Tajikistan is turning ageism into state policy. Supposedly seeking to “attract young specialists” into government service, the president’s office has instructed officials to lay off elderly government employees –including teachers, doctors at state hospitals, and office functionaries – regardless of their qualifications.
Critics fear the policy will exacerbate the decline of Tajikistan’s intellectual capital. The December 6 order covers those who are old enough to qualify for pensions – 63 for men and 58 for women. Signed by the president’s chief of staff, former Justice Minister Bakhtiyor Khudoyorov, the order is designed to “accelerate the use of modern technologies, especially in the area of e-governance.”
Telecommunications engineer Ilkhom Shomuddinov, 64, is among those affected. He has worked for the state for more than 40 years. “Believe it or not, I don’t remember taking a single sick day. Now, I am told that I am dismissed – they [the managers] follow instructions from above. They don’t know whom to replace me with. Even if they manage to find a young specialist with my qualifications, it is unlikely he would work for that joke of a salary,” Shomuddinov told EurasiaNet.org.
Government wages are paltry: High school teachers earn about $70 per month, doctors between $100 and $200, and secretaries between $100 and $150.
But pensions (a form of social security issued to all, regardless of where a pensioner worked) are more difficult to live on, not only because they are smaller, but because they do not afford one the opportunity to use his or her official position to earn extra income (teachers offer their students private lessons, doctors see patients outside of office hours, and bureaucrats pocket bribes). The order effectively condemns many older workers to poverty. According to the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, there are 590,000 pensioners in Tajikistan; the average monthly pension is 152 somoni (less than $32).
Judging from reactions in local media, the order is deeply unpopular. Some legal experts argue it not only undermines Tajiks’ constitutional rights, but also their human rights according to international law.
Multiple attempts to discuss the order with officials at the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection and the president’s office failed. Officials repeatedly transferred calls to phones that went unanswered.
In response to media criticism, during a January 7 press conference Education Minister Nuriddin Saidov promised “no dismissals will be carried out in the educational system in relation to the age of employees,” the Asia-Plus news agency quoted him as saying. “Many workers who have reached the pension age are qualified and experienced cadre, and we need them [as badly] as we need the air.”
Yet layoffs in the education system, which the minister oversees, have occurred. In early January, Khujand State University dismissed 11 professors who had passed retirement age, the Avesta news agency reported. At Kulyab State University, 23 elderly teachers have reportedly been laid off.
Government sources say they are faced with a dilemma: Ignore authoritarian President Imomali Rahmon’s order and face punishment from the chief executive’s office, or replace aging specialists with unqualified and untested young people who have come up through the dilapidated post-Soviet education system. “On the one hand, we cannot ignore instructions from the president’s office; on the other hand, it would be a crime to fire professors. Who will train young doctors then? Both the education and health sectors have decayed during the years of independence and the civil war,” said a source in the Health Ministry’s Education Department, speaking on condition of anonymity because of a fear of retaliation.
Archive for the ‘Economy and Resources’ Category
After five months’ negotiations, Tajikistan has agreed to import some 30,000 tons of white crystal sugar from Pakistan, through Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP). Sources in ministry of commerce told Business Recorder on Thursday after getting green signal from Tajikistan, the state-run grain trader would sign a commercial agreement for the export of sugar and sent to Tajikistan officials for their endorsement.
Tajikistan in 2012: A Year in Review
The past year was an eventful one in Tajikistan on the economic, political and military fronts, with both domestic and regional ramifications. Importantly for Tajikistan’s economy, in May 2012, construction on the controversial hydroelectric Rogun Dam on the Vaksh River—a tributary of the Amu Darya river—was suspended following an order from the World Bank. The suspension reportedly put 5,000 people out of work and will remain in effect until the ecological impact study of the dam is completed. It is expected that the Word Bank’s feasibility study will be published this summer. Rogun is commonly seen to be at the heart of the hostility between Tajikistan and downstream Uzbekistan, which fears that the dam would severely damage Uzbekistani farmers’ ability to irrigate their cotton crops and would accelerate the ecological disaster in the Aral Sea. Uzbekistan has retaliated by periodically not allowing Tajikistan-bound rail and truck cargo to cross its borders and cutting off the flow of natural gas, exacerbating Tajikistan’s perennial energy shortages (Ozodi, January 1).
The year 2012 did however bring some good news for Tajikistan’s hopes of energy security with the news of the discovery of potentially huge hydrocarbon reserves in the Bokhtar region. The find was announced earlier this summer by the Canadian firm Tethys Petroleum and was deemed credible enough to attract investment from both the French energy giant Total and China’s National Oil and Gas Exploration and Development Corporation (CNODC) (Asia Plus, December 24, 2012). While further exploration needs to be done, the potential reserves of oil and gas are estimated to be more than enough to make Tajikistan a net exporter of hydrocarbons. Such a development would free Dushanbe from its energy reliance on Russia and Uzbekistan and no doubt influence its foreign policy calculations.
