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Tajikistan has experienced three changes in government and a five-year civil war since it gained independence in 1991 from the USSR. A peace agreement among rival factions was signed in 1997, and implementation reportedly completed by late 1999. Part of the agreement required the legalization of opposition political parties prior to the 1999 elections, which occurred, but such parties have made little progress in successful participation in government. Random criminal and political violence in the country remains a complication impairing Tajikistan's ability to engage internationally.
Update No: 269 - (29/05/03)
The Tajiks are the poorest of the FSU states, which is saying something. But for all that there are recent signs of hope.
The growth of industrial production is the strongest in the former Soviet world at the moment, some 14.1% in 2002 and being sustained this year. Of course this is from a very low base. But is highly welcome all the same.
There are problems of radioactivity developing in metallurgical sites across the country, but mostly in the north in Leninabad. The risk of being vulnerable to terrorism is high on the government concern, that is of forces from Afghanistan next door stealing radioactive materials for terrorist use.
The US and others to the rescue
At the same time, the threat of terrorism is just what suits the government in its desire to improve relations with the West, above all the US. Washington is now well aware of the need to keep Dushanbe in its sights, even if attention has recently been on Iraq, more than Afghanistan.
In efforts to fight the ever-growing poverty, donors and aid agencies have promised to increase aid to Tajikistan. "Tajikistan is still trying to get back on track, and there needs to be a more concerted effort in order for things to change," the country manager for the World Bank in Tajikistan, Cevdet Denzier, stated about the poorest of Central Asian countries. The pledges will total over US$900m over the period of the next three years.
The government of Tajikistan presented a programme that is poverty-focused to the Consultative Group for Tajikistan during a meeting chaired by the World Bank in Dushanbe between May 2nd and May 3rd. Most of the total pledged was given in grants, which amounted to about two-thirds.
"We are aware of the urgency of deepening social and economic reforms, and ensuring sustainable growth," Tajik President, Emomali Rahmonov, stated after the meeting. "We have turned the page on humanitarian assistance and are now embarked on a full-blown programme of development."
A lending programme of US$80m will be paid under the World Bank's Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) for Tajikistan 2003-2005. "The goal of the CAS is to support implementation of the government's Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP) in order to raise living standards in the country," Denizer stated.
In 2001, pledges totalling about US$390m were made, when the Consultative Group for Tajikistan last met. This amount has not been forthcoming in full and although officials at the World Bank office in Dushanbe could not verify what was essentially delivered in financial assistance, they said its was "significantly less" than the amount pledged.
"This time round donors and the Tajik government know they need to be more serious about getting the money in and really working on fighting poverty," Denizer explained.
The previous World Bank CAS for Tajikistan (1999-2001) resulted in 20 pilot schools being rehabilitated, 18 new textbook titles, 10 collective farms being restructured, 41 bridges and 40 health-care facilities being built.
Tajikistan shows highest growth among CIS countries
Tajikistan posted the highest industrial growth among CIS countries in the first quarter for the year against the same period of 2002, reaching 14.1%, the CIS Inter-State Statistical Committee stated, Interfax News Agency reported. In Moldova, production grew 12.8%, Ukraine 10.7%, Armenia 10.6%, Kazakstan 10.4%, Kyrgyzstan 7.5%, Belarus 6.7%, Russia 6%, Azerbaijan 5.9% and Georgia 2.8%. The statistics committee has no information about the situation in Turkmenistan or Uzbekistan. Industrial production in the CIS on the average increased 7% in January-March year-on-year, and GDP also grew 7%.
In Tajikistan, GDP jumped 12.1%, Armenia 11.3%, Azerbaijan 7.9%, Ukraine 7%, Belarus 5.6%, Kyrgyzstan 5.2% and Georgia 4.4%. In Russia the production of commodities and services in key industries went up 6.7% in the first quarter of 2003.
FOREIGN LOANS & AID
WFP increases humanitarian aid to Tajikistan
Tajikistan is receiving a 40 per cent increase in assistance by the UN World Food Programme (WFP), under the Protected Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO), IRIN News Agency has reported. "Tajikistan is a low-income and food-deficit country needing food assistance," WFP Country Director, Ardag Meghdessian was quoted as saying. "The shift of emphasis from relief to recovery indeed indicates increased stability in the country, as well as an improvement in the overall humanitarian situation," he added.
This project is known as "Assistance to Food-Insecure Households and Recovery Operations in Tajikistan." The Programme would entail the provision of 142,000 tonnes of food to about 1.4 million recipients in the Central Asian republic of about 6.2 million people. "The project will have a larger budget this time of about US$74m compared to the US$52m before," Meghdessian said.
"The country is still facing an exceptional food emergency," said a statement from the European Commission's humanitarian aid office, ECHO. "WFP's programme would respond with relief and recovery activities," Meghdessian stated. "The relief component is to provide food assistance to the most vulnerable groups, as well as to provide assistance to disaster victims," he said. An estimated 12 per cent of Tajiks are tremendously poor and about 5 per cent of these 300,000 individuals are considered impoverished and in need of food aid. The project will take care of malnourished children, lactating and pregnant women, work with psychiatric patients in the country and also treat and prevent tuberculosis.
Transport system for Tajikistan looking weak
Tajikistan's transport system is historically one of the least developed in the former Soviet Union and many transport arteries were destroyed during the civil war there, Interfax News Agency reported. Cargo transport has dropped by a factor of 20.
The situation has begun to improve in the past five years. Cargo transport has increased by eight times from 1996, the worst year, and passenger transport has increased by 2.6 times. These indicators improved largely due to foreign investment. Tajikistan's geographic location stirs interest in the country as a potential source of rich natural resources and a link between Europe and Asia. Its economic development is closely tied to the development of transport, the complete and effective use of its transport potential and gaining the shortest access to seaports. The transport industry lags behind that of other CIS countries in many respects. Tajikistan's railroads are longer only than Kyrgyzstan's; it has the shortest trolleybus network of the former Soviet republics (only the two biggest cities, Dushanbe and Khudzhande have trolleybuses).
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