On Those Able to “Bustle About”

Vice Minister Timur Toktabayev suspected of corruption and embezzlement is, most likely, to preserve his post even under the agency’s new leadership. Not thanks to his outstanding managerial abilities but because he knows how to “bustle about”. And this quality comes in handy in the modern Kazakhstan.

Traditionally, in Kazakhstan, the dismissal of the government and forming of a new cabinet leads to the tectonic shifts in the state apparatus. They are minimal in those ministries whose leaders preserve their position.

And they are realized to the fullest when the agencies are shut down, newly created or reorganized. In the last instance, the standard professional bureaucratic stress that accompanies the life of any official working for the system where little thieves are hanged but great ones escape increases dramatically.

As a result, Kazakhstan has formed the bureaucratic apparatus that is cardinally different from that of the Soviet times and the first years of the Kazakh independence. And the difference is not in favor of the former. We at kz.expert believe the apparatus now is less professional, more dependent on the higher authorities and, therefore, defenseless against their despotism. There exist many reasons why this happened the way it did, but the main one lies in the fact that, in the context of the authoritarian political system and the super-presidential vertical, Akorda and Nursultan Nazarbayev personally need the obedient executants of their will and not the people who have their own convictions and are capable of standing up for them.

Thus, in terms of its professional qualifications, the corpus of the officials, the governmental and the quasi-governmental sectors is even worse than the bulk of the ordinary Kazakh population due to the negative selection process and the elevated risks that accompany working for the state. This is especially true in regard to the recent years when Akorda has simultaneously launched several campaigns – on formalizing the management process (among other things, via the introduction of the modern information technologies), fighting corruption, introducing the principles of meritocracy and so on and so forth.

Under these circumstances, those who choose the state service or the governmental/quasi-governmental sector do not have much choice. They either have to play by the rules (determined by the state, their bosses or the environment in which the consumerist moods are now prevailing) or to move to the non-governmental sector, or to “bustle about” (in other words, make money via dishonest means). And since all the current official and unofficial rules do not correspond with each other and even contradict each other, “busting about” seems to be the preferred option for the smarter folks.

With that, there is the direct correlation between the rank of a given official and his ability to “bustle about”. The higher the rank and the influence of his “native” agency, the wider the circle of ties and connections, the better his prospects are.

This is one of the main (but not the only) reasons why corruption, abuse of authority, stealing, protectionism and nepotism thrive so strongly in Kazakhstan. And why Akorda is unable to eradicate them.

Let us illustrate the above by means of a concrete example. We once wrote about the problems faced by foreign investors who get sold on Akorda’s promises and pour their money into the country by using the case of the Ministry for Investments and Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan (see A “Feedbag” for a Vice Minister).

Note that, on the eve of the New Year, this agency was transformed into the Ministry of Industry and Infrastructural Development of  Kazakhstan and, at the end of February 2019, Roman Sklyar was appointed the head of the new ministry while former head of the agency Zhenis Kasymbek was bumped up to Deputy Prime Minister of  Kazakhstan.

We have also mentioned the Ministry of Industry and Infrastructural Development in the material on the Government’s intentions to create the Kazakhstan Investment Development Fund and obtain, for this purpose, the money from the National Fund of  Kazakhstan (see In the Footsteps of the “Great Combinator”). In particular, we talked about Vice Minister Timur Toktabayev suspected of fraud in relation to the geological exploration and the subsequent development of the Vavilonskoye ore field (East-Kazakhstan region).

Based on the information received from our insiders, Timur Toktabayev will, most likely, keep his chair under the new minister. Not thanks to his outstanding managerial abilities but because he knows how to “bustle about”. Specifically, he is friends with Chingiz Dosmukhambetov, a son of Temirkhan Dosmukhambetov, a former Governor of Astana, a former Minister of Sports and Tourism of the Republic of Kazakhstan and a former Head of the Department of Presidential Affairs.

Note that he was appointed the Head of the Department of Presidential Affairs twice and, all in all, had spent seven years in this capacity which indicates how close he is to President Nursultan Nazarbayev. And even though Temirkhan Dosmukhambetov left the state service a long time ago, he is still considered one of the most influential people among the President’s circle of close associates.

Based on the information provided by the same insiders, Timur Toktabayev is connected to Chingiz Dosmukhambetov not simply through friendship but via the joint business interests in CAMP-VOSTOK LLP even though, in the official documents, only the latter is listed as the sole owner of the enterprise. However, it is thanks to Toktabayev that CAMP-VOSTOK LLP has obtained a number of licenses for the natural resources’ exploration and development (the story runs it is as many as 11). The problem, however, lies in the fact that, to complete these projects, CAMP-VOSTOK LLP needs significant funds. 

Apart from that, CAMP-VOSTOK has recently experienced a problem with loans. The thing is that, after Tsesnabank has been transferred from the hands of Adilbek Dzhaksybekov to the structures controlled by Nursultan Nazarbayev’s family, the bank may no longer shut its eyes to the loans given under the administrative pressure and thanks to the personal ties. In the meantime, according to the insiders, Toktabayev has invested the bigger part of the money he’s “earned” in CAMP-VOSTOK and has always thought of it as a safety net that will come in handy in the event if he will be forced to leave the state service.

We believe this kind of survival mechanism on the part of the officials especially those whose powers allow them to make (lobby) certain decisions that have to do with monetary assessment or business-valuing is standard for Kazakhstan. Of course, not everyone can manage to “bustle about” without problems. Hence the never-ending stream of the press publications on the arrests of the state officials and the managers of the quasi-governmental structures. But anyway, the number of the unlucky ones is not that high. By our estimates, we are talking about just one or two percent of the total number of those who do manage to succeed.


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