In December, Tajikistan joined the World Trade Organization, which local economists hope will lower domestic customs tariffs, curb the power of monopolies in certain sectors such as aviation, lower prices on domestic goods, and encourage foreign investment (BBC Tajik, December 11, 2012). On the other hand, some critics have raised concerns over the potential negative short-term effects on the competitiveness of Tajikistan’s two chief exports, aluminum and cotton. The country’s cotton industry is not only an important economic force but, given the continued existence in Tajikistan of Soviet-style collective farms (kolkhozy), an important socio-political institution as well.
On the political front, the big story looming in 2013 is the presidential election slated for November. The election will mark the first in Tajikistan since 2006 when Emomalii Rahmon secured his third term in office. That vote was boycotted by several opposition parties including the largest, the Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP). However, this time the opposition parties are expected to participate and possibly put forth a coalition candidate. Nonetheless, 2012 was a rough year for the opposition as both religious and political figures such as Muhiddin Kabiri (the head of the IRP) and Hoji Akbar Turajonzoda (prominent cleric and former deputy prime minister) were legally harassed, imprisoned (such as Umarali Quvatov, businessman and head of the exiled opposition group “Group 24”), and even killed (notably, Sabzali Mamadrizoev, head of the IRP in the remote Gorno-Badakhshan region). Since the last presidential vote in 2006, Rahmon has seen neighboring states and allies embroiled in contested elections and subsequent hostility (witness Iran’s 2009 presidential election, the 2010 coup in Kyrgyzstan as well as the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011-2012). Despite assurances from some quarters that the country’s civil war has bred a war-weary and politically disinterested population, the regime will likely increase the pressure on the opposition and consolidate its power during the run-up to the elections in anticipation of potential unrest. President Rahmon may attempt to secure his rule by exaggerating the threat of Islamic extremism and proffering himself as a bulwark against regional instability in the context of a post-2014 Afghanistan. However the unrest this summer in Tajikistan’s Gorno-Badakhshan that killed dozens was a sobering reminder of at least three things: 1) not all Tajikistanis are war weary, 2) not all threats to the regime are inspired by Islam, and 3) the regime underestimates the domestic and international backlash against such heavy-handed tactics.
Authorities in Tajikistan have ordered Internet service providers, again, to block access to Facebook, local news agencies report. The blocking orders (which this time also target the local service of Radio Liberty) have become so familiar in the past year that there’s little new to say. So let’s look at how the man in charge of Internet access has explained his thinking in recent months.
Last March, the head of the communications service, Beg Zukhurov, after denying any order to block Facebook, said his office had actually blocked the site for “prophylactic maintenance.”
Internet service providers have said they were ordered to block Facebook last weekend, along with three or four news portals, by the state communications service, after one of the portals published an article severely criticizing [President Emomali] Rakhmon and his government. When queried by news agency Asia-Plus, the head of the service, Beg Zukhurov, denied any order to block Facebook, but said the authors of offensive online content “defaming the honor and dignity of the Tajik authorities” should be made “answerable.” Tajikistan frequently uses libel cases and extremism charges to silence critical journalists.
In November, Zukhurov again flipped the switch and memorably called Facebook a “hotbed of slander” when he sought a meeting with the social network’s founder and chairman, Mark Zuckerberg.
“Does Facebook have an owner? Can he come to Tajikistan? I’d meet him during visiting hours. If he does not have time, I’d talk to his assistants,” the BBC’s Russian service quoted Zukhurov as saying. (Zukhurov’s visiting hours are Saturday’s from 10am to noon.)
Zukhurov would like to discuss with Zuckerberg his theory that Facebook users are being paid to complain about their leaders, which is keeping them from discussing more important issues: “For example, somewhere in Tajikistan there is no water or roads are bad or the weather forecast is incorrect. But users do not write about these [topics]. They write especially about money issues. I was told that the users who post critical comments about officials and entrepreneurs are paid $5,000 to $10,000 for doing this. I’m very surprised about how expensive the comments are.”
The following month, over a long weekend in December, Zukhurov blocked 131 sites, seemingly chosen at random, for “technical” reasons.
The latest, short-lived mass blockade lasted from December 21- 25, and had observers scratching their heads. Some believe Zukhurov is honing techniques intended for use during elections this coming November, when President Imomali Rahmon is expected to seek another seven-year term. Tajikistan has no independent television outlets and no daily newspapers, leaving the Internet as the sole outlet open to Tajiks to air criticism of the government. Others say Zukhurov is trying to demonstrate his value to Rahmon.
Zukhurov’s actions may have unintended consequences, contends former education minister Munira Inoyatova. “The blocking of web resources – especially social networks – is widely seen as impeding access to information and prohibiting free communication. These prohibitions always increase social tensions,” Inoyatova told EurasiaNet.org.
For many, the most memorable Zukhurovism was his explanation for a communications blackout in the restive Gorno-Badakhshan province last summer, scene of heavy fighting between government troops and local warlords: A stray bullet had taken out a cable, he said, severing all phone and Internet connections to the region for a month (he did not explain the simultaneous YouTube block).
