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Kazakhstan: The Axe-Man Cometh

7 Aug

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.

Kazakhstan: It’s a Clan Thing

20 May

Kazakhstan is positioning itself as wannabe modern democratic state, but in reality life in the country is still underpinned by the zhuz or clan system. This system dates back to the 16th or 17th century and ethnic Kazakhs belong to one of of three clan groupings – the Uly (Senior) Zhuz, the Orta (Middle) Zhuz and the Kishi (Junior) Zhuz.

The clans are further sub-divided into a number of tribes and this provides a network for members of the same tribe to help each other get ahead in life The clans also play an important role in politics, with a number of cabinet ministers hailing from the same clan grouping as President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the Uly Zhuz.

The Uly Zhuz traditionally inhabited the areas around Almaty in the south-east of Kazakhstan, while the Orta Zhuz is located in the north and centre of the country. The Kishi Zhuz inhabits the oil-rich west of Kazakhstan.

Check out this informative graphic for an overview of the clan and tribal system in Kazakhstan. For more on the influence of clans in the political arena, Kazaxia recommends these academic works by Edward Schatz – Modern Clan Politics: The Power of “Blood” in Kazakhstan and Beyond and Sally Cummings  Kazakhstan: Power and the Elite.