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: 276 - (01/01/04)
The Tajiks are pleased as punch by recent developments. The events of 9:11 and its aftermath have brought them in from the cold. The US now has a presence in the republic, using Dushanbe airport and extending aid. . Tajikistan is increasingly under the wing of the US, which uses Dushanbe airfield to replenish bases in Afghanistan. France is also present militarily and economically, while India is increasingly involved in a big way. All of which lessens dependence on Big Brother Russia.
India reinforces its base
India has quietly had a base in Tajikistan since before 9:11. Now it is refurbishing another.
To safeguard oil interests India recently opened a military base in Aybi, about 10km northeast of the Tajikistan capital of Dushanbe. Officials in India's Defence Ministry confirmed to the Indian Express newspaper that India was overhauling the dilapidated Tajik airbase at the cost of about 500m rupees (US$11m).
India will station its troops there to secure its energy security interests in central Asia, the report said. India's Oil and Natural Gas Commission Videsh Ltd (OVL) has an alliance with the Kazakstan government for oil exploration in the Alibekmola and Kurmangazi fields, near the border between Kazakstan and Russia. OVL has a 15% stake in the former and 10% stake in the latter.
A contingent of the defence ministry's military engineering services is currently building a runway at Ayni that can handle fighter and transport aircraft. They are also constructing hangars and accommodation on the base for troops.
Tajikistan is doing well economically, albeit from the position of being the poorest republic in the FSU. This is by no means just due to foreign aid, but to a series of reforms, which have received handsome endorsement by the IMF.
Tajikistan's 7 per cent economic growth rate, fiscal discipline and anti-poverty measures received high marks on November 13th, from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). But IMF Managing Director, Horst Koehler, who met with Tajikistan's President, Emomali Rakhmonov, urged government officials to "intensify their efforts" to wrestle down inflation, now at 12 to 15 per cent. That figure, however, was considerable lower than three years ago.
Koehler said recent restructuring of the National Bank of Tajikistan should help address inflation and "strengthen the implementation of monetary policy." The central Asian country has experienced an "impressive" average 7 per cent growth rate in its gross domestic product (GDP) since 1996, Koehler said.
The government has been disciplined in spending, has strengthened tax collection and was making new commitments to increasing spending on health and education, Koehler said. "The good growth performance is making an important contribution to poverty reduction," Koehler said. Koehler urged Tajikistan to improve transparency, further reduce corruption and seek stronger regional economic ties to boost its business environment. "Like its neighbours, Tajikistan would benefit from stronger regional economic ties that could do much to promote growth, job creation and a rise in living standards," Koehler said. About US$22m of a three-year, US$90m poverty-reduction programme has been disbursed to Tajikistan by the IMF, Keohler said.
Campaign against terrorism and opium forwarded
The events since 9:11 have not brought just a bed of roses of course. The Tajiks are in the front line against terrorism in Central Asia, right next to Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) operates in the Ferghana Valley in the north, while Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (HTI) is showing signs of increasing militancy in the whole region, distributing pamphlets with an anti-government message in every republic.
The Islamicists almost came to power in the early1990s. But their chances of a repeat performance are lower today. The West is involved and concerned to contain the Islamicists in former Soviet republics at all costs
The main conduit for opium from Afghanistan lies through thinly populated mountainous Tajikistan, whence it comes westwards. The opium crop this year in Afghanistan was about 3,600 tonnes in an unprecedented 28 out of 32 Afghan provinces. The crop earned the farmers in Afghanistan and the traffickers, often Tajiks, some $3bn in 2003 so far.
The two issues of countering terrorism and the drug trade increasingly intermingle. Says a senior American official in Kabul to the Guardian: "We're seeing that this issue affects our counter-terrorism interests; it's become more and more clear that the principal source of funding for al-Qaida and the Taliban is Afghan drugs." But it's also true that the US allies, the Afghan warlords of the North Alliance, the victors in the war against the Taleban, are also major beneficiaries of the drugs trade.
The Tajik government is trying to restore relations with Moscow within the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States' Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). It is to finalise an agreement made in May 2003, which would grant the 201st Motorised Division based in Tajikistan the status of the 4th Russian military base. Although this would not necessarily affect the number of Russian troops deployed in Tajikistan - currently 11,000 with an additional 8,000 to 9,000 frontier guards stationed
On the borders with Afghanistan, it is significant because it would legally give Russia a semi-permanent military base within the
IMF to offer Tajikistan US$21m credit soon
In 2004 Tajikistan will receive from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) the next credit tranche in a poverty reduction programme, worth US$21m, IMF mission head to Tajikistan, Robert Christiansen, said at a recent conference. The IMF worked in the Tajik capital, Dunshanbe, from October 23rd to 31st. The Fund plans to spend US$90m for the three year programme, which was launched in December 2002.
The funds will be provided for 10 years with a grace period of 5.5 years, at 0.5% each year, New Europe reported.
The IMF has already paid out US$21m as part of this programme during last year. Under this programme, the Tajik government has developed a strategy for curbing poverty aimed at increasing macroeconomic stability, and reforming the banking, energy and agricultural sectors.
During its visit the IMF mission studied the implementation of the project in 2003.
According to Christiansen, last year the government managed to reach the growth targets set down in the strategy, but did not implement a number of steps to reform the banking and energy sectors. "IMF experts also talked with the government about the problem of debt at state farms, currently worth US$250m," he said.
EBRD and IFC offer grants to small Tajik enterprises
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Finance Corp (IFC) recently opened a US$14m line of credit Tajikistan, Interfax News Agency quoted Fernand Pillonel, head of the EBRD office in Tajikistan, as saying in a statement.
"Each institution will provide US$7m for the Tajikistan Micro and Small Enterprise Finance Facility programme," Pillonel said. The line of credit will be open for 10 years without guarantee from the Tajik government. Both creditors will also offer technical aid grants of US$2m. Switzerland has distributed US$2m for the project's risk fund. The ERBD and the IFC loan will go to four banks that will allocate credits to small and medium-size enterprises of US$10,000 to US$100,000 for three years.
Tajik road builders complete alternate north-south route
The Tajik Transport Ministry has completed a route that permits communication by road between southern and northern Tajikistan in winter when the usual route over the Anzob Pass is closed by snow, Asia Plus-Blitz reported on 8th December.
Instead of using roads in Uzbekistan as was previously necessary, the new route crosses part of Kyrgyzstan's Osh Oblast.
The new route will allow Tajik truckers and passenger-bus firms to avoid the type of problems with Uzbek border guards and customs officials that were recently reported by trucking firms in the west Tajik town of Pendzhikent.
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