The repeated attempts to cut Tajiks’ access to the Internet – and the nonsensical explanations – have drawn widespread criticism from diplomats, press freedom watchdogs, and Tajiks embarrassed for their country. Whatever Zukhurov’s motivations, he’s helping turn isolated Tajikistan into a black hole for media freedom.
16 January 2013 Last updated at 04:49 ET Help
Afghanistan is the world’s biggest opium producer and it is estimated about a third of the drugs produced there go to Russia and Europe via Tajikistan.
Tajikistan is the poorest country in Central Asia and the rewards that come with trafficking the drugs are hard to resist for its people struggling to make a living along its long and open border with Afghanistan.
With Nato troops preparing to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014 there are fears Tajikistan may become even more vulnerable to the trade.
The BBC’s Rustam Qobil travelled to one Tajik village on the border between the two countries where drug dealers try to recruit couriers for their trade.
Listen to the full report on Thursday, 17 January on Assignment on the BBC World Service.
As many as 53 new small hydropower plants are to be built in Tajikistan by the end of this year, Asia-Plus news agency said on Wednesday citing the head of the Agency for Construction and Architecture under the Government of Tajikistan Abduvali Komilov.
According to him, more than 50 small hydroelectric complexes were commissioned in the country last year.
The Agency for Statistics under the President of Tajikistan, said as of early 2013, the number of small power plants in Tajikistan was 181 with a total capacity of over 15 MW.
Half of these plants are located in districts of republican subordination (90 units with a total capacity of 6 MW). Another 58 units with a 5.3 MW capacity are located in Sughd province, 20 units with over a 3.2 MW capacity in Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous province and 13 with a 686.4 kW capacity in Khatlon province.
Tajikistan is a transit point for one of the most lucrative drugs routes in the world.
Illegal drugs from neighbouring Afghanistan flood into the country on their way to Russia and Western Europe.
The rewards that come with trafficking the drugs can be hard to resist for Tajik people, who struggle to make a living along the country’s long and open border with Afghanistan.
In many Tajik villages on the border, villagers are sometimes recruited to help smuggle drugs along their journey into lucrative markets.
Shadia (not her real name), a woman I met in a remote region near the Afghan border, knows only too well about the risks people in her village take when they give in to temptation.
“My husband wanted to buy some flour to make bread and agreed to carry some drugs,” she says.
“The police caught him along with his two brothers. Now they are all in prison.”
Unemployed and with no income, she is looking after her children by herself.
In this remote and impoverished rural community it is virtually impossible to find a job.
By Lt. Kyle Schlais, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133 Public Affairs
BAHRAIN (NNS) — U.S. Navy Seabees assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 133 deployed to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, in November as part of a Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI), the first Seabee mission in Tajikistan.
In support of the Office of Military Cooperation (OMC) and Tajikistan Ministry of Defense (MOD), the Seabee crew began construction alongside the MOD’s construction force, the Stroibat, on phase one of a $1 million project at the Peace Support Operation Training Center (PSOTC) at Shamsi Base, funded by GPOI.
To help boost the local economy and establish lasting relationships with contractors and vendors, the building materials were procured in nearby street vendor markets by Utilitiesman 1st Class Justin Walker, the Seabee project supervisor, and Air Force contracting officer, 1st Lt. Sunset Lo. The vendors delivered the materials in a timely manner, enabling the project to move forward on schedule.
Throughout the first phase, which included the construction of a new roof, English language lab classroom, kitchen renovations and electrical distribution repairs, the Seabees mentored 10 Stroibat soldiers, teaching them basic construction skills while building strong relationships through coordination with MOD Stroibat forces and communication with high level Tajikistan military officers.
“Working with Stroibat has been a great experience,” said Builder Constructionman Xavier Knowlesball. “It has been educational working through language barrier challenges and I am honored to be a part of the crew.”
Construction Electrician Constructionman Hunter Kiser expressed a similar sentiment.
“It has been an awesome experience working with the local construction force,” said Kiser. “Their hospitality is amazing and made our visit to Dushanbe easy, allowing us to focus on the tasking.”
With the first phase scheduled to conclude in January, planning for the second phase has already begun.
NMCB 133 is currently deployed as a part of engineering support operations throughout the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility.
For more news from Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 133, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/nmcb133/.
Tajikistan’s foreign trade turnover last year amounted to $ 5.137 billion, or 15.1 per cent ($ 674 million) more than in 2011, Asia-Plus information agency said today.
According to the Statistics Agency under the Tajik President, the trade balance was negative and amounted to about $ 2.418 billion.
During this period, Tajikistan had foreign trade relations with 102 world countries, in particular with 10 CIS countries and 92 foreign countries.
The export volume of goods last year amounted to more than $ 1.3 billion, or 8.1 per cent more than in 2011. The goods were imported to the country to the amount of over $ 3.7 billion, or 17.8 per cent more than the year before.
The export of finished food products decreased by 52 per cent, machinery and equipment – by 42.6 per cent, non-precious metals and their items – by 18.9 per cent, vegetable products – by 8.2 per cent in 2012 compared to 2011.
