Opposition Wants Kazakh Premier Out

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Kazakhstan's opposition party urged the prime minister Monday to resign and accused the government of failing to get a grip on a deepening financial crisis.

Adding political undertones to a crisis that has crippled Kazakhstan's economic growth, the opposition accused Prime Minister Karim Masimov of keeping the public in the dark over how the government plans to spend its $21 billion aid package.

"The proposed measures do not contain any real answers to the economic crisis and will not guard millions of Kazakhs against the persistent deterioration of their standard of living," the opposition Azat party said.

"[Masimov] is unable to come up with adequate measures to counter the crisis," said Azat. "We demand the resignation of Premier Masimov."

It said the state package to boost bank liquidity and fund industrial projects, came too late and lacked transparency, adding that the real state of the banking sector was "a mystery."

Thanks to windfall oil revenues, Kazakhstan has boasted growth of about 10 percent a year between 2000 and 2007. The government now sees next year's growth at 1 percent to 3 percent.

The trend is a worry to President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who, while being criticized in the West for tolerating no dissent, has been popular at home because people's incomes are rising.