09 February 2006

Five Som

Five som is worth about 12.5 cents. In Kyrgyzstan, five som buys a loaf of flatbread, about 9 inches around. It takes you one way on a minibus anywhere in Bishkek. It buys one head of garlic, or a small Kit Kat, a package of Ramen noodles, or a pound of potatoes or onions.

20 som buys a bag of milk, one banana, a pack of four rolls of toilet paper, or a kilo of cracked wheat.

25 som is a minibus ride to Tokmok, about 80 km away.

30 or 40 som is for a kilo of apples, a bottle of dish soap, 5 liters of water, or a half liter of kefir.

40 som is for a kilo of batken rice, a jar of tomatoes, a kilo of white rice, or a liter of apple juice.

50 som is for a short taxi ride around town.

80 is for a kilo of tomatoes in the winter, a jar of jam, a bottle of shampoo, a package of the least expensive diapers, a longer taxi ride in Bishkek, or a bottle of honey.

About 200 som buys a kilo of reasonably priced cheese, 500 sheets of paper, or a package of pancake mix.

300-400 som is a taxi ride out to the airport.

500-600 som is for a night in a homestay and all your meals.

2000 som is the average salary in Bishkek.

500 is the beginning salary for a public school teacher in the regions.

A horse (for eating) costs 20,000 som. So does a computer.

A flight to the US costs 60,000 som. Whether your employer pays for it or not.

A new apartment in central Bishkek costs 1 million som.

The mayor of Bishkek paid a 10 billion som bribe to become the mayor.


  1. woah. It makes one wonder what the return on his *investment* will be, and from whom, and for what.

  2. That said, I guess we have similar things happening here in the U.S. with corporate, private, and other donations to campaigns. A "normal" Joe doesn't stand a chance without some "backing".

  3. So in essence you're saying that $20,000 can buy the mayoral race. I wonder how much money buys the presidency. It would seem that there are a lot of other governments willing to pay these sums to aid in controlling smaller developing nations.

    This would be an excellent study to explore. Because 20 grand is chump change around these parts.

    It is also very telling that the disparity in wages affects teachers there as well as here.

  4. Oops, I made a bit of a typo. It was a 10 billion som bribe.

    $250,000. At least according to rumor.

  5. Corruption is very bad in central asia and all former CCCP nations. Government officials can make huge returns while in office. A new Forbes richest men is a Duma representative, who has made billions through business dealings in Russia. Nobody knows anything about him, however - and it is illegal for Duma members to engage in business. His attorney stated that he was just very lucky with his stock market investments!

    Akaev's whole family owned half of everything in Krygyzstan, so it should be of no surprise that other politicians might seek office to follow that example.

    It is naive to compare this situation to campaign donations in the US. If only that were so, for the peoples of these nations who are being robbed by their political leaders. The US system is far from perfect, but it is heaven compared to the bandits these people have to choose from in elected offices.