January 7, 2022

KAZAKHSTAN: Kazakhstan Was Set To Restrict Unvaccinated From Entering Their Banks With QR Code System, Changes Started January 5th. Only 162 People Account For 55% Of Total Wealth In The Country.

Wall Street Journal (WSJ)
written by Georgi Kantchev
Friday January 7, 2022

In a country with huge reserves of oil, precious metals and uranium, the outsize wealth of oligarchs and outrage over corruption fed popular anger

Kazakhstan’s enormous reserves of oil, coal and precious metals offered the promise of a prosperous future for the nation following the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The country, the largest of the former Soviet states in Central Asia, represents 40% of the world’s uranium production alone.

Yet Kazakhstan’s relative prosperity hasn’t protected the country’s leadership from popular anger over corruption, low salaries and the outsize wealth of a small group of oligarchs.

That helped turn resentment over a rise in fuel prices into a broader protest against the country’s authoritarian leaders and the state of the economy.

The crisis deepened Friday as Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev gave the order to police and army to shoot protesters without warning. Clashes between demonstrators and security forces have already led to dozens of deaths and prompted Russia to send paratroopers to help Mr. Tokayev.

“The surprising scale of the unrest and disorder that we’ve seen suggests that this is something more than just unhappiness about rising fuel prices,” said Nigel Gould-Davies, a former British ambassador to Belarus.

“Relatively speaking, Kazakhstan has been a major overperformer of the post-Soviet period in Central Asia, and had a much better economic record than the states around it,” said Mr. Gould-Davies, who is a senior fellow for Russia and Eurasia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, a think tank.

“And yet that hasn’t averted this extraordinary eruption,“ he said. ”The wider comparative perspective of success has clearly not insulated the regime from discontent.”

After Kazakhstan became an independent state in 1990 following the demise of the Soviet Union, many businessmen close to the government amassed huge wealth through privatization and ownership of natural resources.

Some of the country’s tycoons have been embroiled in international banking scandals and many of the richest are now living abroad in places such as London.

Only 162 people account for 55% of total wealth in the country, according to a report by accounting firm KPMG. The country has five billionaires in Forbes’s World’s Billionaires list, stemming from the mining and banking sectors.

“This system of decision-making continues to reflect the interests of a relatively small group of players, whether counted in terms of individuals or their business vehicles or holdings,” researchers Simon Commander and Ruta Prieskienyte wrote in a recent paper at the IZA Institute of Labor Economics.

Given Kazakhstan’s position as a big commodities exporter, the unrest has roiled global markets this week, with investors bidding up oil and uranium prices.

Uranium surged around 8% this week, the most since September, given that Kazakhstan is the world’s largest producer of the radioactive material and a major supplier to utilities in the U.S., China and elsewhere. Traders said that while mining operations appeared to be unaffected, the concern was focused on the ability to transport uranium out of the country.

Oil prices rose, too. Kazakhstan is a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries Plus and produced about 1.7 million barrels of oil a day in November, according to the International Energy Agency, just under 2% of what the world consumed each day last year.

Chevron Corp., which owns 50% of the joint venture that runs Kazakhstan’s Tengiz oil field, a $37 billion project that is four times the size of Paris, said it had cut some production after protests in the facility. Exxon Mobil Corp. also has a stake in the project.

Local bitcoin mining companies were also affected by an internet shutdown that forced miners—computers that race to unlock new bitcoin and validate transactions—offline. As of August 2021, Kazakhstan was the world’s second-largest venue for cryptocurrency mining, behind the U.S., according to data from the University of Cambridge, after many miners fled to the country last year in search of a nearby locale with cheap energy prices following China’s clampdown on miners.

For Kazakhstan, the protests come at a precarious time for the economy.

Kazakhstan has long been regarded as one of the more successful former Soviet countries in Central Asia, growing faster than its neighbors and attracting foreign investment. It built a new capital in the middle of the steppe called Astana—since renamed Nur-Sultan after longtime leader Nursultan Nazarbayev—where the skyline is punctuated by gleaming skyscrapers and Western-style shopping malls.

