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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06ALMATY1153
2006-04-03 01:43:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
US Office Almaty
Cable title:  

CORRUPTION, KAZAKHSTANI STYLE: "ROTTING FROM THE HEAD

Tags:   PHUM  ECON  KDEM  EINV  KPAO  PGOV  KZ 
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VZCZCXRO9792
RR RUEHAST RUEHDBU
DE RUEHTA #1153/01 0930143
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 030143Z APR 06
FM AMEMBASSY ALMATY
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4707
INFO RUEHAST/USOFFICE ASTANA
RUEHAH/AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT 6936
RUEHKB/AMEMBASSY BAKU 0653
RUEHEK/AMEMBASSY BISHKEK 7475
RUEHDBU/AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE 1660
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 0156
RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 1195
RUEHNT/AMEMBASSY TASHKENT 7446
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1542
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 ALMATY 001153 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR SCA/CEN (JMUDGE); SCA/CEN/PPD (JBASEDOW), EB, DRL/PHD
(CKUCHTA-HELBLING)

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM ECON KDEM EINV KPAO PGOV KZ
SUBJECT: CORRUPTION, KAZAKHSTANI STYLE: "ROTTING FROM THE HEAD
DOWN"

Ref: Dushanbe 576



1. (SBU) Summary: Corruption is rife in Kazakhstan, affecting all
sectors from education to health care. Kazakhstani perceptions of
the impact and acceptability of the various forms of corruption
are nuanced. While they are decidedly critical of the large-
scale corruption found at the top levels of business and
government, most Kazakhstanis accept "everyday" bribes and
kickbacks as a necessary remedy to an overly bureaucratic system.
Regardless of perceptions, the pervasive corruption throughout
Kazakhstani society clearly weakens rule of law and diminishes
the sense of civic responsibility. End Summary



2. (SBU) The purpose of this cable is to provide anecdotal
examples of corruption, along with other Central Asian embassies,
as part of a coordinated reporting effort. Please see additional
corruption pieces from Ashgabat, Bishkek, Dushanbe, Kabul and
Tashkent.



--------------------------


THE SCOPE OF CORRUPTION


--------------------------





3. (SBU) As in other post Soviet states, corruption in Kazakhstan
is not simply an isolated practice of the social elite, but
rather a pervasive and socially ingrained phenomenon that affects
all levels of society. In bribery, its most recognizable form,
corruption is extensive, although the use of kickbacks, illicit
exchange arrangements and extortion are also prevalent in
Kazakhstan. Moreover, corruption extends into the law enforcement
and judicial systems, health and dental care industries,
regulation and permitting agencies, border and import/export
control, and press and media outlets.



--------------------------


THE EVERYDAY EXPERIENCE OF CORRUPTION


--------------------------





4. (SBU) The prototypical example of Kazakhstani corruption is
seen everyday on the street, where local traffic police openly
extort bribes from motorists. When caught speeding, making an
illegal turn, running a red light, or committing some other minor
traffic violation, the offending motorist is pulled over by one
officer and typically asked to get in the police vehicle where a
second officer is sitting. After a short conversation, the
driver will pass 200 to 500 tenge ($2-5) to the second officer
with a handshake and be on his way. For more serious infractions
such as drunk driving, the procedure is the same and the bribe is
said to be between 10,000 and 25,000 tenge ($80-200).



5. (SBU) Police have also been known to coerce bribes by working
together to create confusing traffic situations. For example,
one individual recounted an experience where police sitting in
their vehicle near an out-of-service traffic light appeared to be

waving motorists to pass. Once they did so however, a second
officer some distance away would stop them for having broken the
law. When the indignant `offender' confronted the first officer,
he claimed that he had merely been stretching his arm out the
window. Accordingly, traffic police enjoy an extremely lucrative
profession; the hiring process itself is subject to knowing, then
bribing, the right people.



