НА ХЛЕБУШЕК АДМИНУ
In this Article reflect the current problem of Kazakhstan's economy and the measures taken by the government in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that has engulfed the world. To date, the main success in the fight against the dangerous virus is that the pandemic in Kazakhstan is not growing exponentially. Actions taken by the Government of Kazakhstan have received positive feedback from the World Health Organization, as well as international experts. However, what works on paper destroys the established paradigm.
State support at such a difficult time is very important to all citizens.
support from the state at such a difficult time is very important for all citizens. The Ministry of Industry and Infrastructure Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan has developed a mechanism to help the citizens of the regions where quarantine is in force.
During the state of emergency, the state started making monthly payments to people who lost their income due to the state of emergency, and various benefits were introduced for small and medium-sized businesses, which did not really bring much results.
Efficient SMEs are a solid foundation for the development of towns and villages. Entrepreneurship can reduce unemployment, create a tax base, and strengthen local budgets.
As we know, an unstable freelance situation affects
the economy, and specifically on its main actors, such as small businesses. However, we see that small businesses in Kazakhstan are slowly dying out, while the big players are getting richer.
Misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic is widespread in Kazakhstan. It is usually spread through social networks, which are popular in Kazakhstan. Disinformation spread can be not only about conspiracy theories about COVID-19, such as "5G towers", "chipping", but also local ones, as about mass infection of medical workers in Almaty, extension/not extension of the state of emergency in Kazakhstan. The authorities of Kazakhstan are taking various measures to combat fake news. For example, the official website on COVID-19 has a whole section devoted to fakes. Law enforcement agencies conduct preventive conversations with petty offenders, in more serious offenses, write administrative fines, and force the authors of misinformation to publicly apologize.
Working citizens of Kazakhstan who lost their income during the state of emergency due to going on forced leave without pay, as well as the self-employed and those who worked unofficially received payments from the state social insurance fund. The amount of social payment per employee was 1 minimum wage (42.5 thousand tenge per month).
From April 1, 2020, the monthly rate was raised to 2,778 tenge (from January 1, 2020 it was 2,651 tenge).
But how are different service businesses dealing with the quarantine crisis?
Small business owners and tens of thousands of their employees face uncertainty because of the permanent quarantine restrictions that have been imposed in Kazakhstan for the fourth time in the last year and a half amid a coronavirus outbreak. Many service facilities are set to close, but even those who will continue operating are convinced that the negative impact of the quarantine is inevitable.
However, while some business owners are obediently shutting down their operations and going on forced leave, others are trying to operate underground to somehow stay afloat and survive in such a difficult and harsh situation. However, while the former and the latter, under the threat of huge fines, try to comply with quarantine restrictions, or at least the appearance of it, the latter continue their work without hiding and without caring about any fines and penalties.
Where does such a monstrous injustice come from, and why are some people allowed to work while turning a blind eye to obvious and gross violations, and others have to do business secretly, under constant fear of a raid by the monitoring team?
We conducted our own independent investigation to answer this question. To do so, we asked our guest Urkumbayev Beksultan to help. Beksultan is a small and medium-sized business owner. He owns businesses such as a children's education centre, a computer club and a rhythmic gymnastics school. Small businesses have been hit very hard by the pandemic, and these include computer clubs where visitors mainly play multiplayer computer games for an hourly fee.
Beksultan opened the computer club in late 2019, three months before the first lockdown. "We opened at the end of December. We invested a lot of money and effort, with great hope that all the expenses would pay off. We didn't expect a quarantine and a state of emergency, which was a big problem for us and one which we unfortunately still have to struggle with to this day."
In March 2020, Beksultan closed to quarantine and dutifully did not operate until June. At the time, this seemed the only right solution, as the coronavirus situation in Kazakhstan was just gaining its crushing momentum. Everyone was worried about their loved ones and their own health, and social media and social networks were buzzing with headlines about every new infected person. In such a kaleidoscope of events, an unexpected holiday was overshadowed and perceived more as a good opportunity to spend more time with family. The "monthly" payment of 42500 seemed ludicrous at the time, but in the absence of tax and loan payments, it could more or less cover the costs.
In reality, however, things were not all rosy: the social benefit was not available to everyone, and in Beksultan's family no one received it. The only thing that saved them was a safety cushion specially prepared for such an event.
However, even this regime did not last long: "At the beginning of July, we had to open up because the banks were no longer giving us respite on our loans, and the debts had affected the fact that we had to open up and work clandestinely.
Although the restrictions eased in July and many businesses such as restaurants, cafes and shopping malls were able to start operating, no one was in a hurry to give permission to open computer clubs.
"I wrote to the Cyber Sport Federation of Kazakhstan, Almaty Akimat, the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs Atameken, but everywhere else said that we have to wait until the quarantine is over, when they come out various eases and regulations will allow our activities. But nevertheless, our kind of activity is still banned.
