Voices from Kazakhstan

nullWelcome to our latest round-up of blog posts and online discussions that took place in the Kazakhstani blogosphere in the last two weeks.

We start off with Russian-language neweurasia Kazakhstan blog. A new contributor from Karaganda Basil B. Akimov sheds light on another scandal in Kazakh healthcare. Karaganda prosecutor initiated a case against healthcare officials who allowed “Gospharm”, a company that did not comply with requirements for supply of medicines, to conduct medical activities in the region (RU). Read the English translation of the post here.

Irene of neweurasia went to a party organized by the most popular club in Karaganda, where DJ Kach from Almaty and the UK rapper Richie D played their music and promised “a hot night” to Karaganda clubbers (RU). The club invited journalists of Karaganda periodicals and TV channels to a press-conference and a party afterwards. The “hot night” did not happen though – people did not appreciate the guests’ performance, preferring usual pop-music, regrets Irene. She hopes that they will have a warmer reception in Almaty, where they were heading next.

English-language blogs noted several things about Kazakhstan: the failed launch of Russian rocket on Baykonur, which is being investigated now; Mathew Walker of Circus Diosa posts on Dick Cheney's visit to Kazakhstan, saying that the passion for petrolium made him take a recent quiet journey to the country of Kazakhstan; and Nathan of Registan.net discusses the RFE/RL report on claims that Kazakhstani planes delivered arms to Somalia militants:

It will be quite interesting to see who chartered the plane. Iranian involvement does not seem too far-fetched, and if that does in fact turn out to be the case, it may cause friction in Iranian-Kazakh relations and Iranian efforts to extend its influence elsewhere in Central Asia.

Basil B. Akimov decided to buy a flat in Karaganda, opened a newspaper with flat ads, and then the prospects of actually buying a flat became bleak … A 1-room flat costs $40 thousand, and the flat with 4 rooms can reach up to $120 thousand, writes Basil, while the average salary in September 2005 was 44.000 tenge (around $360). And this is just in Karaganda: Almaty and Astana real estate prices have long gone beyond all imaginable limits. Basil names the factors that contribute to this phenomenon: the interest of construction companies in keeping the prices high, the lack of domestic production of construction materials and the increase of demand due to migration. Also, people tend to invest in real estate since there is no alternative available, like, for instance, a stock market (RU).

It's easy to see just how important is the price of flat for young professionals in Kazakhstan. The Tsentr Tyazhesti forum features a topic on it, where some complain that with a salary of $700 (which is higher than the average), you cannot afford either buying a flat or even getting a mortgage , since if you do it, you won't be able to afford anything else but paying the interest rates for the next 20 years (RU).

The Almaty LJ user megakhuimyak had several interesting posts in the last few days (RU). About state budget: there are 4 donor regions in Kazakhstan – Atyrau, Mangistau, Aktobe regions and Almaty city, other regions are subsidized. The most subsidized is Astana city, which gets 53 billion tenge (440 million US dollars) from the state budget. About migration: the Russian migration police is so weak comparing to Kazakh – they just catch migrants and deport them, while they return back. Our police is different – a part of migrants are caught and deported, while most of them are sold into slavery to tobacco and cotton farms. And about diamonds, a girl's best friends: there are about 600 tons of gold along the rivers in Almaty region, according to Osipova of the Institute of Geology and 2 deposits of diamonds – in Kokshetau and Chu-Ili mountains.

The Kazakh government is creating an e-government system, which will be interactive by the end of 2006. While acknowledging its benefits for the increase of transparency and reduction of red tape, we still question some aspects of it on neweurasia (RU). How would it work together with the program on revival of Kazakh language? And how many people would be able to use the services of e-government, if only 3-4% of Kazakhstanis have access to Internet, according to Aidar Dauletov of «Microsoft» in Kazakhstan and Central Asia?

Basil B. Akimov of neweurasia tells in a fairy tale style about opposition politician Bolat Abilov accussed of insulting a policeman 9 months ago (RU). Indeed, it seems unreal that about 40 witnesses were invited to the trial, many journalists among them, who could not tell much about the incident, where Abilov allegedly said that the policeman had only one convolution, which was pressed by his hat.

Ben of neweurasia reports that “Kazakhstan aims to diversify its energy sources and has long flirted with the idea to build a nuclear plant. This comes despite the pivotal role protests against nuclear testing took during perestroika”. In another post on Kazakhstan Neweurasia Ben wonders whether business with and in Kazakhstan is portrayed too positively.

Kazakh companies are becoming more aggressive on the domestic market. Petro Kazakhstan and British Gas are the names of two international corporations that were, at least partly, driven out of the emerging market to make space for aspiring Kazakh global players, first of all KazMunaiGaz.

The 101almatinec (101 Almaty residents) Livejournal Community offers condolences after the tragic death in a car accident of Baglan Sadvakasov, a guitar player of A-Studio, a Kazakh band that was then based in Russia but always loved in Kazakhstan.

“Lebanon vs Israel – why doesn't anyone write about the war?” wonders rabotchi (RU) on the Centr Tyazhesti forum. koreetz informs (RU) that the US Embassy has invited one of the Kazakh journalists to live in the UN headquaters in Lebanon together with the peacekeeping forces. He thinks it's an honourable task, but no one of his colleagues knows how to behave in extreme situations, since the “extreme journalism” in Kazakhstan is limited to the coverage of the elections. The reaction is different: that he should not go, should not believe the good intentions of the US embassy or that it's a joke altogether.

Rilliyah, a girl from Kazakhstan, now living in Israel, explains (RU) the attitude of the Israeli people to the conflict:

У подавляющего большинство обычных израильтян довольно простой взгляд и на “военную машину своего государства” и на прочие прелести. И взгляд этот вполне понятен: они, как и любые нормальные люди, хотят жить спокойно. Просто жить. Они не хотят воевать, они не хотят, чтобы от их рук гибли другие люди, и они очень не хотят отправлять своих детей на войну. Но если требуется защищать себя, свою семью, свой народ и свое государство – то они будут защищать. И молиться, чтобы все поскорее закончилось, чтобы родные не погибли, а дети вернулись с границы живыми и здоровыми. Также как и нормальные люди по ту сторону границы.

Most ordinary Israelis have rather simple views on a “war machine” of their state, and it's understandable, they want a calm life, just like all other people. They don't want to fight, to see other people die, and they really don't want to let their children go to war. But if they do have to defend themselves, their families, their people and their state – then they will. And they will pray it ends soon, and their relatives don't die and their children return from the borders alive and well. Just like other normal people on the other side of the border”.

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