Archive for the ‘Journalism’ Category

Hello all; first of all, I am sorry for my hiatus from posts (paucity of posting) for such a long time, but also, I am happy to say that I have found a new home on the web, and I will be once again posting much more frequently!

 

From now on, I will be posting about Tajikistan at

http://studentdigitalus.org/TajikistanFocus/

I hope you will head over and check us out.

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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.

via Tajikistan: Executive Order Disregards Collective Wisdom | EurasiaNet.org.

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.

via UNHCR | Refworld | Tajikistan in 2012: A Year in Review.

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.

via BBC News – Recruiting drug couriers in Tajikistan.

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/.

via NMCB 133 Conducts First Mission in Tajikistan.

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 [24] 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.

via Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan Present “Extreme Risk” to Investors – Survey | EurasiaNet.org.

SHAMSI BASE, Bahrain- 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-ever 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 ordered 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.”

via DVIDS – News – NMCB 133 Conducts First-Ever Mission in Tajikistan.