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Minimum living wage to stave Kazakhstanis to death

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Svetlana DzhalmagambetovaSvetlana Dzhalmagambetova, MPMP Svetlana Dzhalmagambetova believes that the minimum food basket currently in effect in Kazakhstan will starve Kazakhstanis to death, Tengrinews reports. 

In response to Tamara Duisenova of the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of Population of Kazakhstan, Dzhalmagambetova said that in one month, a person can afford a loaf of bread every day, some oats and sunflower oil for the 11 000 tenge ($71) that remain of the minimum living wage after utilities payments. “How is it possible? It means, they will not eat meat, vegetables or fruits,” exclaimed the lawmaker. 

“Why pretend and tell us that we meet the world living standards. We do not meet the standards, not in the least. 18 thousand tenge ($121) (the minimum living wage) will starve a person to death,” Dzhalmagambetova said.

Kairat Amadykov, Vice-Chairman of the Trade Union Federation, supported her opinion by saying: "I have no idea how international experts could possibly made a statement that this complies with the international standards. They must have being evaluating Kazakhstan as it was an underdeveloped country like 10 years ago. It that category, I guess we could be considered compliant to the international standards. But we are a developed country that has joint the Top 50 most developed countries of the world and is aiming for the Top 30," he said.

According to Kairat Amadykov, 60% (or $72) out of these $121 is spent on groceries while the remaining 40% (or $48) is spent on non-grocery goods and services. Besides, the alarming disproportion, the structure of the expenses has developed an even more alarming trend: in 2007 41.6% was spent on groceries, while in 2012 the percentage reached 47 percent, which shows that groceries prices have been growing faster that the minimum living wages over the years. 

Amandykov considers grocery expenditures to be indicative of the living standards of the population. “(…) The less a family spends on food out of the total expenditures, the higher is the living standard in a country. For instance, an average American family spends 6-7% of their budget on food, citizens of Luxemburg, UK, Australia, Ireland and Germany spend 8-10%, while developing countries spend up to 50-60% of the family budget,” said Amandykov. 

The Vice-Chairman of the Trade Union Federation drew attention to the combined method used to calculate the minimum living wage. The method applies pricing rules to groceries, but uses fixed prices of non-groceries and services. “This approach decreases the monetary value of the consumer goods basket,” said Amandykov. 

The Federation has made their own calculations and came up with a minimum living wage that exceeds the existing one by half. If calculated based on standards applied in Belarus, Azerbaijan and Ukraine the consumer basket exceeds the Kazakhstani living wage by 2.4 times (amounts to $250).

In response to the concerns, Minister Duisenova said that the consumer goods basket would be revised every 5 years. She said that the Academy of Nutrition and the Ministry of Health defined the grocery expenditures. And added that the method used to calculate the minimum living wage in Kazakhstan is approved of by the international experts. 

Lawmaker Dzhalmagambetova expressed her concern over the calculations of the living wage. “It seems that for you, the calculation of the minimum living wage is made for the sake of calculations only. As if you need statistics to diminish the poverty level and present our country as a more developed one. I think we should not lean on this method, but judge from the real capacity of the living wage. Is it possible to even survive on 18000 tenge ($117) in our country? ” said Svetlana Dzhalmagambetova. 

December 17 2013, 20:54

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