Part of the reason is that the resource wealth hasn’t trickled down to much of the population, instead spawning a large group of tycoons and fueling widespread corruption. The minimum wage is less than the equivalent of some $100 a month.

Corruption is a persistent source of anger. Kazakhstan ranks 94th on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. The government has repeatedly promised to address high-level corruption and privatize state assets but efforts have fallen short, observers say.

These underlying issues have now boiled over.

On Jan. 1, a fuel-market reform that had been first discussed in 2015 came into effect. It ended subsidies on liquefied-petroleum gas, which many Kazakhs use for their cars instead of more expensive petrol or diesel.

Prices nearly doubled overnight, leading to protests in the oil-rich region of Mangistau, where up to 90% of vehicles run on LPG, according to local authorities. The government has since promised to reduce the price.

“With few channels to hear and address popular discontent, and authorities in the major cities often out of touch with the lives of ordinary citizens, the LPG price protests ripped open a moment of popular frustration that took the government by surprise,” said Zachary Witlin, senior analyst at risk consulting firm Eurasia Group.

The crisis now threatens to further undermine the country’s economy and affect the investment climate at a time when it is already struggling with high inflation. Annual increases in consumer prices has neared 9% in recent months, reaching multiyear highs.

Tightening state finances during the pandemic meant that authorities had little bandwidth to stimulate the economy, leading to stagnating wages and work stoppages affecting several economic sectors, risk consulting firm Teneo wrote in a note to clients this week.

This week, the country’s sovereign bonds were hit as the crisis spiraled and, with the local exchanges closed amid the protests, global investors sold stocks in some Kazakh companies listed in London.
Flu Trackers.com
Tracking Infectious Diseases Since 2006
shared by Emily, Editor and Senior Moderator
Thursday January 6, 2022

There are rumors about discriminatory lack of access to banks starting the revolution there. I didn't believe anything that crazy could happen anywhere, but this article said the government planned to do that.
I would like to add that I just saw a video posted this week by a woman in Argentina not allowed into her bank, not even allowed to use the bank atm. I'll post that video below. (emphasis mine)
The Astana Times, bringing Kazakhstan to the world.
written by Assel Satubaldina, reporting from Kazakhstan
Thursday December 30, 2021

NUR-SULTAN – Kazakhstan is set to tighten its coronavirus restrictions starting from Jan. 5, 2022, as a result of the omicron variant causing a global surge in coronavirus cases.

Starting from Jan. 5, only citizens who can prove recent recovery from COVID-19 or provide proof of a full vaccination course will be able to access trade malls and karaoke bars. The country uses its own Ashyq system that connects with the database of the Ministry of Health to display the status of citizens when they scan a QR code at a venue entrance. The color-coded system can show green (recent recovery, recent PCR test, or full vaccination), blue (neutral), yellow (contact with an infected person), or red status (positive PCR test).

The officials also warn that the restrictions could extend to other venues, including banks and post services if the omicron variant is confirmed in the country.

Over the past two weeks, the incidence of coronavirus infection decreased by 32 percent, Acting Health Minister Zhandos Burkitbayev told a government meeting on Tuesday. “The epidemiological situation in Kazakhstan is stable,” he said.

As of Dec. 30, nearly nine million people of the country’s 19 million population have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 8.5 million people have been fully immunized against the virus. Since the beginning of the mass vaccination effort in February, 95 percent of subsequent coronavirus patients were not vaccinated.

“Taking into account the surge in cases around the world and the omicron variant, it is necessary to increase the rate of vaccination of the population and complete vaccination of the subject population,” said Burkitbayev.

As countries around the world struggle to curb the spread of the omicron variant, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warns of a higher transmission rate of the new variant.

“Delta and Omicron are now twin threats driving up cases to record numbers, leading to spikes in hospitalization and deaths. (…) I am highly concerned that Omicron, being highly transmissible and spreading at the same time as Delta, is leading to a tsunami of cases,” he told a press briefing on Wednesday.

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