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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kazakh Reforms, The Pain Goes On

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- The embattled prime minister of Kazakhstan has said in a rare interview that his former Soviet republic has yet to pull itself through the most painful stage of market reform.

"I think we will pass through the most painful step in 1997 and the first half of 1998," Kazakh Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin told the weekly newspaper, Karavan, last weekend.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, alarmed at the dent that a non-payments crisis has made on his flagging popularity, threatened in March to sack Kazhegeldin unless he found a way to pay off debts.

Kazhegeldin, 45, a former businessman, said he had been prepared to resign if Nazarbayev disagreed with his reform program. But the president had second thoughts last month, giving Kazhegeldin until the end of the year to pay off state debts to pensioners.

"I understand perfectly that popularity won't come to us," Kazhegeldin said. "I am not ashamed of what I have done in the last three years."