What is essentially a computer club? It's a place where essentially young people come in small groups to play games. A place where the maximum number of people is just 25 and where health regulations can be easily enforced. Yet they have been banned for a whole year or more, without any social support. After all, such small businesses are run by ordinary people, usually without major connections.
From May 5, access to public establishments will be possible only through QR codes in the Ashyq app. A decree of the chief medical officer of health says that karaoke bars, banquet halls, which have been closed for more than a year, can start operating using this app, and the opening hours of catering outlets, bowling halls and even billiard clubs have been extended. It would seem that this is the solution: you have shown your "non-threatening" status and are free to move around, but it is not that simple.
Our guest Beksultan has been trying to buy Ashyq software for his club for quite some time, as he can't work any other way, yet he is absolutely against such a solution. In his opinion, an app that divides customers by colour - into green, blue, red and yellow - discriminates against people and restricts their constitutional right to freedom of movement.
- If you don't install the app and dictate your IIN, you can't enter a certain establishment. This is a violation of the Consumer Protection Act. This app is a manifestation of discrimination. The Constitution of our country prohibits discrimination. So anything that contradicts its norms cannot and should not be used," says Beksultan.
Protecting personal data is more important than going into public places, the businessman said. Urkumbayev said it is not clear for what purposes the app developer is collecting personal data and how secure the system can be at all.
After downloading Ashyq through Play Market and installing it on an Android smartphone, many people rate the app and give it a very low score of 1.5 out of 5. Some commentators, such as Evelina Fomenko, believe that the app violates the constitutional rights of citizens. Most of the users who left comments said that they had problems accessing the app, that they could not receive SMS, that the app did not work properly and that there were various technical problems.
Aytuar Koshmambetov, director of the Almaty Chamber of Entrepreneurs, an official representative of the Atameken National Chamber of Entrepreneurs, the initiator of the Ashyq app launch, said in an April 27 online briefing that critical comments about the app in Play Market and Apple Store were written in the first days after the Ashyq app launch. However, the Azattyq reporter noted that dozens of comments critical of the app are posted in Play Market every day. Responding to Azattyk's question during the briefing, Aytuar Koshmambetov noted that Ashyq does not limit citizens' rights.
- The rights of some citizens are limited when the rights of other citizens are being implemented. The Health Code provides for cases in which chief sanitary inspectors may impose restrictive measures. And this case is precisely one of those situations. The Constitution also provides for such provisions. Therefore, any rights of citizens are not restricted, as it is all within the limits of the law. Ashyq is an alternative to lockdown and makes it possible to work," Koshmambetov said.
Some small businesses that have obtained QR codes for Ashyq say that customers aren't happy with the app, but agree it's the only way to stay afloat during an epidemic of coronavirus infection. Cinemas have started to work with Ashyq, which is intermittently but still functioning.
APP FAILS TO PROTECT AGAINST ASYMPTOMATIC PATIENTS
Beksultan believes that the Ashyq app does not protect against coronavirus because not all infected individuals pass the PCR test
- Asymptomatic carriers may not know they are sick, they may walk around and get infected. Because they have not taken a PCR test, they will have a 'blue' status on their appendix and be allowed in. So in the situation of asymptomatic patients, the app is useless. A person can become infected but not know he is ill and walk around for two or three days without knowing it," Urkumbayev said.
Aytuar Koshmambetov, director of the Almaty Chamber of Entrepreneurs, confirms that only those who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus and those who have come into contact with them have PCR test results.
- Unfortunately, there are no techniques in medicine that detect covid by anything other than tests. Asymptomatic carriers who don't undergo PCR, don't go to the doctor, we can't detect them in any way. And there is no medical methodology, not only in Ashyq, but in general, to determine whether someone sitting at home or walking down the street is ill," Koshmambetov said.
As of April 27, the Ashyq app had detected 800 sick people trying to enter public places and 640 who had come into contact with them, Aytuar Koshmambetov said.
Small businesses say Ashyq allows them to work, although it cannot provide 100% protection against the spread of the virus.
We have mentioned "connections" for a reason, as in our corrupt country they play a significant role. We will explain why. Surely you remember how last year football club Kairat held a luxurious party on the occasion of their championship. However, at that time there were serious quarantine restrictions and a ban on major events in the country.
In such a breach there are questions for almost everyone, and especially for the chief medical officer of Almaty, Zhandarbek Bekshin. After all it is him who can be accused of breaking his own bans and pursuing a policy of double standards.