Dushanbe, Tajikistan, January 10, 2013—IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, supported Tajikistan’s first private credit bureau in acquiring a license from the central bank, helping the country strengthen financial market infrastructure and improve access to finance for small and medium enterprises, and entrepreneurs.
The National Bank of Tajikistan in December issued a license to the Credit Information Bureau Tajikistan, enabling it to become the first private credit bureau in the country and start credit information sharing services. From now on, it is officially authorized to start collecting information on borrowers from Tajik financial institutions.
This initiative will enable Tajik financial institutions and other potential participants such as mobile operators and utility companies to have timely access to accountable and objective information on borrowers, which could allow them to reduce loan processing times and credit defaults, and lend to more small and medium enterprises.
“Launching a bureau of credit histories plays an important role in enhancing the sustainability of the whole banking system,” said Abdujabbor Shirinov, Chairman of the National Bank of Tajikistan. “The credit bureau will help financial institutions get credible information on borrowers and reduce credit defaults.”
via IFC Home.
Investors operating in three post-Soviet Central Asian republics face an “extreme risk” of having their businesses expropriated, according to a survey released last week in the UK.
Maplecroft, a Bath-based political risk consultancy, said on January 9 that it had found plenty of reasons to be wary of the business climate in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan after “evaluating the risk to business from discriminatory acts by the government that reduces ownership, control or rights of private investments either gradually or as a result of a single action.” Recent fits of resource nationalism in Kyrgyzstan — where the Kumtor gold mine, operated by Toronto-based Centerra Gold, accounted for 12 percent of GDP in 2011 and more than half the country’s industrial output – and rampant authoritarianism in places like Tajikistan and Turkmenistan have led Maplecroft to rank these countries among the most risky in the world. Not far behind, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan both fall in the “high risk” category.
From the study:
Central Asia is characterized by areas of increasing natural resource exploration and exploitation, but also for poor respect for property rights. Indeed, Turkmenistan (11), Tajikistan (18) and Kyrgyzstan (20) are all categorized as extreme risk. Kazakhstan (26), Azerbaijan (58) and the already mentioned Uzbekistan  are rated as ‘high risk’. As such, the region presents high expropriation risk particularly motivated by low regulation enforcement and widespread corruption. Various instances of expropriation have occurred in 2012. These include the allegedly unlawful expropriation and demolition of housing in Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku; the expulsion of Russian telecommunications firm MTS in 2012 and the continued fallout associated with the expropriation of a gold mine belonging to Oxus in 2011 in Uzbekistan; and increasingly frequent hostility towards the mining sector from parliament in Kyrgyzstan.
The index, released as part of Maplecroft’s fifth-annual Political Risk Atlas, will offer little surprise to embattled foreign investors. Yet it offers a chance to rank the region, legendary for its pervasive corruption and venal dictators, internationally. Turkmenistan, regularly named by human rights groups as one of the most authoritarian and closed regimes on the planet, sits right after Omar al-Bashir’s war-weary Sudan in the expropriation index. Nepotistic Tajikistan, where the president’s family reportedly controls almost all business interests, is sandwiched between Angola and Bolivia.
DUSHANBE, January 14 (RIA Novosti) – Tajik law-enforcers seized some six metric tons of drugs in the country in 2012, up 41.1 percent since 2011, a spokeswoman for the country’s drug control agency said on Monday.
“Cannabis-based drugs – weighting 4.8 metric tons in total – accounted for the bulk of the seizures. A total of 630 kilograms of raw opium and 515 kilograms of heroin were also seized,” Drug Control Agency spokeswoman Umeda Yusupova said.
A total of 895 drug-related crimes were registered in the country in 2012, and citizens of Afghanistan, Iran, Russia, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan were detained.
As of 2012, the country had more than 7,200 registered drug users, including 4,882 heroin addicts.
About 90 percent of heroin consumed in Russia is smuggled from Afghanistan, the world’s largest heroin producer, via former Soviet republics, including Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
An agreement on financing ‘Professional literacy programs for poverty reduction’ was signed in Dushanbe between the Republic of Tajikistan and the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), AsiaPlus news agency reported on Saturday.
The total project cost is $ 11 million on a credit basis. The project will be implemented until 2016.
According to the Secretariat of the Tajik Finance Ministry, the agreement was signed by the Minister of Finance Safarali Najmiddinov and Vice – President of the IDB, Ahmet Tiktik.
The ‘Professional literacy programs for poverty reduction” are aimed to decrease poverty rates, especially in rural areas; training of young people and women by enhancing relevant professional literacy, practical skills and productivity.
08 January 2013, Dushanbe, Tajikistan – With the financial support of the European Union, the World Health Organization (WHO) Country office in Tajikistan launched a new project “Technical assistance in support of health care reform in Tajikistan” aiming to enhance the health system reform in Tajikistan.
The project is a part of the EU Delegation support to Republic of Tajikistan, namely technical assistance to the health sector to ensure the effectiveness of the health care reforms planned by the Government.
