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: 274 - (27/10/03)
Tajikistan takes the lead on 'Year of Clear Water'
Tajikistan is taking the lead in the 'Year of Clear Water,' launched by the United Nations at its initiative, to focus on the grave problems of water shortages and degradation in Central Asia. President Rahmonov addressed the UN forum on the water crisis of Central Asia in Dushanbe, to which 50 countries sent delegates.
He first called on everyone to offer help to bring the deplorable situation of the Aral Sea basin under control. The world's largest inland sea was destroyed in Soviet times by the diversion of its two feeder rivers to cotton production in Uzbekistan. Clouds of pestilence-laden salt continue to be blown into the surrounding region, notably Kazakstan as well as Uzbekistan.
According to the Tajik leader, most of the country's water stems from a domestic, yet complex network of dams and rivers that have been severely degraded by years of neglect and a civil war following the collapse of the Soviet regime. Clean water supplies are hard to get a hold of and some five million people in Tajikistan and neighbouring states are threatened by the possible collapse of a vast natural dam at Lake Sarez formed in the early 1900s by an earthquake. In the meantime, the southern half of the Aral Sea continues to shrink despite considerable investments to restore wetlands by the World Bank and other international financial institutions.
However, some delegates remained unsure if the usually fractious Central Asian leaders are ready to walk the walk, then talk the talk. "The Central Asian nations still approach the issue purely as an engineering problem," the Kyrgyzstan office of the international Crisis Group said in a recent statement. "Each country has started to view the problem as a zero-sum game."
AFP reported concerns have surfaced that new demand for Central Asian water could come from neighbouring war-ravaged Afghanistan as it tries to develop its northern agricultural sector.
The UN's latest World Water Development report estimates that around 2.2 million people across the globe died due to water-related diseases in 2002.
The Tajik Trail
The Tajikistan government is extremely vexed by the traffic in drugs, it being the country which is the main land route for opiates and the like from Central Asia, notably Afghanistan. There is talk of a 'Tajik trail,' similar to the old Silk Road, but with a more invidious commodity.
CIS member states must support Dushanbe's initiative on the creation of an anti-drug coalition, Tajik President, Emomali Rahmonov made the point recently that "Everybody is fighting this evil on their own now, while crime has no national borders," to a meeting of the CIS Interior Ministers Council. Citing Rahmonov, presidential press secretary, Zafar Saidov, noted support for new, coordinated forms of aid in fighting drug trafficking in the CIS was on the agenda. "The council members also discussed news coverage of drug-fighting efforts," Saidov said. "The delegates were presented with strong evidence that reports about a so-called 'Tajik trail' in most drug-related crimes distort the real picture and disagree with official statistics," he added.
The economy records high growth
The GDP of Tajikistan is booming 9.7% on an annual basis; the latest figures show for the Jan-Aug period, while industrial production is rising by 9.2%. Inflation at 7.7% is the highest in Central Asia. These growth figures look very high. They need, however, to be put in context.
The Tajik economy is the poorest in the CIS. This is not in every respect a negative phenomenon as regards the prospects for growth. Tajikistan has what economists refer to as the 'advantages of backwardness.' It has nowhere to go but up; indeed should reach 'take-off' in a comparatively short time.
The problem is that the economy also suffers from what one economist described in reference to Australia as the 'tyranny of distance.' But Tajikistan is of course massively disadvantaged vis-a-vis Australia by reason of being land-locked, thousands of miles away from world markets. Its neighbours are almost as poor as itself, with one of them, Afghanistan, being in a hell of a mess.
The two staples of hydro-electricity (from its many mountains) and cotton are not exactly high-tech. But Japan has a keen interest in the former. It has an ongoing programme of subsidies to help the restructuring of the economy, with UN tenders to the fore.
Some US$100 million is being extended in aid. The US military is coming to town, wanting better facilities at Dushanbe airport. General Tommy Franks no less, the US C-in- C for the region, visited Dushanbe recently to coordinate policy with President Rahmonov, who has also visited Washington to meet Bush.
The force of Russian border troops, which used to be 20,000 strong, is dwindling, now numbering less than 6,000.It has been plagued by financial and personnel problems and no longer has the equipment for border patrols. Tajikistan is slipping out of the grip of Russia and is looking to the US as its future protector and mentor, like the rest of Central Asia (Turkmenistan excepted).
