President Nazarbayev returned to Kazakhstan from his July holidays as a man on a mission to trim back the excesses of his government’s bloated bureaucracy.
It must have been an uncomfortable experience for the government bigwigs assembled in Akorda, the president’s Astana HQ, as the axe fell repeatedly with ministries and agencies being culled and merged left, right and centre. After the dust had settled, Kazakhstan was left with 12 ministries from its former tally of 17.
Kazaxia has had a look at some of the main changes: the biggest shock was the merging of the Family Affairs and Nepotism ministries, bringing the bodies for providing jobs for clan and family members and other assorted hangers-on under one umbrella. This is set to cause some friction in the months ahead as former ministers scrabble to place their kith and kin in cushy numbers. It should be a bloody battle with the trough having been significantly downsized.
The Ministry of Privatisations was merged with the Nationalisation Ministry in a move that will effectively paralyse attempts by Astana to either buy or sell its ailing industrial base. The Corruption Agency was brought under the auspices of the Ministry for Investment to streamline procedures for investors.
The energy sector also saw major changes. The Agency for Renewable Energy was subsumed by the Ministry for Fossil Fuels to create a powerful lobby group for the extractive industries. Eco fanatics will be further enraged by the decision to place the Environmental Protection Agency under the wing of the Ministry for Urban Development. This should pave the way for controversial projects such as the Kok-Zhailau ski resort to proceed unhindered.
A saiga with psychic powers, located in a secret location somewhere on the steppe in Kazakhstan is predicting a victory for Argentina in the 2014 World Cup Final in Brazil.
A shaman contacted kazaxia about the psychic saiga – it points a horn at one of two lamb bones bearing an etching of the national flags of the competing teams to select the winner. The unnamed saiga predicts that Argentina will triumph over England in the final. Brazil and Germany will be the unlucky losing semi-finalists, with the Germans grabbing third place on penalties.
For the competition’s opening match between Brazil and Croatia the long-nosed antelope refused to select a bone, suggesting the game could be a draw. For more predictions you can follow @psychicsaiga on twitter.
Saigas, which are members of the antelope family, once roamed the Eurasian steppe from the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains and the Caucasus into Mongolia and Dzungaria. Their numbers are now critically endangered with herds restricted to areas of Kazakhstan, Russia, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
After Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan inked the Eurasian Economic Union treaty in Astana yesterday, observers have started to question whether the treaty is valid by raising concerns over territorial issues.
Lord Venal told kazaxia that Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in March, widely condemned by the international community, could result in complications for the fledgling economic union.
And then there were two?
“Kazakhstan has insisted that Armenia will be allowed to join this exclusive club only if it does so within its internationally-recognised borders thus excluding the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh,” Lord Venal told kazaxia.
“This decision could have serious implications for Russia as it has illegally-occupied sovereign Ukrainian land. This could mean Crimea being excluded from the Union or even Russia having to leave the bloc,” he continued.
This would leave Belarus and Kazakhstan as the leading lights of Eurasian integration. The possible inclusion of Armenia and Kyrgyzstan would be unlikely to make up for the loss of Russia’s economic clout.
Abkhazia, a largely unrecognised breakaway region of Georgia, has also been mooted as a potential member. Doctor Gött, of the Gött Institute of Serious Thinking (GIST) thought it highly improbable that Abkhazia would be able to join the union.
“It’s not even a real country, is it?” he told kazaxia. “The actual details of the [Eurasian Economic Union] treaty have not been made public but I’m sure there’s no provision for including pretend countries”.
Doctor Gött suggested that if Russia were to be kicked out and these other countries (even pretend ones) were allowed in then KABAK (marrow or courgette) could be a suitable acronym for the grouping.
With the upcoming presidential elections in Ukraine, kazaxia has concocted this piece to celebrate Vladimir Putin’s recent visit to Sevastopol, occupied Crimea.
Legend has it that when Queen Margherita of Italy visited Naples in 1889 a pizza was prepared for her in the colours of the Italian flag using tomatoes, basil and mozzarella cheese. Recently this tradition was revived in Crimea following Vladimir Putin’s triumphant entry to Sevastopol on May 9, with a local entrepreneur creating the Sevastopol Shit Sandwich in honour of the visit and the annexation of Crimea by Russia.
The sandwich consists of chunks of tushonka, canned stewed meat, topped with horizontal stripes of mayonnaise, a Crimean blue sauce made from blue cheese, blueberries and sour cream, and tomato ketchup, representing the Russian flag, placed between two slices of bread.
Kazaxia is sure that this delicacy will be on offer to Russian holiday-makers this summer all over Europe and beyond as a reminder of the illegal annexation by Putin and his cronies of another country’s sovereign territory.
On a rising tide of intolerance in Kazakhstan, an anti-gay splinter group calling itself Aulbaylar (Village People), representing traditional Kazakhstani rural values, has threatened to target marriage.
“The vast majority of gays and lesbians were brought up in the traditional nuclear family environment so we plan to build walls around zags [registry office] buildings and put a stop to this pernicious institution of marriage,” a spokesperson for Aulbaylar told kazxaia.
The spokesperson pointed out that conventional marriages are by far the main contributor to rising numbers of gay and lesbian people on planet earth.
This latest threatened wall-erection comes a week after a group built a wall in front of a gay club in the commercial capital to protest same-sex marriage – a strange thing to do as same-sex weddings do not exist in Kazakhstan.
Kazaxia asked Doctor Gött of The Gött Institute of Sexology to verify these claims about the link between homosexuality and marriage.
“Statistics prove that you are far more likely to be gay or lesbian if brought up by a heterosexual married couple rather than a same-sex one. The arguments about gay adoption and same-sex marriage simply don’t wash,” Gött told kazaxia by email.
More top-level meetings are taking place in Moscow as the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan talk with other possible member states about the expanding Eurasian Economic Union project. The sides are believed to be trying to come up with an acronym for the regional grouping.
Kazakhstan is said to favour KRB while Belarus is said to be leaning towards BRK. Russia has proposed Armenia be fast-tracked into the fledgling economic union to bring a much-needed vowel to the possible acronyms. Kazaxia likes the sound of BARK, other observers are keen on KRAB.
This ‘A’ is a significant development as ‘U’ is currently off the agenda as it doesn’t look like Ukraine or Uzbekistan will be joining any time soon, and Azerbaijan won’t join anything that involves its arch rival Armenia.
Further complications could be on the horizon as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are possible contenders for membership. It is not clear where these letters would go. Syria is an outside bet for inclusion in this intercontinental economic club – an ‘S’ is always useful, as any scrabble player knows.