Friday, September 22, 2006

Why is President Nazarbayev going after “Samruk”?

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Timur Kulibayev, son-in-law of President Nazarbayev and Deputy Director of the state holding company “Samruk.”

Yesterday, it was reported that President Nazarbayev had exposed what he considered to be grossly overpaid salaries of several bureaucrats working for state enterprises under the umbrella of “Samruk.” Nazarbayev spoke sternly as he named Khirat Karibjanov, the head of Kazakhstelekom, as receiving $365,000 a month, Kambar Shalgymbayev of the Kazakhstan Development Bank as receiving $100,000 a month and the head of “Samruk,” Saut Mynbayev, as receiving $34,000 a month. While Mynbayev spoke before parliament to explain the salaries and clarified that some of the numbers were smaller than stated, there is no doubt that this information is a shock to most Kazakhstanis who make some 1000 times less per month than those who were exposed. The question, of course, is why has Nazarbayev chosen the present moment to go after “Samruk.” “Samruk” was created earlier this year as a hallmark of a new Kazakhstani “corporate state” where state enterprises were to be run as successful businesses, invest abroad, and even be traded publicly on international markets. Most importantly, the deputy director of “Samruk” is none other than Timur Kulibayev, and it has been stated that Kulibayev runs the holding company in practice. For much of the last year, there has been speculation that Kulibayev is the favored member of Nazarbayev’s family politically and that he, or his person, may take over the mantle of President once Nazarbayev steps down. Does President Nazarbayev’s attack on “Samruk” signal a warning to Kulibayev to keep his political ambitions in check? Or is this merely an attempt to highlight anti-corruption efforts in advance of Nazarbayev’s trip to the west? If it is a warning to Kulibayev, it may also signal warning signs about the favored son-in-laws’ two largest upcoming projects, one officially announced and one rumored: the IPO offering of KazMunaiGas, of which Kulibayev is Director of the Board, and the rumored initiation of a new political party supported by Kulibayev.

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