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Starting in 1995, privatization moved ahead quickly in 1996 and into the summer of 1997 in all sectors of the economy, including oil and gas, power generation, coal, and telecommunications. With USAID assistance, some 19,786 enterprises had been sold through cash auctions by the end of 1997. A parallel program of mass privatization involving coupons also made considerable progress, especially since August 1998.

In early 1998, however, citing low oil prices, President Nazarbayev announced that the Government of Kazakhstan would suspend future privatizations in the oil and gas sector, although the Government had committed itself to privatizing 39 second-tier companies through the stock market (Kazakhstan country commercial guide 2002, section A, 2001).

By early 1999, five second tier "baby blues" were privatized through the Kazakhstan Stock Exchange, mainly for the newly created private pension funds which needed additional equities to invest in the country. Soon after, the much-discussed program to privatize shares of the remaining large state enterprises, the "Blue Chip Privatization Program", stalled.

As a result, many large-scale enterprises remain under state control. In addition, the Government now appears to favor direct sales to strategic investors. By some accounts, nearly two-thirds of the industrial employment in Kazakhstan now is in firms that are majority-owned by the private sector (USAID, Country Strategy 2001).

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