A New �Coal War� in Ekibastuz



7 Feb

(Specially for THE GLOBE)

In the Pavlodar oblast the opposition between the local administration and the company Bogatyr Access Komir (BAK) mining coal at the open-pit mine Bogatyr, the biggest in the world, tensed. The reason for this was the decree of the Kazakhstani government #53 dated January 12, 2000. The decree reduced the leasing fee for the land to be paid by the American company Access Industries, the head company of Bogatyr Access Komir.

According to the document, the local authorities are to collect fee from the foreign investor at the rate of the tax on land as of the moment of the sale of Bogatyr assets, i.e. from December 1996. Thus, the increase of the leasing fee almost 200 times, which was determined by the oblast administration in the early 1998, is admitted to be illegal. In other words, for the first time the Kazakhstani government openly supported the foreign company and confirmed conditions of the contract signed before. The Kazakhstani, Russian and American press repeatedly wrote that this contract was continuously violated by the Pavlodar Akimat, that caused trials and conflicts.

This time the situation sharpened when the governmental decree corrected the provision in accordance with the �Law on protection of foreign investments� aroused a negative reaction by the local authorities. At the extraordinary meeting deputies of the oblast Maslikhat demanded to abandon the decree and sent special message to the Office of General Prosecutor, to the Parliament and the presidential administration.

The documents states that the oblast budget will lose over 1.5 billion tenge (approx. US$ 700,000), if the governmental decree comes into force. This money are considered in the budget 2000. If the budget does not gain this money, this will result in a social tension in the region, as grants, pensions and salaries will be delayed again. Besides, the local and national press accused Access Industries of lobbying the decree and cancellation of prior agreements, when the parties agreed to cooperate developing the power industry, small and middle-sized business, as well as to restore the Pavlodar Tractor Plant.

The situation resembles much to the conflict happened two years ago, when Access Industries tried to defend its rights, but that time the government was indifferent and the local administration managed to win. That time the US and Russian press ascertained the obvious contradictions between the center and the regional authorities, when Astana tries to attract respected investors issuing progressive laws, the local authorities try to gain their profits.

In the result, agreements coordinated and signed between the company and the central government became fictitious, as the local authorities determine rates of the tax on land, increasing them despite the prior responsibilities. They refer to the social tension in the region and lack of budget means. They consider foreign investors should compromise. In the result, the local population dislike foreign investors (it is strongly supported by media that are supervised by local Akims).

Meanwhile, during the Nazarbaev�s December visit to the USA, the Kazakhstani delegation had to answer serious questions of heads of some American companies working in Kazakhstan. First of all these questions concerned contradictions between country�s laws favorable to investors and the reality. Especially sharp discussion happened at the meeting of the Gore-Nazarbaev commission, where the practice of Kazakhstani regional authorities and Astana�s passiveness in conflicts between investors and oblast administrations were the subject to serious criticism.

In particular, it was made clear for the Kazakhstani leader that the inflow of new investments and attitude towards the country will directly depend on the status of US companies working in Kazakhstan.

In connection with this, the governmental decree dated January 12 seems the first step to correct many prior mistakes. Undoubtedly, this is just the beginning of the new investment strategy of the government. Its success depends on what the result of the present conflict in Pavlodar is.

From the editors: The opinion that after Putin came the bilateral relations between Russia and Kazakhstan will change, is often. Many people call the representative of force structures a new stage of the Russian history. This means toughening policy of Russia in the post-Soviet space, and in particular, in respect of Kazakhstan. The Kazakh Service of Radio Liberty (KSRL) states the same, announcing possible stirring up of Russian nationalism in Kazakhstan. How grounded these conclusions are, the Reader may learn having read the below material of the KSRL.

 Radio Liberty

How will the Russian-Kazakhstani Relations Develop?

Considering the recent events, soon the relations between Russia and Kazakhstan will change. This will happen, when Putin succeeds in the Chechen war gaining increasing sympathy of his compatriots that is required for him to win the Presidential election. This is one of the main topics discussed by Kazakhstani media. It is known that personal friendly relations between Yeltsin and Nazarbaev beneficially affected the relations between the two countries. At present, when Putin came to the Russia�s political arena, we may say that friendly elements became secondary. In September 1999 during the meeting in Astana Putin made it clear that Russia would pay serious attention to problems of the Russian population living in Kazakhstan. On January 29 Yegemen Kazakhstan newspaper wrote: �During the first visit Putin demonstrated Russia�s hidden ambitions. He made it clear that Russia would be able to protect rights of its compatriots wherever they lived. According to Putin, being unable to learn Kazakh language properly and fast, the Russians face different difficulties to make a career in Kazakhstan. Hence, it is necessary to create proper conditions for them to learn the state language.�

If Putin dares to say this when he is just the acting President, what will happen when he occupies the President�s seat? After he came to power, nationalistic Russian organizations both in Russia and abroad significantly revived. The arrest of Pugachov�s rebels in Ust-Kamenogorsk in November 1999 proved that. Their objective was to separate the right bank of the Irtysh river and to establish the Republic of Russian Altai.

