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TAJIKISTAN


 

 

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 1,303 1,208 1,100 148
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 190 180 180 197
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Update No: 321 - (26/09/07)

A backwater turned pivot
Nobody had heard of Tajikistan before al-Qaeda and the fighting in Afghanistan. It was in 'the back of beyond'. Actually it is in the centre of Central Asia with frontiers with important regional states including China and Afghanistan. 

Dushanbe flirted for a while with Washington in the aftermath of 9:11, 2001. It allowed the US to use its territory to invade Afghanistan, albeit with the crucial allegiance of the Northern Alliance, led by ethnic Tajiks. There was an assassination of no small moment that took place on 9:9, 2001, that of the Tajik Lion of the North, the Lord of the Panshirs, Shah Mahmoud, two days before that great event. He was killed by two al Qaeda hit-men posing as Algerian journalists. 

This made it certain that the Americans would intervene on the side of the Northern Alliance in an ongoing civil war and that Tajikistan would be a vital ally. It still is. 

The Chinese card
But Beijing counts too, as does Astana.
Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon and top legislators in mid-September met He Luli, vice chairwoman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (NPC) of China, for talks on ways of boosting bilateral ties and parliamentary cooperation. 
During a meeting with He, who was ending a three-day visit to the Central Asian country on September 14th, Rakhmon said Tajikistan has been a steadfast supporter of China's stand on the Taiwan question and its efforts toward reunification. 
Tajikistan is ready to make further efforts to boost cooperation with China within a bilateral framework, as well as multilateral frameworks including in the United Nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Rakhmon said. 
Makhmadsaid Ubaidulloyev, speaker of the upper house of Tajikistan's Supreme Assembly, and Sadullo Khairulloyev, speaker of its lower house, said during separate meetings with He that parliamentary cooperation is an important component of the bilateral relationship and the Tajik parliament is ready to strengthen exchanges and cooperation with the NPC at different levels and in various areas. 
He Luli was on a three-nation Central Asian tour. She had already visited Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

The Kazak neighbour 
Kazakhstan has for years wanted to be the flagship country in Central Asia. It now seems to be realizing that ambition, thanks to its massive oil revenues. Tajikistan is a key country here.

Kazakh success is good news, indeed, for all its neighbours, with the exception of arch-rival, Uzbekistan. With its vast hydrocarbon resources, Kazakhstan has achieved nearly 10 percent annual economic growth in recent years, mostly due to its oil industry. Rising oil revenues have also allowed Kazakh companies to invest in neighbouring countries. 

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev visited both Turkmenistan and Tajikistan in September, holding talks focused mostly on economic issues. The visits are seen as the latest moves in Kazakhstan's increasing economic expansion in the region.

The great leap forward
In Dushanbe, Nazarbayev promised on September 13th to provide Tajikistan with grain -- a timely offer for a country where prices for bread and flour have risen sharply in recent weeks.

Nazarbayev and his Tajik counterpart, Emomali Rahmon, agreed to set up a joint investment fund, with Kazakhstan providing 80 percent of the money. "We agreed to establish a special investment fund of $100 million," Nazarbayev said. "The Kazakh side will contribute its significant part. The fund will work for the benefit of the Tajik economy. I believe it will be a good support."

Nazarbayev also said that Kazakhstan is ready to finance the construction of the Nurobod hydroelectric power plant in northern Tajikistan.
Rahmon said Kazakh-Tajik trade has increased 57 percent in January-July 2007 compared to the same period last year, a formidable leap forward. 
But it is not only officials in Astana who aim to develop economic ties with its neighbours. Kazakh companies -- state-owned as well as private ones -- have shown the interest and financial capacity to invest in neighbouring countries' energy sectors, construction businesses, and general services. Luzynanin says the political will of the authorities has coincided with the companies' pragmatic interests at present. 

Russia, China Also Look To Move In
Kazakhstan is not the only country expanding its economic presence in Central Asia. Russia has had a strong economic position in its former "soft underbelly." Russia is Tajikistan's biggest trade partner.

In recent years, China has also greatly strengthened its economic position in the region. Many Central Asians have even expressed fears of China's "creeping expansion."

Will these developments produce a clash between the economic interests of Astana and those of Moscow and Beijing in Central Asia? 
As the gap deepens between the rich and poor in all Central Asian countries, there are growing discrepancies between Kazakhstan, on the one hand, and poor countries like Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan on the other. This makes regional stability more vulnerable. Kazakhstan should help its neighbours by investing not only in, let's say, the gas sector, but also by building hospitals, schools, and roads.

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