6. (SBU) Kazakhstan's burgeoning car culture provides many other
opportunities for exploitation. Without bribing the driving
instructor, for example, prospective drivers are not likely to
pass the driving exam. Even those who do pass without bribing
then face up to a six month `processing' delay. Kazakhstani law
also requires annual vehicle inspections, which few of the used
Japanese and German imports that clog the streets are capable of
passing legitimately. However, an additional 1,000 tenge ($8)
"payment" alleviates the problem. The result is a plethora of
highly polluting and sometimes dangerous vehicles on the streets.



7. (SBU) As in Soviet times, the health care and dental
professions remain substantially underpaid. Hence, locals
regularly make use of gifts and bribes to ensure doctors' careful
attention or to circumvent waiting lists. Various hospital
services are also for sale. One local resident who suffered a

ALMATY 00001153 002 OF 004


serious, debilitating injury was informed by the hospital that he
would be required to return to work within two days. Realizing
that to be impossible, he had a close relative present the
receptionist with a gift basket, and his hospital stay was
extended by a week.



8. (SBU) Kazakhstan's educational system is notoriously subject
to corruption at all levels, particularly concerning admission to
private schools and prestigious universities. In order to enroll
her young nephew in a special elementary school, one local
citizen took note of the director's casual remarks about the
school's lack of learning materials. After a considerable
donation of supplies to the school, her nephew was promptly
admitted. University admission exams are also routinely sold
prior to the exam period, for prices ranging from 1,000 to 15,000
tenge ($8-130). The American-affiliated, business university
KIMEP is a notable exception to the rule of institutional
corruption in higher education and, not coincidentally, enjoys
the best academic reputation in the country. However, even KIMEP
is not completely immune to the problem; Americans working there
report instances of bribery involving professors, students and
occasionally heads of departments.



9. (SBU) Beyond admission, everything from individual grades to
full doctoral degrees is for sale, going for perhaps 1,000 tenge
($8) for the former and upwards of 500,000 tenge ($4,000) for the
latter. However, the outright purchase of a doctorate is much
less common than bribing the supervising committee. Everybody
knows, one former student claimed, that without throwing a party
for your advisors and showering them with gifts, your thesis has
no chance of being approved, regardless of its academic merit.
Additionally, unpaid student internships are reportedly auctioned
off to companies for up to 150,000 tenge ($1200), none of which
is passed along to the students.



10. (SBU) Corruption is also manifest at nearly every stage of
the government bureaucracy. When renewing passports, acquiring
permits, bidding on contracts, renewing apartment leases and
navigating the regulatory environment, Kazakhstani citizens are
often presented with the option of either investing enormous
amounts of time and effort in dealing with the inefficient
bureaucracy, or simply bribing the appropriate person. Moreover,
making the bureaucracy un-navigable or exacerbating its existing
inefficiencies is an effective way of implicitly soliciting
kickbacks. Consequently, Kazakhstanis complain that self-serving
bureaucrats often deliberately hold up paperwork, shorten office
hours, or withhold information so that something as simple as
renewing a passport can take several months without a bribe.



11. (SBU) Corruption is especially acute in customs and border
control, often described as the most corrupt sector in
Kazakhstan. Travelers crossing regional borders by car are often
hassled with ad hoc customs restrictions until a small bribe or
gift is produced. On a much larger scale, however, mass
quantities of goods from China are regularly smuggled into to
Kazakhstan with the help of border officials. In a recent, highly
publicized case, a group of border control officers were caught
extorting up to $4000 from each truck carrying smuggled Chinese
goods into Kazakhstan, collecting between $3-4 million in bribes
a month at a single outpost.



12. (SBU) In addition to goods, migrants are often shuffled
illegally across borders for a fee - such as prostitutes from
Tashkent or laborers from Tajikistan - as Kazakhstan offers one
of the most profitable working environments in Central Asia. One
Kyrgyz student from KIMEP did not mind skipping classes because,
he said, his brother works as a border guard, which guarantees
him a job that pays more than any legitimate one he might obtain.