The overall objective of the project is to improve the health status of the population with a focus on the most vulnerable groups through strengthening of the institutional capacity of the Ministry of Health to deliver population based and results orientated service with focus on primary health care.
“WHO is committed to continue the work in the field of health systems strengthening jointly with the Development Partners to support the Ministry of Health in improving the quality, access, equity of health services in line with the National Health Sector Strategy 2010-2020, in particular for building of capacity of the health care reform in the country”– said Dr Pavel Ursu, WHO Representative/Head of WHO Country office in Tajikistan.
Tajikistan’s Interior Ministry says three suspected members of the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) have been apprehended in a special operation near the Uzbek border.
According to a ministry statement, one police officer was wounded in the operation conducted in Tajikistan’s northern region of Maschoh overnight between January 9 and 10.
Police and security forces confiscated ammunition and weapons from the suspects.
The IMU, which says it wants to establish an Islamic Caliphate in Central Asia, is believed to have links with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
It had been active in the region but moved its operations to neighboring Afghanistan in recent years.
Tajikistan saw a spike in militant activity beginning in 2010 that led to the deaths of dozens of troops.
The International Finance Corporation (IFC), part of the World Bank group, has supported the first private credit bureau in Tajikistan in acquiring a licence from the Central Bank, CA-News reported on Friday with the reference to the corporation’s office in Dushanbe.
“Creation of a credit bureau covering credit history plays an important role in enhancing the banking system’s stability. Meeting the challenges facing the credit bureau will reduce credit risks, as well as provide a more effective use of information about dishonest borrowers,” the head of the National Bank of Tajikistan (NBT) Abdujabbor Shirinov said.
As IFC Representative Fabrizio Fraboni noted, the issued licence is recognition of the progress made by the credit bureau. He said this event is “a significant step forward in the creation of a centre to exchange credit information for the Tajik financial market.”
DUSHANBE, January 9 (RIA Novosti) – The lower house of Tajikistan’s parliament ratified an agreement on the country’s accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) on Wednesday, concluding Dushanbe’s drive to join the trade body.
Tajikistan was admitted to the WTO last December, becoming only the second Central Asian nation, after Kyrgyzstan, to do so. In order for the accession agreement to enter into force however, it had to be ratified by Tajikistan’s Assembly of Representatives.
The country’s Economic Development and Trade Minister Sharif Rakhimzod said on Wednesday his country’s accession “will certainly facilitate the appearance of Tajik goods in world markets and improve investment attractiveness.”
Tajikistan first applied for WTO membership in 2001, promising to enact reforms to open up its economy.
“Foreign investors will be reassured by the applicability of the WTO’s familiar and predictable rules-based system and will know that Tajikistan is now ‘open for business,’” WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy said in a statement last month while welcoming Tajikistan to the trade body.
The poorest country in the former Soviet Union, Tajikistan’s business climate has been mired by allegations of pervasive official corruption and the influence of a bustling drug trade from neighboring war-torn Afghanistan.
Tajik Government may withdraw two mining licenses from Singapore’s company Marvis, CA-News reported with reference to chairman of Head Administration of Geology under Tajikistan’s government, Azim Ibrohim.
“The company has not fulfilled its obligations with regard to implementation of the projects, what might be caused by the company’s financial difficulties,” Ibrohim said.He underlined that the administration offered the company to prepare the project on mining. However, the offer was left unanswered.
DUSHANBE, Tajikistan – A soldier in Tajikistan has been killed in a gun battle with smugglers attempting to cross the porous frontier from neighbouring Afghanistan.
The Tajik security services, which handle border protection, said Tuesday that about 20 intruders opened fire after being intercepted during a nighttime patrol, killing one soldier and wounding another before fleeing.
Tajikistan is a major conduit for the trafficking of heroin and other drugs from Afghanistan to Russia and Western Europe.
The incident took place on Jan. 1. Authorities in the former Soviet republic often delay releasing information on security issues.
DUSHANBE, January 4 (RIA Novosti) – A large batch of drugs containing some 122 kilograms has been seized by Tajikistan’s special services in an operation conducted in the Central Asian country’s northern Sughd Province, the State Committee for National Security said.
“A Kamaz truck driven by 46-year-old Sadriddin Safarov has been detained in a special operation,” the committee said in a statement on Thursday. “During the truck’s search, 120 kg of drugs, including 70 kg of hashish and 50 kg of opium, have been seized.”
DUSHANBE – The year 2013 promises change in Tajikistan as it is set to join the second World Trade Organisation (WTO) member in Central Asia after Kyrgyzstan.
Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon and WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy on December 10 in Geneva signed a protocol adding Tajikistan to the WTO this summer. The Tajik parliament has until June 7 to ratify the protocol, and Tajikistan will become a full WTO member 30 days later. Tajikistan will join Kyrgyzstan as the two Central Asian countries in the WTO.
Tajikistan first applied for membership in 2001 and for the past 11 years has worked to liberalise its foreign trade and investment laws and reduce customs duties in an effort to be admitted.
