Revitalizing the budget can be challenging when industrial outputs are low. In addition, remittances from migrants have decreased. So, should we increase taxes?
This conundrum prompted me to consider alternatives. How can we boost the national budget without raising taxes?
One solution might be to follow the path of more developed countries and open a casino exclusively for foreign visitors. Deputies of the 5th convocation previously proposed creating a casino in the Issyk-Kul region, but the idea was dismissed by their peers.
I have decided not to revisit this old proposal. Instead, I suggest that we consider opening a casino for foreigners at the site of the Transit Centre (US Air Base).
Firstly, public opposition is unlikely, as citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic grappling with gambling addiction would be barred from this casino;
Secondly, the location is ideal for creating a Kyrgyz version of Las Vegas in the airport vicinity. It could even operate with visa-free access for visitors from any country.
Global precedents show that casinos can be highly profitable. For instance, Malaysia hosts a casino exclusive to foreigners. In Genting, a location accessible by cable car or vehicle, multiple casinos operate. Your passport is checked upon entry, and if you’re a Malaysian citizen and Muslim, you’re prohibited from gambling. Genting also boasts a variety of entertainment for both adults and children. Following this model, Kyrgyzstan could create a similar gambling haven. This idea should be palatable, even to the more religious segment of the population.
To prevent potential embezzlement, a reputable foreign company should be entrusted with managing the gaming zone.
What are the potential benefits for the state?
1) Budget augmentation through gambling taxes;
2) Boosting the country’s tourist appeal;
3) Job creation for local residents;
4) Increased income opportunities for food vendors, entertainers, and taxi drivers.
What is the current situation?
The area in question lies in ruins. The infrastructure established by the Americans has been looted, and the property has been severely mishandled. Currently, the territory is not in use.
If managed properly, promoted effectively, and provided with assurances against abrupt closure by future deputies, we could generate over a billion soms in taxes and other revenues. I previously mentioned the additional multiplier effect.
I worry, however, that this initiative might not gain traction. Colleagues might oppose it on religious grounds. Moreover, with elections looming, there may be a temptation to earn political points by publicly denouncing such a proposal.