Great Protest Potential against the Background of General Passiveness of the Kazakhstani Society

Analysis of public opinion polls regarding ecological problems



Attitude to ecology is the key to understand the entire society

Preparing for Atyrau public hearings devoted to ecological problems at Tengiz deposit, I came across very curious results of a public opinion poll on ecology conducted in 1999 in 27 countries of the world, including in Kazakhstan: �The Environmental Monitor. Global Public Opinion on the Environment. 1999 International Report� ( .

It is easy to come to a fundamental conclusion on the ecological situation in Kazakhstan in comparison with other countries, according to the polling results:

(i) When we are talking of theoretical issues such as �Would you agree to pay by n% more for a car to improve ecology?�, or �What do your prefer, favourable ecology or economic growth?� (I purposefully exaggerate questions), Kazakhstanis hardly differ from peoples in other countries, including Americans and Malaysians.

(ii) In questions criticising governments, industries and at the UNO, such as �Is your government doing a lot to improve ecology?� or ��industry doing a lot to improve ecology?�, Kazakhstanis are most ardent opponents. Such countries-outsiders as Argentine, Greece, Russia and Dominican Republic are beside us, on one hand. On the other hand, our society is ready to refer control (in this case � for ecology) to any international organisations. Here beside us are such corrupted countries as Indonesia, Nigeria, India and Italy.

(iii) As soon as we talk of necessity of real actions, of self-appraisal we find ourselves among outsiders at once. These are questions like �How much can each of us do to improve the situation?� (in this case � ecology), �Did you vote to protect? � (again � ecology) or �Are you collecting the information on this topic?�. This circle of questions includes such always �passive�, and if you want � uncivilised countries, as Egypt, Uruguay, Russia and Dominican Republic. Leaders in this circle of questions are, of course, Australia, Canada, the U.S.A. and Germany.

In fact, it seems to us conclusions that we can make regarding the ecological poll, could be spread to wider fields. We may judge the entire society by these data.

Theoretically we are the same as the world is

Maybe, the most �theoretical� question asked by authors of the poll was: Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree or strongly disagree with the following statement: �I would be willing to pay 10% more for car that had the size and features I wanted, but with a new kind of engine and fuel system that was much better for environment Diagram 1)�2 .

Everything is confused in this reply. By their �best aspiration for the light ecological future� the Italians and the Egyptians (93% and 92% respectively, those who are strongly �FOR� and somewhat �FOR�) are in the lead in this question, the Kazakhs (80%) are a bit behind theoretical nobility of the efficient Germans (83%) and Americans (83%). The Russians did not become detached (75%). Only the close-fisted Japanese (with their quantity of vehicles and congested cities) do not want to pay extra. They seem to be most frank.

It is obvious that Kazakhstanis were cunning when they replied to the question. It is enough to look at roads of our cities: I saw few either ecological pure cars or new ones.

Self-deception is an interesting occurrence. But let's shift to other things.


Crisis of trust in the Kazakhstani society in the light of ecological answers

We will cite some answers to the questions regarding the government, local industrialists and possibilities to refer the control to international organisations (I would say, to anyone, but not our own ones).

The Diagram 2 presents estimation of governments' ecological efforts by citizens of each country, as �very poor� and �poor�. Leaders are evident. I want to attract readers' attention to the fact that such country as Egypt �does not blend in� all the time in its estimations.

The Diagram 3 indicates trust to industrialists, and the Diagram 4 � to the UNO.

On the other hand (Diagram 5), we, along with Indonesians, Nigerians, Indians, Italians, Spanish, Greek, Turkish and Japanese people, are ready to hand over control for ecology to mythical international organisations.

As far as Kazakhstan is concerned, everything is quite clear: Kazakhstanis are obviously suffering from a deficit of trust to anyone inside the country, but are ready to transfer responsibility. In my opinion, this proves an evident crisis in the process of building of a new state of Kazakhstan.

Protesting, yet passive society

Diagrams 6 to 8 show respondents' real estimation and actions on ecological problems. This is not a theory already, if you are ready to pay tomorrow. This is what you have done today, or if you believe that you can change the situation yourselves. Kazakhstanis are among outsiders everywhere.


Gentlemen, you are free to make conclusions on your own.

Yet, we obviously cannot disregard the unprecedented fact of the Public Hearings held by Tengizchevroil to discuss the impact of the operations in Tengiz on local environment. It is for the first time in Kazakhstan's history that a major producer volunteers to openly discuss the poignant environmental problems of the region. Surveys of public opinion completed in Kazakhstan draw the general situation in the country as not favourable for an open dialogue. Will Tengizchevroil succeed in changing the attitude of the community, breaking through to a real partnership? The readers of THE GLOBE periodical are invited to stay in touch and track the developments.


1 In Kazakhstan BRIF agency conducted the poll on March 1 to 20, 199. 1,031 people were polled throughout the country. I am thankful to Alexander Ruzanov (BRIF agency), who kindly gave me an opportunity to get to know data of the international report.

