WELCOME TO IWPR'S REPORTING CENTRAL ASIA, No. 477 Part 2, January 12, 2006

minister could represent a shift from economic to political reforms, say 
analysts.  By Abdujalil Abdurasulov in Almaty

KYRGYZ COALFACE A DANGEROUS PLACE  Government commission recommends prosecution 
of mine company official after recent fatal accident.  By Aziza Turdueva in 


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Appointment of new prime minister could represent a shift from economic to 
political reforms, say analysts.

By Abdujalil Abdurasulov in Almaty

The new Kazak premier, Karim Masimov, may be asked by the president to 
accelerate political reforms, but is unlikely to wield any more influence over 
government policy than his predecessors. 

Parliament on January 10 approved Masimov, 41, as the successor to Danial 
Akhmetov, the longest serving premier in Kazak history who resigned 
unexpectedly earlier this week.

President Nursultan Nazarbaev said a changing of the guard, bringing new energy 
and ideas, is essential if Kazakstan is to meet the challenges ahead. The 
president praised his new prime minister in a speech to parliament. 

“He has a clear understanding and a plan of action in all directions. I am sure 
that Karim Kajimkanovich Masimov has enough experience and knowledge and the 
new cabinet will present a programme that will strengthen and improve 
Kazakstan’s achievements,” he said.

Masimov, the former deputy prime minister, speaks an impressive array of 
languages including English, Arabic and Chinese. China, in particular, has 
become an important strategic partner for Kazakstan in recent years and the two 
countries are working closely together to develop Kazakstan’s energy resources.

Masimov studied in China and worked in Hong Kong where he headed Kazak trading 
operations. He has also made numerous visits to Russia - another key partner 
for Kazakstan - and is thought to be well connected within the Kremlin.

An ethnic Uighur, he seems less traditional than previous prime ministers and 
even has his own website, unusual for Central Asian leaders at his level.

Anton Morozov, a research fellow from the internal policies department at the 
Kazakstan Institute of Strategic Studies, believes the new cabinet headed by 
Masimov will accelerate political reforms. 

“Each prime minister had his own task. [Nurlan] Balgimbaev’s mission was to 
develop the oil sector. [Akejan] Kajegeldin was responsible for privatisation. 
Akhmetov’s task was to achieve macroeconomic stability. The new head of the 
cabinet will represent the shift from economic reforms to political ones,” he 

Along with shepherding Kazakstan towards WTO membership and the chair of the 
OSCE, Masimov’s main priority will be to maintain economic stability in order 
to implement these political reforms, says Morozov.

Analysts say the new premier will, like his predecessors, be largely restricted 
to doing the president’s bidding. 

Yerlan Karin, a political scientist, believes the only difference will be in 
how Masimov, ten years younger than the former premier, approaches the job.

“Every prime minister brings some changes in the style, dynamics and pace of 
work of the cabinet. Some are more energetic like Masimov, others are more 
relaxed and orderly like Akhmetov,” he said.

Oraz Jandosov, a leading opposition member and a co-chair of the True Ak Jol 
party, said prime ministers will only be their own men once the country becomes 
more democratic. 

“Ninety per cent of what the cabinet does or does not do depends on the 
president. There is only ten per cent of independence in which to manoeuvre. To 
have any significant changes, we need to have a more open political system,” 
said Zhandosov.

Many observers attribute his surprise departure to an unwritten rule that the 
prime minister and his cabinet must resign after a certain period in office. 
Akhmetov had perhaps outstayed his welcome after more than three years. 

Analysts say he hung on as prime minister for so long with the help of the 
powerful Eurasian Industrial Association - an elite group that controls much of 
the country’s metallurgy and energy business. Akhmetov is considered to be the 
protégé of the Eurasian group’s leader Alexander Mashkevich.

But despite his differences with Akhmetov, many experts are confident that 
sooner or later he too will resign. This is how the system works, they say. The 
only thing unclear to them is whether he will beat Akhmetov’s record and become 
the premier who stayed the longest.

Abdujalil Abdurasulov is an independent journalist based in Almaty.


Government commission recommends prosecution of mine company official after 
recent fatal accident.

By Aziza Turdueva in Bishkek

They work without safety equipment, ventilation is poor and training often 

Labour rights activists in Kygyzstan paint a bleak picture of working 
conditions in the country’s mines where fatal accidents - which they blame on 
owners putting profits before workers’ safety - are commonplace.