He is like the famous character in Miguel De Cervantes' story, Don Quixote. Constantly fighting the mills, thinking that he is doing good by it, although he is glad to taste the bread of the mills himself. Almaty's sanitary doctor attended the wedding of a high-ranking official's daughter, details of the newlyweds are scarce, but according to unconfirmed information the daughter of the head of the Police was there. This was reported by one of our witnesses and an eyewitness who worked as a waiter at the restaurant where the event took place. Bekshin behaved rather shyly, clearly fearing attention, but nevertheless deigned to dance, where he was seen on camera. Not surprisingly, since the dance on the bones so succinctly describes the situation in the country.
With one hand he issues decrees, in which he bans mass actions of citizens like toasts, and with the other hand he allows them... to oligarchs.
This document, though without a stamp or signature, has surfaced on the internet, authorising the event to take place in Almaty's fashionable Ritz-Carlton hotel for 150 people.
Bekshin's favoured excuse 'it's a fake' did not materialise this time. The department's press office confirmed that Mr Bekshin did indeed give permission to Capital Tower Development LLP, and, of course, not for commercial gain, but for a good cause - "on the occasion of a one-off event to celebrate the athletes and staff training. Somehow Bekshin forgot to mention in the permit the one-off nature of this "event", and the small detail - in what clause of his decree are such exceptions prescribed for mass events? If memory serves us right his regulations prohibit any mass gathering of people. But there was an answer to this too: the hotel is on full alert and the air in the hotel is more sterile than in infectious diseases hospitals.
"LLP management has worked to install recirculators and bactericidal irradiators in the air exchange system to disinfect the air environment. In addition, an ozone air generator is used to disinfect the air environment, which also contributes to the purification of the air environment from pathogenic microflora, ozone has an antimicrobial effect and is an effective disinfectant.
And based on the results of laboratory researches of air environment in the premises of the hall and also in the air supply sections, such microorganisms as Staphylococcus aureus, mould and yeast fungus were not detected, total number of microorganisms is much higher than the normative indicators of health institutions.
In view of the above, the Department gave a written answer on the possibility to honour the athletes, as well as to train the staff in this hall, provided that the number of seats does not exceed 150", the press service of the DKKBTU of Almaty officially said.
But who is this chosen one who can skirt the rules so easily? It is Kairat Boranbayev, a well-known oligarch in Kazakhstan, who owns the Ritz-Carlton. The hotel is owned by Capital Tower Development LLP, whose founder is another company, Esentai Tower Investments. In turn, this organization has two owners - Kairat Boranbayev and Esentai Investments LLP. Boranbayev also owns the football club Kairat.
Is it possible that Kairat knew in advance about this victory? One can only speculate, since Bekshin gave his permission on September 30, and the exact date of "honouring the athletes" is not specified in the document. The department's press office explained that "the Kairat team planned to hold a meeting at the hotel" and that the exact date was not specified in the permit, since the owner of Kairat himself did not know it - the document, we were told, was given for an indefinite period, so that the company could only hold the "event" once.
In reality, however, it turns out that Ritz was not entirely honest. Hiding behind a piece of paper from Bekshin, the luxury hotel quietly held equally luxurious weddings. On one of these toys, the offenders were caught.
"At carrying out of check by monitoring group by experts of UKKBTU of Bostandyk district (17.10.2020) the fact of carrying out in a building of "Ritz Carlton" of wedding (on a 28th floor with number of 45 persons wedding) with use of the answer of Department, as the allowing document was established," - have informed in UKKBTU Almaty.
All that the chief sanitary doctor of Almaty turned out to be able to do was to withdraw his permit. Not a fine for a violation, not even a warning.
What is the result? While some are trying to make ends meet, the others are having all the fun. What's more, if you look at the tax deductions of Capital Tower Development LLP, you can see that the coronavirus has not particularly affected business. Revenues are even up compared on last year.
It would seem that our epic about Bekshin could be closed, but our article would not be.
According to the decree of the chief sanitary doctor, all casinos were restricted. However, it turned out that one casino in the city was secretly continuing its activities.
There was shouting: down on the floor! Hands on your head!
With these words the raid on the illegal casino players began, there were about 60 people in the gambling house during the pandemic. It would seem that ordinary people decided to have fun and take a break from the turmoil caused by the quarantine. However, not ordinary people were at the table. Most of those who took part were from power structures, or from big businesses in Kazakhstan. The stakes were as high as annual budget of a small town, and the beauty of the game would make Eric Seidel and David Peters doubt their abilities. Not as good as our masters of bluff and deceit.
For violation of quarantine measures the casino owner faces a fine of over 900 thousand tenge. Such fines can't ruin a casino owner, taking into consideration that the entry threshold to the casino starts from $1000 and such amounts obviously are not striking the owner's pocket.
But our officials and businessmen are not united by the same passion for gambling. The tradition of packing lavish tojos has not gone anywhere in our society and even the threat of life during a pandemic is not stopping our people.
