ALMATY, OCT. 2 (The Bulletin) — The collapse in the value of the Kazakh tenge over the past 18 months has not only hurt businesses and consumers in Kazakhstan. Charities that collect cash in tenge but accrue costs in US dollars and other foreign currencies are also having to cut services — often life-saving ones.
In an interview with The Conway Bulletin, Ilyas Kubriyanov, head of the UnityKZ charity, said that the cost of sending ill children abroad for treatment had spiraled (Oct. 1).
“We are having problems, of course, as foreign hospitals invoice in dollars but we collect 90% of our donations in tenge,” he said. “Consequently, the cost of treatments is increasing.”
UnityKZ helps pay for children who have cancer or other serious illnesses to travel abroad for treatment. Mr Kubriyanov, who set up the charity in 2009, said that there are currently 10 children waiting for treatment.
“Because of the currency situation, the money we collect loses its impact,” he said. “Everything has become much more expensive.”
The Kazakh Central Bank released the tenge from its US dollar peg in August, triggering a sharp devaluation. It is trading at around 272/$1 compared to 188/$1 on Aug. 19.
It also devalued its currency in February 2014. The tenge is now worth nearly half its Feb. 2014 value.
A sharp drop in oil prices and a recession in Russia has battered economies in Central Asia and the South Caucasus. Statistics show unemployment and inflation rising but the impact is felt across Kazakh society.
“Recently, we asked parents of sick children to think about another type of treatment to have or another country to aim for,” Mr Kubriyanov said. “One child was transferred to China recently, but they also have some difficulties with their currency there.”
>>This story was first published in issue 250 of the weekly Conway Bulletin newspaper.