Thursday, April 16, 2009

Legacy of Soviet "colonialism"

Last two weeks of March and first two weeks of April, extensively travelled throughout Kyrgyzstan, from Batken’s Kizilkia and the city of Osh to Jalalabad’s Aksy and Nooken rayons and Bishkek mikrorayons. The primary objective was the administration of assessment program in primary education, however, the secondary objective was to see more of such diverse Kyrgyzstan. Impressions boiled down to the following:

Corruption seems to be the primary ill this country has to access. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a clean-hands public administration would immediately cure Kyrgyz society of myriad of contemporary ills. To cite several examples, in this country producing twice as much electricity as it needs (14.5 against 7 million mW), electricity cuts are still endemic in faraway places, while officially close to 40% (!!!) of electricity is lost. A local TV station aired a story today of cases of corruption in using foreign-provided grants for school repair.

USSR with all its ills and savageries and “colonial” domination of Kyrgyzstan executed a feat that hardly other great Kyrgyz patron will be able to repeat – brought railway, paved road, highly educated professionals and resources to the most faraway regions of this country. Such faraway places like KizilKia, practically a nowhere of great Soviet heartland used to enjoy such state of the art infrastructure as underground telephone cables, German-Jewish teacher passionaries sent directly from Moscow and a mining school that is still respected in Central Asia.

On Bishkek-Osh road, driving by numerous gigantic hydro-power dams and through several tunnels, all accomplishments of Soviet-time engineering thought and construction might, I could not but sadly realize that such intellectual potential that nowadays only economically mighty states can afford has left Kyrgyzstan for long, if not forever. For if you think about it, public engineering system is but a luxury not every state can afford.

Nowadays it is clear that with the above mentioned corruption state-of-the-art engineering project would have to be outsourced to Russian companies and cottage-house tiny school like the one I visited in Dostuk village of Nooken rayon would never enjoy a metropolis-trained intellectual and an adequate library in all three languages people around speak.

The saddest thing for this country is that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. The current political system would most likely continue to engage in myopic rent-seeking and exhaustive strip-off of national resources, as well as stealing from budget and inhibiting normal development of medium and small enterprises, while the country would be deeper engulfied into the slough of social problems.

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