24 мая 2024
Paolo Sorbello, photo from the Atyrau Region Emergency Service.

The Week in Kazakhstan: Wax On, Wax Off

Kulsary residents end a weeklong demonstration, oil workers continue to strike

The Week in Kazakhstan: Wax On, Wax Off

During a state visit to Singapore on May 24, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said that Kazakhstan will continue to advocate for a nuclear-free world. Tokayev also emphasized that “Kazakhstan’s commitment to a multilateral approach is unshakable.”

Around 200 people were evacuated on May 22 from Zhalgansai, a village in the Atyrau region, after a protective dam broke and emergency workers feared flooding. For two months now, Kazakhstan’s regions from east to west have faced massive floods, due to a sudden melting of the snow in the south of Russia and northern Kazakhstan. More than 4,000 hectares of agricultural land were flooded in the Atyrau region alone.

Local residents in Kulsary, a town in the Atyrau region, concluded a weeklong protest outside the local government building on May 21. The residents had complained that the government had proposed an unfair compensation for the damages that their homes sustained after this year’s floods. Although their demands were not met, the residents decided to end the demonstration.

Dozens of workers at Zhalgyztobemunai told the press on May 21 they would continue to strike after being dismissed. The workers spoke from an oilfield in the Buzachi peninsula, around 240 kilometers north of Aktau, Mangistau’s regional capital. According to them, the company did not provide them an adequate way to obtain an industrial safety certificate and ultimately fired them on May 15.

Vietnam’s Sovico Group is nearing the final stages of a deal to purchase Qazaq Air, a small-sized airline company in Kazakhstan, the national holding company Samruk-Kazyna said on May 24. Attempts to sell Qazaq Air had failed repeatedly in the past, as Samruk-Kazyna tried to promote a privatization of some of its assets.

Qatar’s Lesha Bank bought Bereke Bank on May 21 for 65 billion tenge ($146 million). The ownership of Bereke, the former subsidiary of Russia’s Sberbank in Kazakhstan, passed to the national holding Baiterek in 2022, amid fears that Western sanctions would hinder its operations. After a rebranding and a change in management, Baiterek put Bereke on the market.

Almost 40% of new cars sold in Kazakhstan between January and April were of Chinese brands, the Automobile Union of Kazakhstan. This marks a significant jump, as the share of new Chinese cars sold in Kazakhstan stood at 15% in the same period last year.

The Majilis, the lower house of parliament, adopted on May 22 amendments that would soften punishment against tax and customs duties evasion. While the aim is to take these provisions outside the Criminal Code, the proponents of the bill argued that administrative checks on economic crimes will be tightened.

The Supreme Court refused on May 21 to consider a judicial claim against the Astana mayor’s office for banning a Pride rally. Nurislam Kalikhbayev, a local activist, saw his applications to hold a rally for LGBT+ rights rejected 10 times by the local government and decided to take them to court. According to Kalikhbayev, the Supreme Court came to its decision after “just a couple of minutes of deliberation.”

Yerulan Zhamaubayev was appointed on May 20 advisor to the president. During his recent tenure as minister of finance, Zhamaubayev received criticism for his hesitant approach towards public disclosure of officials’ tax returns. In our #DubaiUnlocked project, we showed just how important it is for the public to be aware of the wealth that some politically-exposed people have accumulated while in office.