Following the death of five miners late last year in the southern Batken 
region, a commission set up by the Kyrgyz government to investigate the 
fatalities, the consequence of a roof fall 220 metres underground, has 
concluded that the mining company failed to comply with safety standards and 
has recommended that prosecutors charge its director and chief engineer.

A subsequent commission - which includes members of local administrations and 
councils in mining towns as well as representatives from the ministry for 
emergency situations - is conducting a nationwide inspection of the country's 
mines to see whether they follow safety regulations.

“Firms hire unemployed people who lack safety equipment, lamps or even helmets 
and risk their lives as they descend into the depths to dig for coal,” said 
Turar Sarkulov, head of the state inspection board for industrial safety and 
mining at the Kyrgyz emergency ministry. “These firms do not usually spend 
money on technically equipping the mine as opening a new mine requires enormous 

Coal mining has long been on the wane in Kyrgyzstan with only 250,000 tonnes 
now mined each year, compared with the Soviet era when one small mine alone 
produced as much as 500,000 tonnes, according to Sarkulov

Qualified miners have left the country, state run pits have fallen into disuse 
and private companies have moved in to take their place.

"Currently there are 92 private firms registered officially in Kyrgyzstan which 
mine coal, but there are dozens of private firms in the coal business which 
lack registration and licenses,” said Sarkulov.

Miners in the impoverished south say they have little choice but to risk their 

Though wages are low - between 400 and 2,000 soms per month [10- 50 US dollars] 
- unemployment and poverty in the region means there is no shortage of men 
willing to take the risk. “Around 500 people work at our mine,” said Aman 
Tashtanov, who works a 24-hour shift at a Sulyukta mine then rests for two 
days. “But there are even more people who want to work here.”

Mining company official Raikhan Bainazarova added, “I see the difficulties the 
miners face in their work and for tiny salaries. Miners now have to buy their 
own clothes and equipment. But people who don’t have enough money work without 
the necessary equipment to protect themselves from dangerous gas.”

Those who don’t work with the private firms put themselves in even greater 
danger, going underground illegally and digging for coal to sell themselves.

“If they have nothing to eat, their children are hungry and have no clothes, 
and there are no ways to earn some money other than going to mine coal, it does 
not matter that one risks life, one will go anyway. We need jobs so that we 
don’t go to the mines,” said Kok-Janak resident Bakyt Karabaev.

But they pay a high price.

More than 30 miners have died - most from roof falls and carbon monoxide 
poisoning - over the last three years, the latest on December 1 at an 
unregistered mine in the town of Kok-Janak.

And the real numbers is much higher as firms without a license do not report 
deaths on the job. Relatives also keep quiet, because Kyrgyz miners often sign 
an agreement stating they have no claim against their employer should there be 
an accident, according to Kubanychbek Kiyizbaev, a member of the Kok-Janak town 

A government official said, “Firms that work without licence usually try to 
conceal the fact that someone has died.”

Though it will have little effect on such unlicensed operators, Abdykakhar 
Ibragimov, the head of the town administration in Sulyukta, urges the 
government to toughen up the conditions for mining licenses, which he says are 
currently inadequate

“Firms can get permissions for the works on coal mines very easily. It is quite 
easy to meet the requirements for getting a licence,” he said.

The government, however, seems reluctant to change the system.

The State Agency on Geology and Mineral Resources insists that it is already 
difficult to get a mining license, and says they are only issued to companies 
whose top officials have a degree in engineering or mining.

It says firms that want to set up mining operations must include in their 
project proposal a clause on how they’ll keep miners safe. Various state 
agencies then examine the proposal to ensure these measures are adequate. It 
must then receive permission from the authorities where the mine is located and 
only then will the authorities issue the licence. 

Human rights activists say workers must take some responsibility for their 
safety and demand to be given items like protective clothing. They admit, 
however, that isn’t easy to do.

“Employers are usually seen here as gods and kings so that a worker cannot even 
mention one’s basic rights. The inhabitants of remote areas should start 
overcoming legal nihilism,” said Aziza Abdrasulova, the head of a human rights 

“But it is commonly the case that Kyrgyz people - when, for example, a relative 
dies and it is somebody’s fault - will just accept money and agree not to have 
any court proceedings. So everything is arranged outside of the court. Yet it 
is someone's life.”

Aziza Turdueva is an IWPR contributor in Bishkek.

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