which has developed rapidly over the last two decades. It held an international Expo in 2017 and narrowly missed out on the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. However, the wealth rarely reaches often remote towns and villages.