Tajikistan’s economic situation among the worst of the five Central Asian nations

09/03/2016 13:27
RFE/RL
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DUSHANBE, March 9, 2016, Asia-Plus -- Coming out of 2015, Tajikistan’s economic situation was among the worst of the five Central Asian states and the security situation was becoming tenuous, largely through the fault of the Tajik government, according to Radio Liberty.  The value of the national currency -- the somoni -- had dropped significantly; foreign investment, never large in the best of times, was drying up; and remittances to Tajikistan, the most remittance-dependent country in the world, dropped by more than one-third.

Parliamentary elections in March 2015 deprived Tajikistan’s largest genuine opposition party, the Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), of its last places in the government.  The government then moved quickly to ban the IRPT and have it declared an extremist group.  There was an event the Tajik government termed a mutiny and an attempted coup just days before the country’s Independence Day in September.  And fighting in northern Afghanistan moved to areas along the border with Tajikistan.

In his New Year’s address, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon emphasized security concerns and called for political vigilance.  State media were criticizing Iran for inviting IRPT leader Muhiddin Kabiri to the same late-December Islamic Unity conference in Tehran that state-sponsored clerics from Tajikistan attended.

The national currency, the somoni, considerably depreciated against the dollar last year.  The National Bank of Tajikistan (NBT) spent some $452 million in 2015 defending the somoni’s rate.  

It appears less will be coming in 2016.  Russia’s Federal Migration Service reported on January 12 that the number of registered migrant laborers from Tajikistan decreased in 2015 by 3.8 percent.

Tajik authorities initiated a crackdown on currency speculation.  The NBT put out a statement reminding citizens they faced up to nine years in prison if caught engaging in this practice.   

On February 3, authorities announced money wired from abroad would be paid out to recipients in Tajikistan in somoni.

By mid-January, prices for some basic goods such as flour, oil, and sugar were rising.  At the end of January, the Dushanbe mayor’s office said it planned to offer interest-free credits to local merchants to prevent sharp price increases.

By the start of 2016, scores of IRPT members had been detained.  On January 4, deputy IRPT leader Mahmadali Hayit was charged with 13 crimes, including murder, terrorism, illegal weapons possession, arms smuggling, and calling for the violent overthrow of the government.  (Hayit and 15 other IRPT members went on trial on February 9.)

On February 8, the prosecutor’s office announced 199 people were being charged in connection with the alleged coup attempt in September 2015.  Those charged were allegedly co-conspirators with former Deputy Defense Minister Abduhalim Nazarzoda.  According to Tajik authorities, Nazarzoda and his forces tried to stage an overthrow before being chased into the mountains, where most of the group’s members were eventually either killed or captured.  The Tajik government has not offered much evidence to support the motives for this sequence of events.

Citizens of Tajikistan continued to show up in Syria and Iraq, many among the ranks of the Islamic State (IS) militant group.  According to Tajik authorities, there are some 1,000 of Tajik citizens in those two countries.  Most were reportedly recruited while they were working as migrant laborers in Russia.

On January 11, parliament started reviewing a draft law that would make parents responsible for monitoring Internet sites their children visited so that young people would not be accessing sites with extremist content.

There was fighting just across the border, where Afghan government forces battled Taliban militants and their “foreign” allies, some of whom were reportedly from Central Asia, including from Tajikistan.

In January, parliament approved a package of amendments to the constitution, which included striking the number of terms a president could serve, lowering the age of eligibility to be elected president from 35 to 30 (Rahmon’s son Rustam Emomali turns 29 in 2016), and outlaws any party based on religion.  A referendum on those amendments was set for May 22.

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