Archive for January 27, 2008

Corruption and the Typical Kazakh Family

Apparently corruption is still rife in the former Soviet Union as witnessed by a 30 year old female who wants to study in an American MA program in Public Administration.  She wrote:  “The reason why I want to work on corruption is that this is the root of all problems in Kazakhstan.  The amount of money that we have owing to our natural resources could support many social projects and programs.  But everyone here knows it does not.  And “everyone” would do the same, in case he/she would have access to profits from natural resources, because it is normal in everyday life of every Kazakh citizen to give or receive bribes.  It happens everywhere – at a pay desk in a railway station, in a consulting room, at university, at an organization, if one wants to work for it and gives money to an employer to be hired, and what is the most terrible – when it bears relation to a life – in a court.  Due to corruption on a high level, suffers not only one person, but thousands and millions of people – we just cannot see it distinctly.” 

A single 24 year old woman in Public Health wrote how corruption has negatively impacted the health professions:  “One of the reforms that failed in my opinion was the decision of the [Kazakh] government to abolish the pay services in the state medical establishments.  That breeds such negative factors like extortion and corruption among medical workers.  I think that in the conditions of the developing market economy pay-free medicine is not actual any more.  In the state medicine establishments, where the services are free, the quality of the services is the first to suffer.  If the patient wants to get high quality medical help and attentive attitude from the personnel, he must “persuade” the doctor personally.  I am convinced about it not only on the example of my own family while getting medical help…but the other patients suffered financial expenses (they bought bandages, injectors, medicaments, they gave gifts)” 

While the above woman in Public Health saw abuses towards her family regarding medical care, a 29 year old married man in environmental studies wrote about his concern for his family and the damaged environment they live in in Kazakhstan.  I would like to work in the Ministry of Environmental Protection.  I cannot be indifferent to the situation in my country.  I have a family, my son and my parents who live here.  And I don’t want rocket heptyl or other industrial contamination influences in their health.” 

Another 23 year old single male in law had this to write about his family from humble origins:  “I desire to glorify my family’s name.  The fact is that I am the first to take higher education in my family.  My father is an ordinary taxi driver and my mother is a housewife.  Notwithstanding that my parents did not take higher education, they did their best to ensure that my younger brother and I were well educated, respectful and worthy citizens of Kazakhstan.  Due to my parents’ all around support, I have achieved many accomplishments.  Accordingly, one of the reasons to study in the US is the justification of the hopes of my parents.” 

Another ambitious 26 year old single female economist was a good problem solver and discovered something about her leadership abilities when she didn’t rely on her parents’ support:  “Once I lost my purse with the money for my one month living.  I was a student at that time and was supported by my parents.  My action to solve the problem was not to call my parents, asking to send me additional means for living but the announcement in the newspaper about giving English language lessons.  This way I got my first earnings and assurance that I can provide for myself.” 

How difficult for us, as westerners, to understand that giving bribes and experiencing corruption are a commonplace occurrence with the typical Kazakh family.  Who you know and not what you know is important in order to survive in the steppes of Kazakhstan.     

Leave a comment »

Kazakhstan’s Inheritance from the Soviets

A bright, 25 year old single woman who is a journalist wrote:  The most popular literature genre in the [former] USSR was scientific fiction.  Carried away by robots and space mysteries, people tried to escape their reality.  Our university teachers told, that at the moment of acute deficit on goods in the USSR, the number of mass media reports about UFO and yeti was suddenly increasing.  Actually, “the suddenness” in reality was caused by the authorities, eager to change people’s attention to something else instead of the economic problems.  Journalists call this method “information corridor.”  The most tragic was the fact people often didn’t want to hear the truth as it was an uncomfortable truth.” 

Another 26 year old single female journalist further explained:  Mass communications is a new science in post-Soviet countries.  Studying and translation of great American and European theorists was forbidden in Soviet period.”  According to her a media theorist expert and practitioner is Josef Dzyaloshinskiy, the director of Independent Institute of Communication Studies in Moscow, Russia.  She wrote:  “He is the first person, who used “civic journalism” expression in CIS countries and started talking about present conditions of post-Soviet media pointing out the issue of quality and credibility.” 

However, the other 25 year old journalist stated when she was interviewing Kazakhstani opposition politician Zauresh Battallova, she expressed an interesting opinion:  “Our government uses such destructive methods of working, that being credibly informed became impossible for it.  Our executives have been in a self-deceive situation for a long time because of their own fault.”   The journalist stated further, Frankly, my colleagues and I agreed that sometimes we don’t like our own reports as “their truth” is uncomfortable for us too. 

One of the 30 year old female journalists who had very poor English skills while speaking in her interview wrote the following:  The journalism of the CIS countries in many respects still lives by rules of the Soviet journalism.  And it is radically incorrect.  The world has changed, the USSR has remained in the past, vital principles have changed, the world became more cosmopolitan.  And all this should affect on journalists work. 

She further explained what she saw was a policy issue:  “In our country understanding of “democracy” in my opinion, not absolutely true.  Many people count that abusing the government, not offering something in exchange, and not analyzing policy – it is all called “democracy.”  But it is in my opinion, incorrectly.  Democracy is a pluralism of the proved opinions.  It is impossible to tell simply – “work of our government is bad.”  The explanation and proofs are necessary.” 

A 33 year old married male who was actually in Policy Administration and not a journalist wrote the following in his application:  What have I learned?  From my daily interactions I see that Kazakhstan has a wealth of talented and dedicated people but lacks competence in a number of areas required to adequately deal with the challenges of transforming the country’s economy and society.  A serious issue is the traditional approach inherited from the Soviet past.  For example, Kazakhstan is trying to reform its health and education systems.  The outdated mentality, however, finds it difficult to sanction the delegation of autonomy and responsibilities to sub-national governments or to institutions such as hospitals and schools.  In my view, however, development is not possible without decentralizing and democratizing public sector governance…” 

A 29 year old environmentalist wrote the following as he saw how certain policies inherited from the Soviet era continue to damage Kazakhstan: “Environmental problems in Kazakhstan appeared quite a long time ago.  In the Soviet time most of the industries have been built up here, due to Kazakhstan was rather remote from the USSR frontiers.  Those industries have been operated for decades, leaving behind contaminated soil, surface and groundwater, air environment.  Even today some industries out of operation represent environmental threat…Almost all Kazakhstani specialists working in the field of environment are chemists, biologists, hydrology scientists or economists.  Only few could take their degrees in environmental disciplines.  In Soviet time, the fact of industrial wastes impact on the environment was not taken in consideration thus there was no need to train such specialists.” 

Finally, a 24 year old in Public Health weighed in on what happened to their health care system after the Soviet Union was dismantled:  “I think that one of the main reasons of the failed reforms in public healthcare is the absence of professional management due to the fact that in the years of the Soviet Union, nobody prepared specialists-managers of public healthcare…Besides, our textbooks for the fundamental sciences in the medical universities are hopelessly obsolete.  And accordingly obsolete are the knowledges of our students.”       

Leave a comment »