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11 ноября 2022
Paolo Sorbello, photo Goodman Ecology & Evolution Lab

The Week in Kazakhstan: Presidential Debates and Dead Seals

Tokayev goes to Samarkand for a summit of Turkic States, the National Fund increases spending

The Week in Kazakhstan: Presidential Debates and Dead Seals

Kazakhstan’s state TV hosted the first public debates among presidential candidates running for the November 20 elections. Incumbent President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev did not take part in the debates as he flew to Samarkand, Uzbekistan to attend the summit of the Organization of Turkic States on November 11.

This past week, just two days after the Senate’s approval, Tokayev signed new laws based on recent amendments to the Constitution which would create a new Constitutional Court, reform the Prosecutor-General Office, and strengthen the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman on Human Rights. In addition, he also visited the Mangistau and Atyrau regions in the west of the country.

In Atyrau, due to repair works at a refinery, supplies of LPG fuel decreased by 35%, angering motorists. On November 10, the authorities ordered a special shipment of LPG from the neighboring Aktobe region.

The Parliament approved on November 10 a proposal to increase budget spending for the next three years, including a $63 million increase just for 2023. The Central Bank said it transferred around $70 million from the National Fund to the state budget in the month of October. The government has used National Fund reserves this year to prop-up the local currency and to weather the economic crisis.

Two high-level court cases had their first hearing on November 7. Karim Massimov, the former head of the National Security Committee, is facing trial at a court in Astana on charges of high treason related to the January Events. Massimov’s court hearings will be closed to the public. Zhanbolat Mamai, recently sent from pre-trial detention to house arrest, is being tried in Almaty for organizing an illegal rally in February.

On November 9, Samruk-Kazyna, the country’s sovereign wealth fund and largest holding, said it plans to privatize up to 15.4% of the national oil and gas company Kazmunaigas. Days earlier, the Fund had said it would sell up to 5% of the company through a planned IPO. The official prospectus would set Kazmunaigas’ market capitalization at around $11 million.

The National Competition Agency recommended on November 7 that Air Astana sold its shares in FlyArystan, a low-cost airline, and that Samruk-Kazyna sold off its shares in Qazaq Air. The government is also planning to sell the shares it owns in Air Astana through an IPO in the near future.

Repairs at a marine loading terminal at Novorossiysk, a Russian port on the Black Sea, should conclude by the end of the week, prime minister Alikhan Smailov told the press on November 10. The Caspian Pipeline Consortium, which transports around 80% of Kazakhstan’s oil exports, uses marine terminals at Novorossiysk to load crude onto barges.

The Central Asian Institute for Ecological Research said on November 7 that it recovered the carcasses of more than 100 seals on the Caspian Sea shore near Fort-Shevchenko in the Mangistau region. The death of Caspian seals is a long-term problem linked to pollution and climate change. Since the beginning of the year, officials have recorded more than 200 deaths among the shrinking seal population.