RED CROSS SURVEY DEPICTS POVERTY IN KAZAKHSTAN.
Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 217
On November 12 at a press conference in Almaty, the International Federation of the Red Cross reported that approximately 73 percent of Kazakhs live below the government-defined poverty line of $50 per person per month. (Reuter, November 12) The Red Cross reached this conclusion on the basis of a vulnerability study that it conducted in February and March among households of seven representative regions. Over half of the respondents said they were malnourished, while 11 percent of children in the republic were not attending school because they lacked adequate shoes and winter clothes. The study expressed a "serious concern that a whole generation group of illiterate people is being created during the economic transformation." (International Federation of the Red Cross, Kazakhstan Vulnerability Survey: Executive Outline, 1997, p.2)
There were no ministers present at the press conference, although the Deputy Minister for Labor and Social Protection, Valentina Siryukova, did attend, as did the former president of Kazakhstan’s first Independent Trade Union Movement. Erzhan Utembaev, head of the Strategic Planning Committee under the President and one of the President’s most able administrators in frequent contact with the international community in Almaty, was willing to answer questions, but no official statement has yet followed. Siryukova’s husband, Leonid Solomin, President of the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Kazakhstan, stated that the poverty was the direct result of unhampered privatization without regard to workers’ rights and without the encouragement of small and medium-sized enterprises (Monitor interview, November 14; and Karavan, November 7)
Thorir Gudmundsson, the Federation’s Almaty-based spokesman, concluded by launching an appeal to help clothe and feed 600,000 impoverished Kazakhs hit by the transition. The survey’s results suggest a disjuncture between reality in Kazakhstan and the rosy picture of foreign investment painted by some multilateral organizations. Only a week earlier, at a donor meeting held in the capital, the principal economist at the EBRD, Christof Ruehl, told a news conference that "foreign direct investment is higher [in Kazakhstan] than anywhere else in the CIS in per capita terms and is the fifth largest in the region."(Reuter, November 6) Kazakhstan’s finance minister, meanwhile, stated that inflation for 1997 would be stabilized at between 13 and 14 percent. The average citizen, however, wonders to what use foreign investment has been put. Meanwhile, on the UNDP’s Human Development Index, Kazakhstan has dropped from 54th place in 1993 and 72nd in 1996 to 93rd in 1997.
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