Kazakhstan, a nation rich in hydrocarbons, is grappling with a gasoline shortage that has enveloped the entire country, including the capital, Astana, and the southern metropolis of Almaty.
Portents of a shortage appeared in late September, when Kazakhstani media outlets began reporting that service stations in the north and east of the country were experiencing trouble supplying customers with gas. Authorities acted swiftly to tamp down concerns, assuring motorists that there was no fuel crisis in the offing. Speaking at a news conference on September 22, a deputy energy minister, Mazgum Mirzagaliyev, downplayed speculation that a gas crunch was looming, asserting that fuel shortages only affected select retailers. The problem would blow over in a matter of days, he pledged.
But it has not turned out way. These days, many service stations are providing fuel only in exchange for coupons. These little slips of paper, which can be exchanged for set amounts of gas — 10, 20 or 30 liters — are distributed to employees of certain companies that bulk-buy the coupons in advance as a form of insurance against seasonal price spikes.
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Almaz Kumenov is a journalist based in Almaty, Kazakhstan.