2 Only owners of cars or drivers were polled.

Diagram 1

Willingness to Pay More for Environmentally Friendly Car

Engine & Fuel System (Subsample: Car Owners & Regular Users)

25a Do you strongly agree, somewhat disagree strongly disagree with the following statement:

I would be willing to pay 10% more for a car that had the size and features I wanted, but with a new kind of engine and fuel system that was much better for the environment.

Diagram 2

National Government's Performance in Addressing Environment Policy �Very Poor� or �Poor�

11at How would you rate the performance of [Insert Country] in addressing environmental problems? Is [Country] doing an excellent, good, poor or very poor job in addressing environmental problems?

Diagram 3

Performance of the U.N. in Addressing Environmental Policy

�Very Poor� or �Poor�

11bt How would you rate the performance of the United Nations in addressing environmental problems? Is the United Nations doing an excellent, good, poor or very poor job in addressing environmental problems?

Diagram 4

Give International Agency Authority Over National Environmental Policy

�Support� or �Oppose�

10t Would you strongly favor, somewhat favor, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose giving an international agency the authority to effect your government's policy in environmental important areas?

Diagram 5

Industry Working Hard to Ensure a Clean Environment 

�Strongly� + �Somewhat� Disagree 1997 � 1999

7c Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree with the following statement:

Companies and industries are now working hard to make sure we have a clean environment.

Diagram 6

There is Little Individuals Can Do About the Environment

�Strongly� + �Somewhat� Disagree 1998-1999

7d Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree or strongly disagree with the following statement:

Environmental pollution is such a big problem that there is very little the individual can do about it.

Diagram 7

Refused Packaging

�Have done� or �Considered Doing�

Gathered Information

�Have done� or �Considered Doing�

Diagram 8

Voiced Concern �Have Done� or �Considered Doing�

Kazakhstan and Putin's Russia: Together or just Beside


ALMATY, April 6

When Yeltsin transferred his power to Putin, it was not just a change of the Presidents, but a change of epochs.

The historical period 1985 to 2000 determined by tasks of the West to demolish the USSR; and of the communist elite � to privatise the Soviet heritage, has ended when they achieved these goals. The USSR and its military-industrial establishment have been �disassembled� so thoroughly that both the U.S.A. and Europe have headache due to the opposite reasons: how to avoid destabilisation of the post-Soviet space, and spreading aggressive fundamentalism, terrorism and drug Mafia.

Privatisation of the former Soviet republics has been also completed. Although constructing of the private-clan states has not been accomplished yet, as nowhere, except Russia the problem of power inheritance has been settled, the main process objectively demanded disintegration, transformation of party-corporate ruling into the clan one has been realised.

Recently presidents needed the CIS for their families to be friends, and, in fact, this �integration� instrument was intended for relieving ad personal mutual supporting based on non-interference into private-privatisation matters of each other. Hence, any talks of creating agencies �able to work� of the Commonwealth of Independent States, �the common economic space� or, for example, the Eurasian Union, and even �ten simple steps�, could be only an unrealisable policy.

Although Russia and all national republics are completing the privatisation period with quite different results, this epoch is ending, being replaced by the new period � external blocking and uniting by interests. The time of the policy oriented inside each post-Soviet sovereign state and using relations with neighbours only as an auxiliary instrument to settle their own problems, is being replaced by a long period, when the key question for each national regime is: with whom and against whom they should be friends?

Only symmetrical systems can be friends.

The Russia's power system can be called quasi-democracy. It is a joint ruling by civil servants, energy and export monopolies, criminal structures and financial oligarchies, which are, however, divided into power verticals and horizontals and based on people's will.

For the time being we should put �will� in inverted commas, as the population's opinion regarding whom it wants to elect leaders is being formed by these leaders themselves. Nevertheless, Russian citizens really elect for the first time in their history, and their voices are being really counted by election commissions. If, in fact, the Russian President is not elected by people, but TV monopolies working for him, in regions, moreover, in cities election processes could be characterised as democratic (without the prefix �quasi�).

The period of Gorbachyov and Yeltsin, despite tragedy and complexity of the situation, led Russia to a historical characteristic, that is new for it � initial democracy, able to develop itself. Undoubtedly, President Putin whatever features if his mysterious personality will be revealed, will not liquidate cities' self-governing, the multi-party system and such �states in the state� as media-holdings. Just the opposite, he will strengthen potential of the leader of a great country, resting upon established institutions of divided political, financial and informational power.

From the economic point of view, Russia has gone through the worst things. The decay peak caused by the collapse of the USSR, privatisation, "westernisation", �oligarchisation' and "criminalisation" of the economy has been experienced. Now real growth will begin, which is proved by 8% surplus of GDP in the last year, of which approximately a half was not determined by growing oil prices, but by developing internal production. Although Russia is not insured against new crises, the total economic trend for next years will be obviously positive. This will create the most important factor, people's optimistic mood towards their future.

On the other hand, for Russia the task to raise living standards of most population at least to minimal European standards is unreal. Currently GDP production per capita is US$ 3500 per annum, i.e. approximately 5 times less than in Europe. It is possible to overcome this difference only in case of an intensive economic growth for two to three decades. This requires super-mobilisation of a whole generation, and this idea cannot satisfy modern Russian citizens. Besides, Russia is not uniform, islands of civilisation neighbour preserves of pervious epochs, platforms of confident development alternate with depressive regions. That is why in the conceivable future the country cannot become a European one either economically or mentally.

