An uptick in civic activism in Kazakhstan has helped slightly improve the country’s standing in Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index. The picture is still a grim one overall, however.
That is Kazakhstan’s highest-ever score, but the country still classifies as “highly corrupt.” Any nation scoring between 0 and 50 falls into that group.
Transparency International frames the risks of that kind of situation in the gravest terms.
A score below 50 “hinders a country's economic development and the social wellbeing of citizens,” the organization’s Kazakhstan office said in a statement.
The improvement in the global standings, up from 101st in 2022 to 92nd in 2023, has been attributed in part to the activation of civil society that occurred after the political unrest of January 2022. In a scramble to temper public moods, the authorities have undertaken extensive efforts to return money improperly stashed away in foreign jurisdictions by corrupt officials and their relatives.
Associates and close family members of former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, including his late brother, Bolat, have come under particular scrutiny for their business dealings.
“Civil society is starting to wake up,” said Aidar Egeubayev, chairman of Transparency International Kazakhstan. “I am confident that with the further activation of the entirety of society in the interests of combating and preventing corruption, especially in the oil sector, we will be able to see further positive dynamics for the future of our children.”
Transparency International identifies lack of independence in the judiciary and the excessive influence of self-interested political elites as persisting problems.
Kazakhstan can at least take some comfort in how it outperforms its neighbors.
Uzbekistan trails slightly with 33 points, while Kyrgyzstan and Russia are on 26 points. The worst performers in Central Asia are Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, with 20 and 18 points, respectively.
Almaz Kumenov is an Almaty-based journalist.