The Kingdom of Kaz
The Kingdom of Kaz rolls on! Car, buildings – Kazakhstan is somewhat of a magical place if you believe in free market capitalism. We see an evolving society that out to 2011 or 2015 will be a booming place. But what of looming shadows?
What will be interesting to watch is the effect of the U.S. elections on our region [I’ve been here long enough that I call it “our region”]? How will the Iranian and Iraqi situations evolve? Are these thugocracies going to threaten the growth of Kazakhstan and the region? Time will tell…..
Our President Nursultan Neserbyev has skillfully guided Kazakhstan to a point of prominence with China, the U.S. the EU and even Russia. He is a real tightrope walker and has managed to make everyone happy. The Chinese have their new pipeline, the EU grovels for more natural gas and will probably get it, the US oil companies are getting there share and Putin up in Russia keeps an eye on the whole thing, perhaps a little jealous. Kazakhstan is just doing a fantastic job of managing its economy and its new-found wealth while the Russian government continues to be wary of private market driven capitalism – they prefer the state control variety and the slow pace of Russian economic progress is retarded because of it.
This week brought a solid 1-2-3 for Kazakhstan in the financial journals: First the report that year-over-year growth in the property market will be a modest 25% – anyone want to buy a condo here and go skiing in our beautiful mountains every winter? Second the nations leading bank KosKommertsBank – KKB was over-subscribed with their IPO on the London exchange. KKB is one of my customers. Their CEO is an affable Georgetown- Harvard groomed Kazak named Magzhan Auezon. He comes from a very famous family of the arts in Kazakhstan. He is thoughtful and genuinely a likeable guy. He understands how great his country can be and drives his company in investing in the future, leveraging the huge oil revenues that are benefiting everywhere in this country. Third, the news of continuing “reverse investment into Russia”. Two Kazak banks are moving into Russian commercial banking sector very aggressively. One bank that specializes in funding major construction and industrial projects in the $25-$150 million range and the second institution moving to fill the big gap of the under funded middle and lower-middle class. This is so called seed funding for entrepreneurial endeavors.
The Vodka Girl with really big boobs. Marketing is so predictable. It’s sex that sells everything. I don’t like Vodka but marvel at the Vodka girl at the up-scale gastronome in the City Center. The alcohol department at this market (which nostalgically portrays the old Soviet gastronomes of yester-year) is one of the biggest I’ve ever seen. The wine and spirits section takes up a wall stretching one city block in length. They NEVER had a food and beverage selection like this during Brezhnev’s or Gorby’s times in power, but I digress. Vodka girl is but one of the cuties the store hires to entice you to buy from their department. They have pieva (beer) girls, vino girls, after-dinner drink girls, cigar girls…………all are there to look at and know absolutely nothing about what they are selling; they are the magnet. None is more awe-inspiring, and none will make your jaw drop quite like the Vodka girl. She appears to be about 18 or 19, otherwise nicely proportioned but packing a mountainous E-cup to restrain her voluminous breasts. Her department always has the most traffic. Attn. Ron: She is looking for an American to rescue her from the Gastronome.
Borat. The movie uses Kazakhstan as the butt of its jokes and as I’m able to determine has a lot of bathroom and ethnic humor (the movie has been banned here). Sasha Cohen (the star, writer, creator of Borat) has managed to piss everyone off in Kazakhstan. I think the reaction is a little overblown; I’m imagining this to be like an ethnic Wayne’s World, the official line in Kazakhstan is that Cohen should be held for crimes against humanity. The Romanians are upset too with Borat’s references to Gypsies. Anyway, go see the movie and report back. I would like to ask Cohen some day why he picked on Kazakhstan when there was much better story lines (real ones) in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan that would have given him much richer material for a film of this kind. Turkmanbashi – is a leader not unlike Joe Stalin or Kim Ill Brain from North Korea. Mr. “T” as we call him inspires filial obedience from his robotic throngs.
Sophie is on the road again beginning 11/20 for a five week gig managing a program in Mezhdurechensk, Russia. If you find Siberia then find Novosibirsk and then look southeast to Novokuznyts and then even farther east to Mezhdurechensk you have arrived. It’s about 25 below out there in this mining/smelting paradise but members of her team who have already arrived, indicate a great ski resort near by and plenty of nature (you can Google Earth this remote part of Siberia if you choose). This will be Sophie’s first team leader role since coming here in May.