13. (SBU) The legal structure is widely perceived to be corrupt
and politically influenced. Despite being the highest paid civil
servants in the country, judges are widely viewed as corrupt. A
law establishing a jury trial system has been passed, but awaits
implementation. Nevertheless, even under the new law, jury trials
will be available in only the most serious criminal cases, while
in civil and minor criminal cases lawyers will continue to act as
the intermediary between clients and judges. Overall,
Kazakhstanis see the process, on the whole, as rife with

ALMATY 00001153 003 OF 004


corruption, and express little faith in the rule of law.



14. (SBU) Finally, nearly all informed observers doubted the
existence of a truly objective press in Kazakhstan. Instead,
Kazakhstanis often feel that few media outlets or journalists
remain unbiased, and that they are either working directly under
the auspices of local businessmen and politicians, or are at
least swayed by them. As a consequence, Kazakhstanis tend to put
markedly more faith in hearsay and anecdotal evidence and less in
print media than do Americans.



--------------------------


ATTITUDES TOWARD CORRUPTION


--------------------------





15. (SBU) While Kazakhstanis are decidedly critical of high-level
political and business-related corruption, they largely tolerate
its street-level variant. In fact, corruption is so ingrained
that locals sometimes fail to distinguish it from the motions of
daily life. Instead, corruption in the form of bribes and
kickbacks, exchange arrangements and trade-offs, is often viewed
as a way to circumvent a hopelessly slow bureaucracy or exercise
a certain degree of freedom in an otherwise inflexible system.



16. (SBU) The resulting corruption in some industries, such as
health care, is considered an accepted necessity. Kazakhstanis
almost unanimously agree that the meager salaries paid doctors
and their staffs cannot possibly ensure the level of service
required of them, despite their best intentions. Corruption is
seen as a natural result of a weak system, effectively shifting
the burden of responsibility away from both the giving and
receiving parties.



17. (SBU) Many Kazakhstanis, nevertheless, acknowledge that this
type of corruption progressively undermines institutions such as
the educational system, and they often express a principled
objection to corruption in general. Yet, when queried, many say
that they prefer the status quo to a system completely without
corruption. Furthermore, many feel it is the government's job to
eliminate corruption at all levels and to set the example for the
country. The situation is often summed up with the old Russian
saying, "A fish rots from its head down."



--------------------------


THE CONSEQUENCES OF CORRUPTION


--------------------------





18. (SBU) The prevalence of corruption serves to effectively
widen the already significant gap between the rich and the poor.
Wealthy citizens can easily out-bribe the poor for preferential
treatment in all the areas mentioned above. Because they can
easily afford numerous, small traffic bribes, they are also more
likely to disregard traffic laws and act with some level of
impunity in other situations, undermining the standard of
equality under the law. While the economic impact of `everyday'
corruption is likely small, larger-scale forms of corruption
intended to subvert free market mechanisms undoubtedly have a
significant negative effect on Kazakhstan's economic potential.



19. (SBU) Widespread bureaucratic corruption undoubtedly weakens
the authority of the government. Whether due to increased media
focus on corruption or the government's efforts to shift the
blame, many Kazakhstanis cite democratization efforts as the
cause of the perceived increase in corruption since the fall of
the USSR. When Kazakhstan was part of the Soviet Union,
political corruption rarely made headlines and `everyday'
corruption had not yet been stigmatized. Kazakhstan's particular
trajectory of democratization is also blamed for the rising
oligarchy in the country.



--------------------------


COMMENT


--------------------------





20. (SBU) Comment: In the Kazakhstani context, corruption
inflicts its greatest damage by slowly undermining the
institutions of law, education and democracy. As the process
takes root, the rationale for engaging in corruption grows

ALMATY 00001153 004 OF 004


stronger and the fight against it more challenging. It is
difficult to judge whether or when Kazakhstan will be able to
combat this problem. In a country with such centralized power
and poorly-developed sense of individual civic duty, it is likely
that only a demonstration of political will from the very top
could reverse current trends. However, there are few indications
that such a demonstration will be forthcoming anytime soon. End
Comment.

ORDWAY