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9 декабря 2022
Paolo Sorbello, photo from kmg.kz

The Week in Kazakhstan: Reshuffling and IPO Season Open

Astana has a new mayor, Kazmunaigas sells a 3% stake in local IPO

The Week in Kazakhstan: Reshuffling and IPO Season Open

Zhenis Kassymbek, the former governor of the Karaganda province, was appointed to the post of mayor of Astana on Thursday, replacing Altai Kulginov, who was named deputy prime minister the following day. The move, a typical of post-election reshuffling, is a career boost for both civil servants.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev flew to Bishkek on December 9 to meet the heads of state of the Eurasian Economic Union, an organization that includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Russia. In Kyrgyzstan’s capital, the heads of state held a meeting of the Union’s Economic Council.

Kazmunaigas, the state-owned oil and gas company, placed 3% of its shares in the local stock exchanges, raising a record $300 million. In the first day of trades, the share price increased by a few percentage points. Other state-owned companies have also said they want to launch their own IPOs in the coming months.

The Central Bank announced yet another increase for the base interest rate to 16.75%. Since the beginning of the year, the regulator has ordered six consecutive increases. In January, the base interest rate was set to 10.25%.

The financial regulator said it would allow local banks to accept payments by individuals via cards operating through the Russia-based MIR platform. The decision came after the US Treasury Department said it would not consider these transactions as sanction-busting. Being mostly carried by Russian citizens, however, regulators said they will closely monitor activities linked to MIR cards.

On December 8, the authorities suspended the state of emergency in Ekibastuz, a city 300 kilometers east of the capital where a power plant failure, accompanied by a seasonal cold snap, left residents at -30 degrees Celsius temperatures for about 10 days.

Two activists of the Oyan, Qazaqstan! movement rallied along a pedestrian street in Almaty on Sunday in solidarity with Ekibastuz residents. Lightly dressed, the activists wanted to draw attention to how cold it must have felt for their compatriots in the north. They were later detained by the police for staging an unsanctioned rally.

Asain Baikhanov was appointed to the post of governor of the Pavlodar region, where Ekibastuz is the second-largest city. He replaced caretaker Oleg Kruk, who took over from Abylkair Skakov on December 1, at the height of the heating crisis. The topic will be at the forefront of the ministerial meeting that Tokayev called for Monday, December 12.

As announced by the ministry of economy in November, Tokayev signed into law the extension of the “monitoring freeze” on small and medium enterprises until the end of 2023. The measure has been in place since January 2020.

A new draft law was voted in the Majilis, the country’s lower chamber, that would simplify the bureaucracy around the organization of labor strikes and strengthen the role of the “conciliation commission”. The International Labor Organization has often criticized Kazakhstan’s stringent rules that hinder freedom of assembly and the right to strike.

On December 5, local residents sent an official request to the authorities in the southern city of Taldykorgan to rename Nazarbayev Street into Taulesizdik (from Kazakh, ‘independence’) Street, its previous name. After former President Nursultan Nazarbayev resigned in 2019, local authorities decided to dedicate a central avenue to his name. In 2016, the city erected a monument in his honor and citizens took it down in January during country-wide protests.

Kazakhstan’s ministry of interior said the Czech authorities detained one of the top managers of Asia Auto - Bipek Auto in Prague. Wanted for large-scale fraud, the businessman could now face extradition to Kazakhstan. The ministry did not disclose the manager’s identity, but the case against the car manufacturer was opened already in 2021.

The Turkmen service of RFERL reported that hundreds of dead seals have reached the Caspian Sea shore in Turkmenistan over the past week, a figure that, paired with around 2,500 dead seals beached on the Russian side last week and about one hundred found along the coast of Kazakhstan in November, paints a frightening picture for the Caspian ecosystem. The Caspian seal population has shrunk significantly in the past decade.