Diamond credit card shines in crisis-hit Kazakhstan

Dmitry Nikolin, the Executive Director of Eurasian Bank, shows a new VISA card encrusted with a 0.02 carat diamond and laced with an elaborate gold pattern in Almaty, Kazakhstan, December 23, 2008. REUTERS/Shamil Zhumatov

ALMATY (Reuters Life!) - Sick of the global credit crisis? Get yourself a diamond credit card as consolation.

A bank in Kazakhstan, an oil-rich Caspian nation, has unveiled a new VISA card encrusted with a shiny 0.02 carat diamond and laced with an elaborate gold pattern.

“It’s (designed) for a private club of VIP clients,” said Dmitry Nikolin, executive director of Kazakhstan’s mid-size Eurasian Bank which released the card on Tuesday.

The card will be issued for clients with an annual income of at least $300,000, targeting a thin layer of affluent consumers in a vast nation where the average monthly wage is about $500.

Nikolin told Reuters it was the first VISA card of this kind in the world and will be offered to clients beyond Kazakhstan.

Like other resource-rich former Soviet states, Kazakhstan developed fast on the back of booming commodity prices but a sharp downturn in oil prices this year and the end of credit expansion has snapped its double-digit economic growth.

Kazakhstan is now facing the challenge of growing social tensions as the crisis eats away at people’s savings and widens the rich-poor divide in a nation where up to one quarter of the 16 million population lives in poverty, according to U.N. figures. (Reporting by Masha Gordeyeva; Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Katie Nguyen)