“Tajikistan’s accession to the WTO will mark the beginning of a new creative stage,” Rakhmon said at the protocol signing ceremony. “The country will continue to carry out constructive reforms in all spheres of the economy and will focus on developing a free and transparent trading system.”
Two opinions on membership
While some observers agree membership will boost economic development, others are discussing changes that the Tajik domestic market can expect and whether the country will be able to compete on the world stage.
Tajikistan’s accession would help make small and medium-sized business more competitive, Tajik Chamber of Commerce and Industry Deputy Chairwoman Larisa Kislyakova told Central Asia Online.
“Considerable opportunities will open up for small manufacturing companies producing high-value-added products,” she explained. “This business sector will grow, as the main tariff concessions provided by the WTO go to these product groups.” Indeed, Tajikistan’s economy already has benefited from legal reforms mandated by the WTO, according to Saifullo Safarov, deputy director of the Presidential Centre for Strategic Studies.
“Institutionally the republic made automatic progress by adjusting its laws,” he said. “In this respect, Tajikistan is becoming more attractive to investors, whose interests will enjoy protection both under national law and from a global organisation.”
Still, some say that change could be difficult, especially for agriculture.
“Small businesses set up by local entrepreneurs in rural areas hardly will be able to compete with foreign companies,” Social-Democratic Party Deputy Chairman Shokirjon Khakimov predicted, adding that, under the terms of the WTO, agricultural subsidies in developing countries should not exceed 10% of the government budget.
Kislyakova rejected that argument, saying that Tajik agricultural subsidies presently amount to only 4% of government spending, so the cap shouldn’t be a problem. Some farmers will abandon certain crops for others, economist Khodzhimukhammad Umarov said, predicting a decrease in cotton farming and adding, “Tajik farmers will … switch to more profitable crops.”
Mike Perdue loves the Soviet bloc.
The 54-year-old from Griswold owns a hostel in Georgia (the republic, not the U.S. state) and has visited Armenia. And he recently traveled to Tajikistan to assist dairy farmers there produce a better product.
“I don’t know,” Perdue said when asked why the area intrigues him. “A combination of reading I’ve done and interest in going beyond western Europe.”
Despite the reason, his love of the region and his love of agriculture made him a perfect fit for the Washington D.C.-based CNFA’s Farmer-to-Farmer program, which enlists volunteers to assist farmers in developing nations.
While in Tajikistan Perdue worked with farmers outside Isfara, near the country’s border with Uzbekistan. The majority of his work was in cattle rationing – ag talk for what to feed the animals and how much.
The 46 milking cows at the operation, Mirsaid, were producing about 16 pounds of milk per day, Perdue said, “about one-fourth of what they should be doing.”
Something strange happened in Tajikistan over a late December weekend. On a Friday evening, the government’s communications agency ordered Internet service providers (ISPs) to block 131 websites for “technical” reasons. Then suddenly, a few days later, the ISPs were told, in effect; ‘never mind.’
Internet users in Tajikistan are getting accustomed to such erratic behavior from the state communications agency and its mercurial boss, Beg Zukhurov. For example, Zukhurov blocked Facebook twice in 2012, supposedly because he was upset that Tajiks were using the social network to criticize Tajikistan’s long-serving president. He’s also overseen the repeated blocking of Tajikistan’s leading independent news agency, Asia-Plus, as punishment for its critical reporting. But the December list appeared to be a random compilation of sites that included, besides Twitter and several popular Russian social networks, lots of obscure entertainment portals that few in Tajikistan care about.
“Among the pages to be banned [were] personal pages of unknown individuals,” said the head of one Tajik ISP, speaking on condition of anonymity. “More than 70 percent of them are local music and video portals. Obviously, the list is composed by a spider-bot, which followed an absurd algorithm. Public officials have once again proven their illiteracy and none of them will comment on this foolish order.”
Zukhurov’s explanations of his actions often border on the farcical: Facebook, for example, was blocked for “prophylactic maintenance” last March, other sites for “technical reasons,” and phone access in Tajikistan’s restive east was severed for a month because a bullet, Zukhurov claimed, had sliced a wire. IT service providers contend that Zukhurov has no legal power to order blocks. (Only courts have that authority). But providers follow his orders out of fear of official harassment, such as a sudden visit from the tax inspector.
Sugar procurement for Tajikistan export: TCP seeks commerce ministry’s guidelines | Business RecorderPosted: January 26, 2013 in Economy and Resources, Environment, Geography, Region, Resources, Tajikistan
The Trading Corporation of Pakistan (TCP) is seeking guidelines from the ministry of commerce for procuring 30,000 tons of white powdered sugar for Tajikistan, as bids quoted prices higher than the already agreed price between the two countries.
Sources told Business Recorder on Tuesday that TCP was facing difficulties procuring the sugar after domestic mills offered to supply powdered sugar at a minimum price of Rs 63,400 per ton (which works out to $653 per ton) against officially agreed price of $528 a ton.
