Friday, January 13, 2006

The President comes to visit

This morning I came out of my apartment to find a string of police lining the lot across from my building. I didn’t see anything particularly of interest there. It seemed as though some construction could be underway.

“What’s going on?” I asked one of the officers.

“The President is coming,” he said.

“Why?” I couldn’t imagine what could be interesting there.

“They are building a big house here.”

I later told our driver, Viktor, about the hoopla. “It’s probably the new apartment building they are going to construct for government deputies,” he said.

“What? They are using tax money to build a large apartment building for deputies?” Most of whom spend at least tens of thousands of dollars to get into office. They are about the last people who need to receive free housing.

Sergei explained to me that now, deputies come to Bishkek and complain they have nowhere to live.

“So they government pays for them to buy an apartment. But then when t their term is up, the government doesn’t take it back, but it remains in the name of the deputy. There have even been cases of deputies who already owned an apartment in Bishkek. They put it in a relative’s name, then ask the government to buy it for them. They are basically get the government to pay them for their own apartments. It’s gotten that bad.”

So while the new system seems a bit ridiculous, given the number of poor people who need housing, now all the deputies who need housing will live together in one building. And when their term is up, they’ll move out and the new deputy will move in.

The large expenditure in constructing the building will stop the more expensive practice of buying every new deputy his own apartment in Bishkek.

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