6 октября 2023
Paolo Sorbello, photo by Yakov Fedorov (Wikimedia Commons)

The Week in Kazakhstan: Not Now

The government wants to control the saiga antelope population, landmark projects are postponed.

The Week in Kazakhstan: Not Now

The completion of a landmark project to expand operations at the Tengiz oil field in western Kazakhstan was postponed for another six months, minister of energy Almasadam Satkaliyev said on October 4. The project, initially billed at $37 billion, should have reached its final phase by 2022. Now, the completion date is scheduled for mid-2024.

During the same press conference, Satkaliyev also noted that the start of gas transit from Russia to Uzbekistan via Kazakhstan’s pipelines will start from the end of October, not from the first day of the month, as previously planned.

During a conference in Astana on October 3, minister of ecology Yerlan Nysanbekov said he had “not heard” of a methane leak in Mangistau. A massive methane leak has been recorded by independent geospatial analysts since early June at a gas exploration field operated by Buzachi Neft, and it is still ongoing. “Where is that? I just took office,” the minister told Vlast. Nysanbekov was appointed on September 5.

The Central Bank cut on October 6 the base interest rate by 50 basis points, to 16%. By slashing the value of reference for financial transactions, the Central Bank signaled that the pressure from inflation is under control. On October 2, the Statistics committee said the year-on-year inflation rate stood at 11.8%.

Nurlan Baibazarov was appointed as the new CEO of state holding Baiterek on October 5. Baibazarov took the post previously held by Kanat Sharlapayev, who was named minister of industry in early September. Baibazarov previously headed Development Bank of Kazakhstan, a subsidiary of Baiterek.

More than 500 trucks and vans lined up at three border crossings between Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan on October 5. The Kyrgyz border service said this was a “seasonal increase in cargo traffic, typical of the autumn season”. In August, a similar border traffic jam involved hundreds of trucks for days at Kazakhstan’s southern border.

Ziuar Mirmanbetova, a Karakalpak activist, was released from a pre-trial detention center in Almaty on October 5. Along with four other activists, she was arrested a year ago after the unrest of July 2022 in the northern region of Uzbekistan. Three other activists were released, one is still in custody. Their lawyers applied for their recognition as political refugees, but Kazakhstan’s courts have so far rejected their requests.

Kazakhstan’s Senate approved on October 5 a law on the mutual exchange of personal information, part of an agreement between Kazakhstan and China to expedite the establishment of a visa-free regime between the two countries. The parties had signed an initial agreement on a visa-free regime in May.

Kyrgyz crime boss Kamchy Kolbaev was killed on October 4 during a special operation of the National Security Committee in Bishkek. In 2011, Kolbaev had been added to a US government list of wanted people, as a “a significant foreign narcotics trafficker”.

The ministry of ecology said on October 4 that it signed a decree to “control” the population of saiga antelopes. Questioned by Vlast, minister Nysanbayev could not clarify whether and how excess population would be eliminated “in an effort to protect crops and farmland”. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has repeatedly said in the past that saiga antelopes need to be protected and that killing saigas should be avoided.

If gasoline prices in Russia increase, that would have an effect on gasoline prices in the Kazakhstani market, Satkaliyev, the minister of energy, said during a press conference on October 4. Kazakhstan imports gasoline from Russia to meet its domestic demand. Satkaliyev also promised that remodeling at the country’s three refineries could soon make Kazakhstan less dependent on Russia.