Two weeks ago the Assembly of Kazakhstani Peoples suddenly discussed the problem of the Russian population. That was purposefully. Possibly, different Slavic organizations-members of the Assembly hoping for Russia, for its present leader Putin did their best to raise this problem. At the meeting inmost thoughts of Russian-Slavic organizations became clear. The chairman of the Association of Russian-Slavic organizations Gennady Belyakov said:

- We, Russians living in Kazakhstan are rather numerous. There are 4 million Russian people. Hence, we along with the Kazakhs are the main foundation of the state.

Thereupon he touched the problem of the two-language system. The chairman of the Russian community in Kazakhstan Yuryi Bunakov supported him:

- The word Russian-speaking is humiliating for the Russians. We are not Russian-speaking, but Russian. In fact, representatives of other nations speaking Russian are Russian-speaking people. We should not confuse Russians with Russian-speaking people.

After that participants of the meeting discussed the migration. 1.5 million Russians who went from Kazakhstan to Russia are people with higher education. Hence, the think, Kazakhstan faces the crisis mow. Summing up the results, Belyakov and Bunakov concluded that Kazakhstan should join the Russian-Byelorussian union. Thus, applying to the new situation in Russia, Kazakhstani Russian nationalists attempted on the country�s authority.

It is interesting that the Assembly of Kazakhstani peoples, whose official head is President Nazarbaev, discusses the Russian problem. This is not logical at all. Estimating statements by participants, we may conclude that if Vladimir Putin become the President, Russian nationalism may grow in Kazakhstan.

Obviously, the relations, including economic relations, between Kazakhstan and Russia will be the subject to change. Russia having established a political union with Uzbekistan, is going to supervise the entire Central Asian region. We may suppose that during Putin�s visit to Uzbekistan they agreed apropos of this.


THE GLOBE based on materials from the Kazakh Service of Radio Liberty

(Translated from Kazakh by THE GLOBE, full text)

Defenders of Customers� Rights Offer a New Bill

In their Opinion, the State Policy is against of the Customer




�The policy of the state and businessmen is against of the customer,� the President of the Association of Societies on protection of Customers� rights announced on Thursday in Almaty.

One of the reasons for this statement Svetlana Shamsutdinova considers the present absence of a state body that would lobby customers� interests at the state level.

She also criticized offers made during the round table organized by the Department on Support of Small and Middle-sized Business, to liquidate the societies and to ban the law on protection of customers� rights. The current situation, according to the Association President, affects competitiveness of products manufactured and sold by businessmen who do not take into consideration customers� interests. Hence, the consumption and trust will fall. This will influence the entire economy.

�Of course, it is a difficult situation for businessmen. We should support them. However, they should not forget about people due to whom they do their business. Each tenge is to return to customers in the form of qualitative products and services,� Shamsutdinova stated.

At present it is high time to change the approach to the laws regulating relations between businessmen and customers. The President of the association added that they had worked out the alternative bill �On protection of customers� rights�, where principal differences from the current law 1991 are as follows:

� Compliance with the Civil Code, the Constitution that changed for the period of validity of the existing law;

� Releasing from the state duty, if both societies protecting customers� rights and concrete individuals submit a claim;

� Widening sphere of activity of these societies, as the law is directed not only to people who purchase products for their use, but also to people who use products and services;

� Juridical persons purchasing something for their usage are also to be included in the list of subjects protected by the societies.

�We do not ask any money for our programs from the state. Our objective is to form a new mentality of Kazakhstani citizens, who know and can protect their rights and will not allow anybody to deceive themselves,� Svetlana Shamsutdinova emphasized.

The Association President said that for the last year with the support of Soros-Kazakhstan Fund they consulted 4,187 Almaty customers free of charge. In the southern capital the total compensation amount was over 3 million tenge. People mainly claimed to foodstuff, goods purchased in the markets, and to Cooperatives of Owners of Flats. Shamsutdinova states that the Association has not lose any case.

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