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Kazakh Report: April 9, 2003


9 April 2003

REPUBLICAN PEOPLE PARTY OF KAZAKHSTAN AND SOLDAT NEWSPAPER'S EDITORS HOLD ROUNDTABLE ON 'KAZAKHGATE'
On April 9, the editors of the opposition newspaper "SolDAT" held a round table discussion of the bribery scandal in which Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbaev, his closest associates and members of his family are allegedly implicated. The round table discussion was held at the office in Almaty of the Republican People's Party of Kazakhstan RPPK).

Interest to the three-year old scandal, known in Kazakhstan as Kazakhgate, has risen again after a former economic advisor to President Nazarbaev, U.S. citizen James Giffen, was arrested at New York's Kennedy airport on March 30. Mr. Giffen was officially charged with involvement in illegal financial operations through which U.S. oil giants funneled millions of dollars to senior Kazakh officials as bribes in order to gain access to Kazakhstan's enormous oil resources.

Although no concrete names were cited in the majority of Western media's reports about the case, some media outlets, including the "San Francisco Chronicle," the BBC and others, reported that it was likely President Nazarbayev and former Kazakh Premier Nurlan Balghymbayev played key roles in the affair.

"SolDAT" Editor-in-Chief Ermurat Bapi told RFE/RL on 9 April that the aim of holding the round table was to give more information about Kazakhgate to ordinary citizens of Kazakhstan. RPPK Executive Board Vice Chairman Amangeldy Kerimtay said that almost no media outlets in Kazakhstan were covering the latest developments in the scandal. He added that information about Kazakhgate should be transparent and available for all the population of Kazakhstan.

According to Gulzhan Ergaliyeva, a member of the Political Council of the opposition movement Democratic Choice for Kazakhstan, the latest developments coincided with President Nazarbaev's address to the nation. She said that it is impossible to trust what President Nazarbayev said in his address in the light of the arrest of his former advisor Giffen and other information in foreign media.

KAZAKH PARLIAMENT DISCUSSES POSSIBLE CHANGES TO LAWS ON WATER RESOURCES
Kazakh Minister of Agriculture Akhmetzhan Esimov acquainted members of the Mazhilis (the lower chamber of Kazakhstan's Parliament) with the draft law on amendments to the law on water resources. Kazakhstan's law on water resources, known as Water Code, was adopted in 1993, and Esimov argued that it should be revised and amended. He proposed that some natural water resources, namely rivers and lakes, should be privatized. Mazhilis members were very reluctant to approve that proposal. Serikbolsyn Abdildin, who is First Secretary of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan, and Valerian Zemlianov, who represents the Communists of Oral, North Western Kazakhstan, said that the possible privatization of water resources should be discussed only after the final decision is made on the privatization of land. Parliament adopted the law on land privatization in the first reading last month , and it is expected to be discussed soon by the Senate (the upper chamber of Parliament). Land privatization is an extremely sensitive issue and has been under discussion for over three years.

Agriculture Minister Esimov told the Mazhilis that the amendments to the law on water resources should be adopted as soon as possible because doing so would help Kazakh economy to continue to develop successfully.

CHAIRMAN OF KAZAKHSTAN'S CENTRAL BANK PROMISES MORTGAGE SYSTEM WILL DRASTICALLY IMPROVE SOON
Central Bank Chairman Grigoriy Marchenko told the Mazhilis on April 9 that by next year the annual interest rate on mortgages fall to 10 per cent from the current level charged by banks of 15-20 percent. Marchenko also said that mortgages will be given for 10 years, instead of the present 3-4 years.

According to Marchenko, the population of Kazakhstan can be divided into four groups. The first group, he said, consists of Kazakh citizens who do not need any kind of mortgage and who own three or more apartments, houses or summer houses. The second group is represented by people who are able to obtain a mortgage to buy a luxurious modern apartment and pay it back in 3-4 years. The third group is those who are able to take mortgages for purchase of average houses or apartments and pay off their debt in 10 years. And the last group, said Marchenko, is those Kazakh citizens who are not able either to obtain a mortgage or to pay back their debts to the banks. "Whether we like it or not, such a category of people lives in our country and we have to take care of them," Marchenko said.

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