Mortgage protests in Kazakhstan are becoming a familiar sight. In attention-grabbing demonstrations over the past couple of days, crowds have swarmed around banks in the commercial capital, Almaty, loudly banging pots and pans and blowing whistles.
“Down with banks!” chanted the two dozen people who took to the streets of Almaty on February 2.
This is increasingly the face of public unhappiness as the worsening economy chips away at now-fading aspirations for Kazakhstan to develop a sizeable, prosperous property-owning middle class. The central bank freely acknowledges the problem. Dreams fueled by easy access to loans have gone sour under the trifecta of a collapsing currency, spiking inflation and a decline in real incomes.
Many mortgage holders are unhappy at what they feel is the government's lack of help and the banks’ indifference to their plight.
Demonstrators in Almaty donned paper hats bearing the sign “$0$,” a tongue-in-cheek plea for assistance to extricate themselves from their suffocating debt.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.