Kazakhstan: Why Is Corruption There to Stay?

This fall, the Kazakh authorities have made many arrests of the corrupt state officials and the managers of the quasi-state agencies (some highly-ranked). Among them, for instance, is First Deputy Governor of the Mangistau region Serik Amangaliyev. He was caught with the goods and then arrested for the period of two months.

There is no doubt that this abnormal activity on the part of the law-enforcement agencies, first of all, the National Anti-Corruption Bureau and the National Security Committee, has been directly sanctioned by Akorda and aims to convince the Kazakh citizens that the authorities are fiercely fighting corruption in the country.

However, even if the law-enforcement agencies are to operate 24/7 and increase the number of the arrested and then convicted officials by times and more, the level of corruption in the country will not go down. There is plenty of reasons for that, and most of them cannot be eliminated. We believe that, among others, these reasons include the bad “genes”.

The problem is that the original accumulation of capital in Kazakhstan happened through the closed and selective distribution of the state property among a narrow circle of people close to the first and the irreplaceable Head of the state, in other words, was of an unashamedly corrupt nature. And this “birth trauma” is there to haunt us for years to come.  

Apart from that, Kazakhstan’s got the authoritarian political system, the super-Presidential form of governance and the economy with an absolute domination of the state sector. As a result, performing any kind of business activity in the country is simply impossible without the support of the state or its influential representatives, in other words, without an official or unofficial backing. The latter automatically forms the corrupt relationships even if they do not manifest themselves in the form of a blatant bribery.

There is also the clan factor since, in the course of the political fighting, the Kazakh ruling elite has been divided into relatively stable clans consisting of officials, manager of the quasi-state agencies, low-enforcers, civil activists, politicians. Forming corrupt relationships inside these clans is unavoidable since, in Kazakhstan, no other way of distributing and redistributing incomes exists in principle.

We must remark, however, that most reasons for corruption existence are of the opportunistic but not of the systemic character. Still, there are so many of them that perhaps the time has come for the state to create a special register. With that, we should acknowledge that Akorda is persistent in trying to eliminate these reasons – just recall the mass introduction of the public service centers, the simplification of the enterprises liquidation system or the increase of the number of the online state services. However, the paradox lies in the fact that, as all of this is happening, the new reasons for the survival of corruption appear at the same time.

To illustrate this point, we will cite an example of forming a corruption zone around the registration services for the Kazakhs and foreign nationals.

Here are some quotes from the press-release issued by Astana’s Department of the Interior dated November 8, 2018, and called “In the Probe against the “Elastic Flats”, The Astana Policemen Conducted Preventive Activities “Beware - the Broker!” (text in bold by kz.expert).

“To stop the brokering between real-estate owners and registered Kazakh citizens and foreign nationals, the Astana Department of the Interior had conducted preventive activities “Beware - the Broker!”. The operation took place during the period of October 29 - November 6 in the city of Astana. The representatives of the migration and local police services as well as the criminal police had checked a number of addresses where the maximum quantity of people was registered. As a result, 1083 violations of the migration law had been found (…).

The so called “brokers” operate on a fee basis. Large numbers of people come to be registered at one address. For instance, in the course of the activities, 140 instances of brokering between the real-estate owners and the registered Kazakh citizens had been found.

The registration is needed not only for the purposes of monitoring the migration processes. It also provides a possibility for receiving those social services that are tied to the address where a citizen is registered (medical care, education, public transportation services, etc)”.

Given the fact that the police operation in the capital lasted only one week and was limited in nature, it nonetheless uncovered 1083 violations of the migration law and 140 instances of the brokering between the real-estate owners and the registered Kazakh citizens. Thus, it is clear that this phenomenon is of a large-scale nature.

If Akorda could follow the example of the states with the democratic political system and abandoned the rule of the compulsory registration at a place of stay, this zone of corruption would disappear ipso facto.

But unfortunately, the Kazakh authorities cannot afford such luxury.


First, for reasons of fear. Due to their relative weakness (political, repressive, technical, etc), they are very keen on the constant police supervision of the citizens.

Second, this kind of system inherited from the Soviet times trains to obey the state and convinces people of their inferiority vis-à-vis the authorities. And from the standpoint of Akorda’s current priorities, this is much more important than the anti-corruption fight.


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