Mangistau, an oil-rich region on the Caspian Sea, is sometimes described as the motor of Kazakhstan’s vibrant economy. These days, it is also a hotbed of social tension.
Labor unrest involving state-owned energy companies has been simmering for months in the region, lowering the country’s oil output and hurting its investment image. The dispute revolves around workers’ pay and benefits. Strikes by as many as 15,000 workers began in May, targeting two state-affiliated entities -- KarazhanbasMunai, a Kazakh-Chinese joint venture based in the port city of Aktau, and UzenMunaiGaz, a subsidiary of the state-run oil & gas conglomerate KazMunaiGaz in nearby Zhanaozen. KazMunaiGaz is operated by the Samruk-Kazyna State Welfare Fund, which is chaired by Timur Kulibayev, President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s billionaire son-in-law.
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Alisher Khamidov is a freelance writer specializing in Central Asian affairs.