FOREIGN ECONOMIC RELATIONS
Tajikistan decides to open trade on Kyrgyz, Uzbek borders
A resolution has been made by the government of the Republic of Tajikistan on organizing border trade with the Kyrgyz Republic and the Republic of Uzbekistan, Tajik Radio first programme has reported.
With the aim of further strengthening trade, economic and friendly relations between the Republic of Tajikistan and the neighbouring countries, the government of the Republic of Tajikistan resolves:
1. To organize the border trade of provisions and other consumer goods with the Kyrgyz Republic and the Republic of Uzbekistan in the towns and districts of Isfara, Mastchoh, Nov and Konibodom of [northern] Soghd Region and Murghob District of [eastern] Mountainous Badakhshon Autonomous Region, [central] Jirgatol District and Tursunzoda town. The chairmen of the districts and towns are to assist the immediate construction and equipment of border trade markets.
2. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Tajikistan, the Security Ministry of the Republic of Tajikistan, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Tajikistan, the Ministry of Tax Collection and State Revenues of the Republic of Tajikistan and the State Border Protection Committee under the government of the Republic of Tajikistan are to define the established simplified procedures for the crossing of citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic and the Republic of Uzbekistan to the districts and towns and determine their place of stay; ensure customs supervision and security measures.
3. The Ministry of Economy and Trade of the Republic of Tajikistan and the national union of consumers, Tojikmatlubot, are to take steps to ensure the efficiency of border trade and monitor the work of border trade markets to be opened in the districts and towns, as well as submit proposals to the government of the Republic of Tajikistan for adopting decisions.
4. In line with the established procedures, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Tajikistan is to inform the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Kyrgyz Republic and the Secretariat of the Integration Committee of the Eurasian Economic Community on the adoption of the decision.
FOREIGN LOANS & AID
WFP consolidates feeding programme in schools
The World Food Programme (WFP) in Tajikistan is consolidating its feeding programme for schools by directly assisting 64,710 pupils and teachers in the mountainous Badakshon region in the east of the country. "These people were already being fed one meal a day at school, but now WFP has assumed direct responsibility for the programme in that region," Ardag Meghdessian, WFP country director for Tajikistan, told IRIN News Agency from the capital, Dushanbe.
Throughout Tajikistan, WFP currently serves more than 336,000 students, teachers and support staff a nutritious, hot meal through programmes at 1,707 schools. "That's roughly half of all schools in the country," Meghdessain pointed out. The food agency is taking over in Badakshon as it now has the capacity to do so.
WFP had been busy feeding about a million Tajiks over the past two years due to the devastating regional drought. Now that has eased, the agency is able to put more resources into longer term projects like the schools programme, funded primarily by the United States.
The UN agency believes the programme is important as it encourages school attendance and enrolment and plays a part in boosting literacy levels, particularly in rural areas. "Since independence literacy levels have slid from above 90 percent to around 60 percent, providing food in schools not only helps with nutrition but encourages learning," Meghdessian said.
Education in Tajikistan has suffered greatly from lack of resources and many skilled teaching staff have left or are not entering the profession due to poor wages and conditions. During the civil war many schools were looted and qualified teachers fled abroad, especially to Russia. Another spin-off of the schools programme is that it tends to keep teachers in rural schools where the daily meal is seen by many as an important incentive to stay.
Meanwhile, a news release issued by the US Embassy in Dushanbe said a US$5m joint programme aimed at strengthening basic education in Tajikistan would be launched. The three-year programme is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and would include technical and financial assistance to pre-school and school education.
The project in Tajikistan is one component of a regional programme implemented by USAID in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan at a total cost of US $12 million. The projects are focused on primary education and include training of teachers and involving communities in the teaching process.
MINERALS & METALS
Vyksa plant clinches Tajik pipe contract
The Nizhny Novgorod-based Vyksa metallurgical plant, a member of the United Metallurgical Co (UMC) family, recently succeeded in outbidding Russian and foreign companies to win a UN tender to supply pipes to Tajikistan, Interfax News Agency reported.
The tender was held under a programme subsidised by the Japanese government to help restructure the state's economy, UMC was quoted as saying. The plant will supply 530mm-diameter polyethlene coated pipe with wall thickness of 8mm. ISI of Austria has green-lighted the pipes produced at the Vyksa plant. UMC exports were 130% in 2003 compared to 2002. Vyksa Metallurgical Plant is the number one make of steel pipe and railroad wheels in Russia.
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