Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 110

The authorities of Kazakhstan’s Almaty region are urging citizens to “voluntarily lend” their gold and other jewelry, as well as hard currency, to the state as a means of helping the economy. Lenders are being given receipts and promises that the assets will be returned with interest after several years. The People’s Bank is authorized to run the scheme, labeled “Golden Fund-Golden Deposits.” Regional governor Zamanbek Nurkadilov and other officials are spearheading the campaign on state television under the slogan, “Help in Difficult Times.”

The Almaty regional authorities aim to provide a challenge to other regions to join in the campaign. Such “challenges”–often officially inspired–represent a traditional Soviet method for local and regional authorities to curry favor with the central political leadership. Many assume that the initiative originates from the presidential administration, though its officials have not come out with public endorsements of the campaign thus far.

Although lending is voluntary, some chiefs of state enterprises and organizations are compiling lists of potential lenders and setting the size of contributions. Those targeted in this manner include state employees of all types who are owed back wages. Meanwhile, some senior state officials–notably National Bank Chairman Katyrzhan Damitov–have disassociated themselves from the campaign. Critics point out that such “loans” are poorly secured, that the intended use of the collected valuables is unclear and that no mechanisms exist to prevent embezzlement of the assets by corrupt officials (AP, Itar-Tass, June 5, 6).

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