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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)

Books on Tajikistan



Update No: 325 - (24/05/11)

As food and fuel prices rise to crippling levels due to levies applied by Russia and Uzbekistan, people in Tajikistan are more likely to turn to Islamic extremism.

Tajikistan has been hit by a tough rail transit rate hike imposed by Uzbekistan, and a potentially devastating increase in energy export tariffs levied by Russia. The Russian tariff increase, which came into effect in early April, caused the price of petrol to rise six per cent and inflation to hit 30 per cent. Tajikistan had enjoyed tariff-free energy exports from Russia for 15 years until Moscow implemented tariffs in the middle of last year. Tajikistan imports 90 per cent of its oil-based fuels from Russia and the April tariff increase is hammering the country's struggling agricultural sector – driving up costs for farmers during spring planting season, which will result in an increase in the price of food at harvest time.

The effects are already being felt in the price of meat and on May 10, the mayor of the capital, Dushanbe, Mahmadsaid Ubaidulloev complained that beef prices had risen from 23 somonis ($5.10) to 27 somonis ($5.99) per kilogram. To calm potential civil unrest the local authorities have put a cap on the price that butchers can charge for their beef and are arresting those who don't comply. Dushanbe police department spokesman Nusratullo Sayedov confirmed that some butchers have already been arrested, and "citizens who do not obey will be punished and their shops will be closed".

To make matters worse, on March 20, Uzbekistan increased rail tariffs by 74 per cent for goods travelling to Tajikistan in an effort to disrupt construction of the giant Rogun hydropower plant in Tajikistan. Uzbek officials have long complained that the Rogun Dam will divert water away from Uzbekistan's fields, harming its crucial cotton growing sector.

Together, these price rises look set to plunge Tajikistan into a financial crisis that will hit ordinary people the hardest. Around half of the population already live below the official poverty line and the World Bank has issued a report, warning that “food and fuel price increases could increase the extreme poverty rate by 8.4 percentage points, as an additional 586,000 people fall below the extreme poverty line (those who live on less than $2.50 per day).”

Uzbekistan's hostile treatment of Tajikistan isn't a surprise as the two countries are always at odds over water and transit fees, but Russia’s harsh about-turn has stunned the Tajik government. Tajikistan currently hosts thousands of Russian troops without taking any rent or benefits in return, and local media reports have speculated that Moscow is now seeking to expand its military presence in the country, either by taking over the newly refurbished Ayni air base 10 km outside Dushanbe, or returning Russian border guards to Tajikistan’s frontier with Afghanistan. As such, the fuel tariff rise is being taken by the Tajik authorities as an enormous “up yours!.”

Since Tajikistan's 1992-1997 civil war, a large proportion of the former Soviet state's male population has worked in Russia as economic migrants, sending what they earn back home and keeping the economy afloat. But frequent racist attacks against Tajiks in Russia have slowed the flow of migrants. Russia's obvious rebuff of Tajikistan over fuel prices will doubtless sour relations between the two countries further and could push Tajiks to seek work and cultural allegiances elsewhere.

Tajikistan is a major transit hub for drugs flowing out of Afghanistan and weapons flowing in, and in recent years, young disaffected men have also been crossing the border from Tajikistan into Afghanistan to join the Taliban, and the internet has strengthened relations between poverty-stricken Tajiks and Islamic extremists in other parts of Central Asia, Pakistan, Iran and other parts of the Middle East.

Impressionable youngsters under the age of 14, most of whom are poorly educated, make up almost half of Tajikistan's population. The Tajik language is close to Persian, spoken in Iran, and to Dari, spoken in Afghanistan, so it's easy for teenagers to be educated in madrassas abroad. As the country's youth fall deeper into poverty and realise that Russia, is no longer an ally, more may be tempted to join extreme Islamic movements.

International observers have speculated that countries in Central Asia, including Tajikistan, may revolt against their governments as people across North Africa and the Middle East have. But as US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, Robert Blake said on May 11, it's “unlikely” that an Arab-Spring-like wave of popular uprisings would emerge in Tajikistan and elsewhere in Central Asia in the near future as the countries have had less exposure to liberal democratic traditions than North Africa and the Middle East, and there is a lack of meaningful political opposition in most of the region.

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