On August 14 last year, Pakistan and Tajikistan struck a sugar export deal in the presence of Nurmahmad Akhmedov, the Chairman of Tajikistan’s Agency on State Material Reserves and Commerce Minister Makhdoom Amin Fahim. During the meeting, it was also decided that the sugar would be exported via -TCP at a discounted rate to facilitate Tajikistan.
As per initial discussions, Pakistan had agreed to supply 30,000 tons of sugar to Tajikistan at a price $20 lower than international market rates. The estimated export rate was worked out at $528 per ton as on the day of the dialogue when the sugar price in the world market was $548 per ton. Later, Tajikistan demanded white powdered sugar, which was not available with the TCP. Therefore, TCP floated a tender for procuring the same. On December 3 last year, TCP invited bids from sugar mills for the supply of 30,000 tons of ‘White Powdered Sugar’ in bags.
THE impoverished Central Asian state of Tajikistan says it has been cut off from natural gas shipments by its neighbour and sole energy supplier Uzbekistan.
The announcement comes amid traditional end-of-year contract negotiations and continuing tensions over Tajikistan’s plans to build a hydroelectric power station that could choke off Uzbek water supplies.
“We have stopped receiving gas from Uzbekistan,” a spokesman for the Tajiktransgas state gas company told AFP. “The supplies have been cut.”
Energy power Uzbekistan last halted gas shipments to Tajikistan for two weeks in April.
Uzbekistan has been seeking to funnel its lucrative gas exports to new markets in China and has also curbed its shipments to Russia.
But Tajikistan – poorest of the ex-Soviet nations and still recovering from a 1990s civil war – has few other energy sources and suffers from chronic electricity shortages.
The nation of 7.5 million is now moving ahead with plans for a Rogun Dam project that would tap into the mountain country’s abundant water resources.
TASHKENT – Uzbekistan will soon stop delivering natural gas to Tajikistan, the National Information Agency of Tajikistan (Khovar) reported December 24.
Uztransgaz sent notification to Tochiktransgaz, the Tajik gas supplier, saying deliveries would stop December 31, according to Khovar. However, Tajik Energy and Industry Minister Gul Sherali December 25 told parliament that Uzbekistan would cut off gas starting December 26, CA-News.org reported.
Uzbekistan and Tajikistan haven’t signed a contract yet concerning gas sales in 2013, he said.
Uzbekistan is Tajikistan’s only supplier of natural gas, Lenta.ru reported December 25.
12/27/2012| 03:04am US/Eastern
Beeline Tajikistan offers now unlimited mobile browsing with Opera Mini Oslo, Norway – December 27, 2012
Opera Software and Beeline Tajikistan announced today that Beeline subscribers will be first in Tajikistan to get unlimited access to the mobile web with the Opera Mini mobile browser. All subscribers using Opera Mini on their phones or tablets will now be able to enjoy smooth, unlimited browsing for the lowest price in Tajikistan.
Starting today, an unlimited, mobile web package called Operativnyj Internet will be offered for only 10,29 Tajikistani somoni per month, or 4,11 somoni per week. With these special bundles, almost one million Beeline subscribers will get seamless access to the web, regardless of the mobile device they use. Viewing, downloading and sharing multimedia files will not be covered by the service fee and will be charged at regular rates. Other restrictions may also apply.
CNPC expands in Tajikistan – Companies and Industries – MorningWhistle – Latest chinese economic, financial, business, political and society newsPosted: January 26, 2013 in Economy and Resources, Environment, Region, Relations, Resources, Tajikistan
China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), parent company of PetroChina Co (NYSE: PTR, SHA: 601857, HKG: 0857), has set up a joint venture with French Total SA and Tethys Petroleum Ltd. to develop an oil and gas project in Tajikistan.
Total and China National Oil and Gas Exploration and Development Corp., a unit of CNPC, will each hold a third of the Bokhtar project, Tethys said in a statement Saturday.
PetroChina and Total will spend $30 million each to refund about two-thirds of historical costs and will carry some of its future spending.
“The initial work program is expected to comprise of further seismic data acquisition followed by a deep exploration well,” Tethys said. The completion is subject to final Tajik governmental approval, Bloomberg reported.
The Bokhtar license may hold an estimated 27.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent resources, according to a report from June 30, Tethys said. It first announced plans to bring in partners on Oct. 26.
Tajikistan blocked access to more than 100 websites on Tuesday, in what a government source said was a dress rehearsal for a crackdown on online dissent before next year’s election when President Imomali Rakhmon will again run for office.
Rakhmon, a 60-year-old former head of a Soviet cotton farm, has ruled the impoverished Central Asian nation of 7.5 million for 20 years. He has overseen constitutional amendments that allow him to seek a new seven-year term in November 2013.
The Internet remains the main platform where Tajiks can air grievances and criticize government policies at a time when the circulation of local newspapers is tiny and television is tightly controlled by the state.
Tajikistan’s state communications service blocked 131 local and foreign Internet sites “for technical and maintenance works”.