(To be continued )

Who Got All Koumiss?

Control of the Kazakhstani gas-supply system to be transferred from the Belgian company Tractebel to Gasprom


(Expert # 59)

On the morning of March 27, Vladimir Putin was congratulated after having being officially elected the Russian President. One of the first people to call him was the Kazakh leader Nursultan Nazarbayev. Although their conversation partially touched on the Russian Presidential election, they discussed mainly future economic relations between the two countries, most importantly concerning the power industry, according to Nazarbayev's press service. They agreed that the future looks good. They just need to support the trend on creating large joint ventures in the oil, gas and power industries.

It is difficult to interpret this conversation as a diplomatic formality seeing as just one week before the election, one of the biggest power investors, the Belgian power company Tractebel had been banished due to notorious scandal. The company had compromised the management of the national gas-distributing system and provided Almaty with electricity. The Kazakhstani authorities arrested all property and six banking accounts of Tractebel's subsidiary, Intergas-Central Asia. No distinct official explanation followed these actions. Currently Kazakh civil servants are negotiating behind close doors with Tractebel representatives. According to information from sources in Astana , the departure of the Belgian company is imminent.

This story of foreign investors being deceived in Kazakhstan is notable for the fact that this time not only the Kazakh government had gained(for recent years the Kazakhs repeatedly worked according to �non-subsidiary rouble� principle: they sold property and then took it back under different pretences). Tractebel's place in the Kazakhstani market is expected to be occupied by the Russian companies Gasprom and Itera. They will supervise the country's gas-supply and transportation of both Turkmen and Kazakh gas to Russia and China, which is a greater prize.

Calm Belgians

�He who does not run risks, does not drink champagne,� foreign investors working in Kazakhstan like to joke. Tractebel having worked in Nigeria and Brasilia, considered itself to be experienced enough to start its business in Almaty in 1996, at the height of the Caspian �oil-rush�. Moreover, Belgians even created a special insurance fund expecting unpleasant surprises.

Unlike US oil giants like Chevron, Tractebel came to the Kazakh market without any pompous declarations. The Belgians quietly purchased eight enterprises of Almatyenergo (three Almaty power electric stations, the Kapchagai power electric station, city heating and power systems) at a price of US$ 5 million, though the entire system was evaluated in the amount of US$ 404 million. To put it mildly, the price was understated, but this was explained by the critical condition of the Almaty power system. The city authorities were not sure the city would manage to go through the next winter. While the new Tractebel subsidiary, Almaty Power Consolidated, promised to execute all necessary maintenance to prepare the power complex for winter, and even more, to invest almost US$ 300 million in the Almaty power system. In fact, the Belgians did not deceive. For several months Tractebel spent US$ 47 million and established order, having deserved Almaty authorities' gratitude.

Possibly, this gratitude helped Tractebel to make the second, more important step in the Kazakh market in summer 1997. The Belgians got a concession for 20 years and the western part of the Kazakhstani gas distributing system, including a part of the main gas pipeline Central Asia-centre. Despite numerous oil and gas projects, at the time it was the only opportunity to export gas from Central Asia. It was gas transit that was the �main prize� for the Belgians. The capacity of Kazakhstani main pipelines is 65 billion cubic metres per year, while the Kazakhstan's annually domestic requirement is approximately 8 billion cubic metres of gas. Both Turkmen and Kazakh gas, first of all from the gas-condensate Karachaganak deposit (which reserves are estimated as 1.3 trillion cubic metres, i.e. 40% of Kazakhstan's gas resources) located on the Caspian shelf, could be transported through the main gas pipeline.

Favourable circumstances helped Tractebel to obtain such a profitable concession, and, possibly, a credit of 500 million Francs allotted by Belgium. In spring 1997 Turkmenistan supplying gas to the Ukraine via Russia through the gas pipeline Central Asia-Centre suspended supplies, as it blamed Itera being a mediator, for a debt of over US$ 450 million. Not receiving money from the Russian mediator, Turkmenistan, in its own turn, did not pay transit charges to Kazakhstan, and this irritated the Kazakhstani authorities much. Tractebel promised Kazakhs not only collect due transit payments, but also to start gas export. �We think it is possible to penetrate into the Chinese and European markets,� the Tractebel President, Ludo Kandries announced. The President of the national company Kazakhoil, Nurlan Balgimbayev, however spoke with more conviction. According to Balgimbayev, Kazakhstan planned to build several gas pipelines, including to Turkey via the Caspian seabed or via Iran. One of the provisions of the contract with Tractebel was that the company was to build a gas pipeline to China via Almaty and Taldy-Kurgan. The project was to be realised along with Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

However tricky these plans were, the arrival of Tractebel to the Kazakh market meant a serious defeat of Gasprom and its co-operator Itera . Russia was cut off from the gas projects in Central Asia.

(To be continued )

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