Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Little Hope for Shadow Economy Probe

By News Briefing Central Asia
As a large-scale campaign to promote undisclosed asset registration in Kazakstan comes to a close, the state is reminding those who’ve evaded the process that they will be pursued - but observers don’t believe the state wields enough power to catch up with them.

Finance Minister Natalya Korjova announced on February 10 that as soon as the government’s campaign to get Kazaks to legally register their property and any assets held abroad comes to an end on April 1, the relevant agencies will start searching for people who have failed to comply.

NBCentralAsia analysts suggest that the campaign is ineffective because the process of registering is still highly bureaucratic. A substantial number of applications for property and foreign asset registration have yet to be approved.

Around 960,000 applications for real estate registration were submitted to the justice ministry by early February. Only half of them were successful.

According to justice ministry estimates, there are about 1.5 million undisclosed assets in the shadow economy around the country.

The campaign for voluntary registration began in July last year and was meant to end on December 31, but people were so unforthcoming that the deadline has been extended by four months. The former government headed by Danial Akhmetov has been criticised for its implementation of this campaign.

NBCentralAsia analyst Eduard Poletaev suggests that Korjova’s statement is most likely a warning to property owners who have failed to register their assets and an attempt to punish the big players. But he points out that the authorities simply don’t have the powers and the resources to net all those who’ve failed to comply with the government initiative.

Independent media-watcher Daur Dosybiev says the campaign has failed and huge amounts of money remain in the shadow economy.

“Only what is on the surface, mainly real estate, has been legalised,” he said. “All or almost all shadow capital was successfully placed outside of Kazakstan long ago and registered under front parties. I don’t think that the government has [the ability] to identify large amounts of shadow capital.”

(News Briefing Central Asia draws comment and analysis from a broad range of political observers across the region.)