Nazarbayev Instructs Investors In Kazakhstan to Raise Wages

ASTANA, Kazakhstan -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev met prominent foreign and domestic investors Tuesday evening and requested them to raise workers' salaries at their enterprises.

In a thinly veiled command, Nazarbayev said wages should be raised by 15 percent in August and by another 15 percent by the end of the year. He also promised to step up surveillance of companies' tax records.

"All these years, I have unquestioningly supported you," Nazarbayev said at the gathering of businessmen.

"You strengthened your position, found markets ... so now I must ask you to raise your workers' salaries by 15 to 30 percent by year-end."

The request is part of the government's efforts to find solutions to the economic crisis that hit the vast Central Asian state last year. It has suffered from low world oil prices as well as the knock on effects of the Russian crisis.

But most export-based companies have benefited from the devaluation of the tenge in April.

Kazakhstan has attracted a host of investors to its natural resource-based enterprises, chalking up investments of $1.2 billion in 1998.

Investors in Kazakhstan include Samsung Corp., Chevron, Mitsubishi, British Gas, Ispat and Agip.

"Firstly, this will raise the buying power and morale of your workers. Second, it is a great help to the budget," the former Communist Party boss told the businessmen. "Let me tell you frankly, the situation with the budget is very tough."

Several company heads said Nazarbayev's wishes would be carried out.

Nazarbayev also said he would institute an award for the best taxpayers in the country, but added that the government would adopt a carrot and stick policy.

"Don't force us into taking more stern measures," Nazarbayev warned the businessmen.