“Most probably, these works will be over in a week,” Tatyana Kholmurodova, deputy head of the service, told Reuters. She declined to give the reason for the work, which cover even some sites with servers located abroad.
The blocked resources included Russia’s popular social networking sites http://www.my.mail.ru and VKontakte (www.vk.com), as well as Tajik news site TJKnews.com and several local blogs.
“The government has ordered the communications service to test their ability to block dozens of sites at once, should such a need arise,” a senior government official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
“It is all about November 2013,” he said, in a clear reference to the presidential election.
Other blocked websites included a Ukrainian soccer site, a Tajik rap music site, several local video-sharing sites and a pornography site.
BAAR, Switzerland, Dec. 24, 2012 /CNW/ – Manas Petroleum Corp. (“Manas”) (TSX-V: MNP); (OTCBB: MNAP) announces that on December 21, 2012, its wholly-owned subsidiary DWM Petroleum AG (“DWM”) has been informed by Santos International Ventures Pty Ltd (“Santos”) that it has decided not to pursue their option granted by DWM in December 2007 to farm-in into CJSC Somon Oil (“Somon Oil”), a Tajik company having 100% interest in two exploration blocks.
DWM is in negotiations to setup a new consortium for this world-class acreage.
With regards to the rehabilitation project, DWM is in the final process of negotiating a Share Purchase Agreement, which will be entered into before the end of January 2013 with an unrelated third party.
An update on both transactions will be given by the end of January 2013.
Dushanbe: Over 130 websites have been blocked in Tajikistan in connection with “technical repair work”, the country’s telecom agency said. Many of the sites listed were inaccessible within Tajikistan till Saturday.
Most of the sites targeted host music and video content, including topvideo.tj – dubbed Tajikistan’s answer to YouTube. Popular social networking service Vkontakte, similar to Facebook, and Odnoklassniki, similar to Friends Reunited, were also on the list. Access to sites popular with Tajik bloggers, and some publishing pro-opposition content, or run by Tajiks abroad was also blocked.
In November, Beg Zukhurov, the head of the country’s communications agency, issued an instruction that internet providers and mobile operators in the country block access to Facebook, “because of slander of the government of the country and its leaders”.
This prompted concern among the international community, including the OSCE and the EU. On Dec 4, access to Facebook was restored.
Total farms into the Bokhtar PSC area in Tajikistan with a 33.335% interest | Oil & Gas Eurasia – Russia Oil & Gas Technology MagazinePosted: January 26, 2013 in Economy and Resources, Environment, Geography, Health, History, Human Rights
Total announced that it had signed an agreement with Kulob Petroleum, a subsidiary of Tethys Petroleum, to farm into the Bokhtar PSC Area in Tajikistan with a 33.335% interest. Under the agreement, signed jointly with state-owned CNODC (a subsidiary of CNPC) of China, Total and CNODC will each hold a 33.335% interest in the PSC, while Kulob will retain a 33.33% stake. The agreement is subject to the approval of the Tajikistan government.
The Bokhtar PSC covers an area of 35,000 square kilometers at the eastern end of the prolific Amu Darya Basin. A number of giant gas discoveries have already been made in the basin’s Jurassic carbonate reservoirs.
On completion of the transaction, Total will acquire an interest in the Tajikistani sector of the Amu Darya Basin, it will be partnered with CNPC.
Operations will be conducted jointly, through an operating company. Tethys has already acquired seismic data with the intention of identifying the location of the first exploration well by end-2014.
Tajikistan has ordered local Internet providers to block Twitter, one of more than 100 sites including popular Russian-language social networks starting next week, an industry representative told AFP Saturday.
“The (government) communications service has sent Internet companies a huge list of 131 sites that must be blocked in the country from Monday,” said Asomiddin Atoyev, the head of the Tajik association of Internet providers.
“The list includes social networking sites that are actively used by Tajik Internet users including government officials,” Atoyev said.
Among the blocked sites are Vkontakte, or In Touch, and Odnoklassniki, or Classmates, the most popular social networking sites in Russia with many users in the ex-Soviet Union, and Mail.ru, an email service.
By: Bruno de Paiva
December 23, 2012
The recent opening of a visitor centre by Qatari Diar in Tajikistan’s capital, Dushanbe, is a further sign of Qatar’s desire to diversify it’s economy and use it’s economic wealth to increase it’s global clout.
Wholly controlled by the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), Qatari Diar opened the centre in December.
The visitor centre is the first phase of Diar Dushanbe, a mixed-use development in the Tajikistani capital that will encompass 68,000 square meters and is set to be completed by 2014.
The agreement for the construction of the Diar Dushanbe was signed in August 2011 and aims to provide 1,500 jobs during the construction phase and 400 jobs once the Diar Dushanbe begins operations.
After cutting local access to Facebook in November, the authorities in Tajikistan have ordered to block over 130 websites, including popular Russian-language networking platforms. Blogger Tomiris writes [ru]:
Hurray! [Tajikistan is] ahead of the rest of the world again! Where else do they block more than 130 websites at once?