Kazakhstan’s president, Nursultan Nazarbaev, has made his strongest attack yet on nepotism and corruption. In a January 7 speech devoted to his "Kazakhstan — 2030" program, Nazarbaev vowed to block off opportunities for the abuse of public office for private gain. He said the state would soon have two new weapons in its arsenal. The first is a new law "On the Fight Against Corruption," drafted by Igor Rogov, a former judge who now acts as presidential advisor. The bill is expected soon to be adopted by parliament. The second weapon is to be a new anti-corruption agency, which, Nazarbaev threatened, would be empowered to launch its activities on the basis of a list — in the president’s possession — of state officials who profited illegally from privatization. (Delovaya nedelya, January 9)
The corruption issue leapt to prominence last December with the presentation to parliament of the law on combating corruption. Rogov told a press conference on December 12 that the aim of the bill is to stamp out nepotism among state officials. Every official will be required, on entering office, not only to take a solemn oath not to accept bribes, but also to make a full declaration of his income and that of his spouse or other family members. The bill even aims to outlaw gambling by state officials to avoid large losses inciting bribery. (Xabar TV News, December 19)
Nazarbaev’s promise to clean up corruption in high places will be welcome news for ordinary Kazakhstani citizens and for foreign businessmen and investors. In practice, however, it is unlikely to be achieved easily. Doubtless some officials will be found and made an example of (as was then minister of the economy, Mars Urkumbaev, back in 1994). But nepotism has deep roots throughout Central Asia and it will be hard to uproot. The threat of dismissal is itself an incentive to accumulate. In any case, Nazarbaev is unlikely to allow a sweeping reshuffle of government ranks prior to October, 1998, the deadline he has given to Prime Minister Nurlan Balgimbaev to implement a number of presidentially-mandated programs.
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