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21 апреля 2023
Paolo Sorbello, photo from Almaty akimat press service.

The Week in Kazakhstan: Walk This Way

Tokayev dictates the government’s line at a meeting, utility and fuel prices grow

The Week in Kazakhstan: Walk This Way

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev conducted a meeting with the government, MPs, city administrators and local legislators in Astana on April 19. During his speech, Tokayev focused on socio-economic issues. He also ordered that mayors and local administrators “went across their cities on foot” to pay attention to the most pressing urban issues.

At the meeting, Tokayev also said that the ongoing increases in utility and fuel prices are supposed to create the means to conduct a significant modernization of the existing infrastructure. This measure is yet another proof that the government stands on the side of utility and fuel producers and retailers, argues this week’s editorial. Last year, a spike in LPG prices in the west of Kazakhstan was the spark that ignited countrywide protests.

Tokayev also said that young people in the western Mangistau region “only want to work in the oil sector”. Because of the depletion of oil reserves in the region, however, Tokayev urged the government to create the conditions for a diversified economy in the region.

Laid-off oil workers from Mangistau who organized a protest last week in Astana met with representatives of the state-owned oil and gas company Kazmunaigas in the capital on April 18. The 10 worker representatives said they were not satisfied with the progress of the negotiations. On April 21, Kazmunaigas representatives flew to the oil town of Zhanaozen to hold talks with unemployed residents who have been demonstrating outside the building of the local subsidiary Ozenmunaigas for the past week.

In Mangistau, workers of the nuclear energy combine (MAEK) sent a video message to Tokayev on April 15, requesting the dismissal of management of the company and better working conditions. A state-owned utility company, MAEK since 2022 is controlled by the Mangistau regional administration.

Deputy prime minister and finance minister Yerulan Zhamaubayev refused to pronounce the “Nazarbayev family” as the ultimate beneficiary of companies that embezzled around 50 billion tenge from customs. On April 20, answering media questions on whether the companies involved in the scheme ultimately belonged to former President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s close relatives, Zhamaubayev said “you named them yourself”.

Finance minister Zhamaubayev also said that the government plans to submit a new Tax Code for legislative review in May. A new Tax Code should be adopted by 2025, the minister said, highlighting there will be changes in the ways value added tax and corporate income tax are calculated.

Senator Andrei Lukin said that thousands of foreign individuals work in Kazakhstan without a visa, causing damage to the state budget. On April 20, Lukin addressed a question to finance minister Zhamaubayev, saying that according to his calculation these individuals accrued a debt of at least 4 billion tenge.

Zhanel Shakhan, an activist of the Oyan, Qazaqstan! movement told Vlast on April 17 that two alleged representatives of the security services asked her to spy on her fellow activists for a monthly salary of 150,000 tenge ($330). The men approached Shakhan purportedly to buy her art, but then proposed a deal to inform on Oyan’s plans. Shakhan recorded the conversations and later published them online.

The West Kazakhstan police denied that criminal charges had been brought against journalist Lukpan Akhmediyarov, who was detained on April 12. A candidate for parliament, Akhmediyarov had called for a demonstration against the results of the March 19 elections and was put in jail on administrative charges for 15 days. On April 21, a colleague of Akhmediyarov’s shared a note on social media expressing fears that he would not be released on April 27 as scheduled.