How Many Uber-Rich People Are There in Kazakhstan?

Citing the Wealth Report 2020 prepared by international consulting company Knight Frank, the Kazakh press has informed that Kazakhstan has got 660 uber-rich citizens, in other words, those whose net worth surpasses US30 $ mln. In our opinion, this is too conservative a figure.  

Note that, in the neighboring Central Asian countries, the number of the uber-rich people is significantly lower: 104 in Turkmenistan, 16 in Tajikistan, 12 in Uzbekistan, 0 in Kyrgyzstan. As for Russia, according to the Knight Frank’s estimates, the number of the so-called ultra high-net worth individuals or UHNWI constitutes 8924 people which is 331 persons more than a year earlier yet 1593 persons less than in the already distant 2014.

The said fact does bewilder us. For Russia and Kazakhstan have similar structures of the national economies based primarily on exploiting the natural resources. Which means that, theoretically, the number of the UHNWIs in Kazakhstan should be significantly higher than Knight Frank’s estimates would have you believe. 1100-1200 persons at the very least.

The thing is that, in terms of the population size,  Russia surpasses Kazakhstan by approximately 8 times, so, by dividing the number of the Russian «ultrahighnets» (8924) by 8, we get exactly the range indicated above.  

In view of this, a legitimate question arises — why is the share of the UHNWIs in Kazakhstan twice as low as that in Russia? Let us try and answer it.

We have no opportunity to analyze Knight Frank’s estimation methodology, however, we are certain that it is based on the use of open data. Therefore, we may suggest that the uber-rich people in Kazakhstan prefer to hide from someone else’s attention and know how to do so much better than the Russians. 

To confirm this, let us call your attention to the fact that any Kazakh, off the top of their head, can name at least ten uber-rich people from among the First President’s relatives and allies (including his own self); the uber-rich people that are likely to have gone unnoticed by Knight Frank’s experts.

Another explanation of the situation is based on that important circumstance that Kazakhstan, contrary to Russia, does not allow to hold a second (third, etc) citizenship. Therefore, the uber-rich people that own assets not just inside the country but abroad and that usually reside in two or more states are being forced to abandon the Kazakh citizenship in order to avoid additional problems when visiting their home land. As a result of this kind of emigration (that poses no problem when you have more than US30 $ mln at your disposal), the number of the «ultrahighnets» in Kazakhstan simply bound to be significantly lower than in Russia that does not have this problem.

Finally, our last theory lies in the fact that, as a whole, the top of Russia’s bureaucratic apparatus, the top-management of the state and quasi-governmental companies as well as big private businesses are much more transparent for the press and casual observers than those of Kazakhstan.

And not only because, in Russia, the top state officials and the managers of the quasi-governmental structures as well as their spouses must file tax returns that are later made accessible to the public. But also due to the fact that, with all the existing limitations, the Russian society and the press are much more active, independent and free than the society and the press of Kazakhstan. And no Navalny in Kazakhstan, either…


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