14 декабря 2023
Vyacheslav Abramov, photo from akorda.kz

The Minister’s Art of Deception

Minister of Finance Zhamaubayev is oblivious as to why officials’ tax returns should be public

The Minister’s Art of Deception

When asked when income declarations of public officials (including his own) would be published, minister of finance Yerulan Zhamaubayev gave a sly answer, as he had done many times before.

“Regarding the publication of everyone’s declarations, I believe that the norm should be the same for everyone, whether they are civil servants, individual entrepreneurs, businessmen, or students,” Zhamaubayev said.

Minister Zhamaubayev is obviously disingenuous. He simply cannot ignore the significant difference between the declaration of income by ordinary citizens and public officials.

The publication of declarations of every citizen is not at all a mandatory norm. Their declarations should become public only once they enter power - executive or representative.

Election commissions, for example, collect and carefully check declarations of candidates for deputies, but do not make them public, which is illogical: election commissions know what future deputies own, but citizens - who are supposed to vote for them - do not.

The income declarations of public officials and their relatives should be made available to the public for a simple reason: citizens have the right to know that a minister or deputy received such and such income per year, be it their salary, bonus or interest on a deposit, that they own an apartment, a car, or a villa In Dubai. If an official has saved all his life for this villa or earned money for it before coming to power, then there is nothing wrong or criminal.

If the spouse of an official owns ten villas in Dubai and a multi-billion dollar business, citizens also have the right to know this and ask the public official questions about the origin of the funds. The same goes for the prosecutor's office.

Dozens of ministers, governors, and other senior public officials have been convicted of corruption in the last couple of decades. They took bribes, transferred money outside the country, and opaquely acquired assets. All this was only out in the public domain as a result of investigations.

No-one is so naive to think that officials declaring income and expenses would stop corruption overnight, but this can become an important step in this fight. And yet, the long struggle, first for the introduction of declarations, and now for their publicity, constantly fails.

The transparency of declarations by public officials is a necessary measure for which they must be prepared when entering public service. This is a simple lesson that should be taught in civil service schools, instead of all the master classes in deception that the finance minister continues to give the country.

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