Parked outside Kyrgyzstan’s parliament, the fleet of Lexus SUVs is an impressive sight for such a poor country.
Now, a new online number-crunching project has estimated that each of these luxury cars driven by MPs would cost its owner six to seven years’ pay, barring any other living expenses, like food, rent or utilities. For an average Bishkek resident living under the same ascetic conditions, one of the higher-end models, sold locally for as much as $87,000, would cost 33 years’ earnings. Other makes of car in the lot would require an average Bishkekchanin to work between 12 and 20 years, depending on the model’s year and accessories.
Many Kyrgyzstanis have theories about why their lawmakers are so much wealthier than the rest of their countrymen—and it’s no wonder, considering the country was ranked 164 out of 183 in Transparency International’s latest Corruption Perceptions Index. But the local news organization behind the project, Kloop.kg, has set aside the “whys” and “hows” and is simply compiling some numbers, pairing publicly available information about parliament deputies’ state-issued license plates with estimates of their cars’ cost on the local market. The website is crowdsourcing photos of the deputies’ cars, identified by their special plates; as of January 24, its list had grown to 21 deputies (of a total 120).
Kloop’s calculations could have been more stringent—for example, identical models sometimes differ significantly in cost estimates -- but they give observers of politics in Kyrgyzstan some numbers to play with. Keep in mind, lawmakers reportedly have a state salary of about $1000 per month -- well above the national average.
Ata-Jurt deputy Azamat Arapbayev drives a Lexus LX570, estimated to be a 2008 model, license plate number 0028KG.
This type of car is on offer in the "Auto" section of the [online] Diesel forum for $87,000. To earn that, one must work, eating nothing and living on the street:
- 4.5-6.5 years on a parliament deputy's official salary;
- 22-33.5 years for an average Bishkek resident.
Another Ata-Jurt deputy, Ulan Cholponbaev, drives a Lexus LX570, estimated to be a 2008 model, license plate number 0030KG.
Cholponbaev, 34, is an industrious sort: At 21, after studying diplomacy and international law, he became a senior customs inspector at Kyrgyzstan’s largest airport, Manas, according to his official biography. From 2001-2010, he served -- first as director, then as commercial director -- of a chemicals and pharmaceuticals business.
Not every deputy is so flamboyant. Social Democrat Sabir Atadjanov drives a Kia Sorento made circa 2000. Unavailable locally, the vehicle costs approximately $16,000 in Russia, which would take him less than 1.5 years’ salary to purchase, and only about a decade for the average Bishkek resident.