Last August it became known that singer Toregali Toreali's family had a wedding celebration: his sister Fariza married sportsman Darkhan Nortaev. And not just any ordinary sportsman, but the Asian judo champion Darkhan Notayev, son of a general of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Footage of the celebratory event has appeared on social media. They show the cream of the crop of celebrities like Makpal Junusova, Torgeali Toreali, Belgazy Karimov and others.
The Almaty police department took an interest in them, but only for the sake of appearances. The proceedings were formal. The husband's connections and his father helped to close the case as quickly as possible.
It would seem to be the worst, but it is no secret that anything is possible in our country.
So why have small food shops, computer clubs and other establishments been closed, yet the country's biggest source of coronavirus infection continues to operate as normal?
Despite the coronavirus restrictions, the turnover of most Almaty market-owning companies in 2020-2021. The city's largest universal markets, both by size and turnover, according to the Almaty Department of Entrepreneurship and Investment (UIE), are Kenzhekhan, Ak-Bulak, Alatau-1, Alatau-2, Zhuldyz (wholesale), Barys-4 and Green Bazaar.
In less than 2020, the Big Six made at least 135m Tenge in tax payments, according to the State Revenue Committee.
Almaty's Kenzhekhan Universal Market, the biggest in terms of space and volume of trade, is located at 116 North Ring Road. In fact, there are two markets - the Kenzhekhan-2 wholesale market is also located nearby. According to the e-government portal, since the company was founded in December 2013, the market has several founders, including Anip Nazarbayeva.
Another company, Kenzhekhan LLP, whose sole owner is also Anipa Nazarbayeva, is registered in an adjacent building.
The market is Barys-4. Since May 2005 the lease and operation of the market has been handled by Barys-IV LLP, the sole founder of which is Bolat Nazarbayev. He is also the ultimate beneficiary of Tastak LLP.
And the last person on whom the information was dug up was Green Bazaar
Dostar Fresh Market LLP, whose ultimate beneficiaries are Dinara and Timur Kulibayev and Alexander Lee, leases and manages its own real estate at Green Bazaar.
These people are not just ordinary people in this business, they capture it by raiding through front men.
As you know, last autumn there were three fires at the Almaty flea market, and in one case the Emergency Situations Ministry discovered arson. The general public is still wondering who the "beneficiary" of these fires is. We conducted our own investigation in order to answer a question - what are the names of the true owners of the "spontaneously combusting" flea market whose days are numbered, and who owns the land on Kuldjinskij tract where the new wholesale clothing market of the Southern Capital is to be built.
By a strange coincidence, the development of the plots has intensified immediately after a series of fires in Almaty's markets, located on the Northern Ring. The owner of these plots of land is Status Conctruction LLP. It was very difficult for us to get information about its founders, but nevertheless they turned out to be quite familiar faces. The first in the list of founders of this LLP is Nurzhan Bekshenov who in Forbes Kazakhstan magazine's list of "The 50 richest people in Kazakhstan" was 20th in 2012 and 25th in 2013. He has an estimated net worth of $290m and owns the Positive Investment Group.
The number two among the founders of Status Conctruction LLP is Nurzhan Bekshenov's current business partner, the CEO of Positive Investment Group, and in the recent past the first vice minister of the Interior Ministry of Kazakhstan, Police Lieutenant General Vasily Simachev.
The third founder was Mikhail Kaplinsky, a former high-ranking customs official who in the late 1990s headed the Atakent customs office in Almaty, which handled goods from missions abroad.
Not much is known about the fourth founder, Vladimir Fisenko, who is also a former law enforcement officer.
The general director of new trade-logistic centre Semirechye is also a well-known person, retired colonel of MIA Petr Nemilostev, former head of Almatinskaya oblast's traffic police. As they say, no strangers walk here.
Looking at the whole situation described above, it can be compared to Gogol's novel "Dead Souls". In the artistic space of one of Gogol's most famous works, landowners and those in power are linked. Lies, bribery, and the desire for profit characterize each of the images of officials in "Dead Souls". Using the example of officials in the poem "Dead Souls", the most pressing problems of the Russian Empire of the mid-19th century were shown. In addition to serfdom, which hindered natural progress, the real problem was the vast bureaucratic apparatus, for the maintenance of which huge sums were allocated. The people in whose hands power was concentrated worked only for the sake of accumulating their own capital and improving their well-being, robbing both the treasury and ordinary people. Despite the fact that the novel was written in the 19th century, it is still relevant to this day. The officials sitting at the top, in such a difficult period for the people, in the midst of the pandemic, in the midst of restrictions for small businesses and ordinary entrepreneurs, allowed themselves and their relatives to engage in full bribery and holding large events. But they are simple servants of the people, who think of themselves as something great and powerful. I hope that many ordinary people will pay attention to the blatant behavior of officials and realize that Kazakhstan deserves better. I hope that we will see Kazakhstan again in a bright picture of the world.