FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Mystery of Tajikistan

by SUFYAN bin UZAYR

Out of all the poor countries that emerged from the ashes of the erstwhile Soviet Union, Tajikistan stands alone as the poorest. While the papers surely talk about the rapid macroeconomic growth of the country, most of the ordinary Tajiks are yet to witness the brighter side of the economic progress.

Amidst such dismal scenario, back in November 2013, Tajikistan re-elected Emomali Rahmon as its leader, giving him a seven-year term at the office. Former chairman of a collective farm, Rahmon has been dominating the national politics ever since the country came into existence back in 1992 — he became the President in 1994, won for the second time in 1999, and then again in 2003 and 2006. It surely would have been a wonderful political resume had it not been for the absence of any serious political competition.

Question is, if there is rampant poverty in Tajikistan, why is everyone repeatedly giving one chance after another to Rahmon?

Everybody Likes To Migrate

The Tajikistani administration can best be summed up in two words: nepotism and cronyism. Most of the key positions are occupied by Rahmon’s closest relatives and friends. All vital economic resources and industries are controlled by the select few, and while the rate of industrialization is positive, the rift between the rich and poor keeps widening.

Owing to such a setup, the poor masses in the country obviously have a hard time in trying to make ends meet. Make no mistake about it: the Tajikistani government is doing its best to adhere to international financial suggestions, and the projected macroeconomic growth for the country is 6-7 percent per year. However, this growth is also accompanied by a rising inflation, and unfortunately, the richer section of the society gets to enjoy the growth whereas the poorer folks are left to deal with the inflation.

As per government records, the volume of imports is roughly two times higher than that of exports. Prices of everyday commodities keep rising, and the ordinary Tajiks are running out of jobs.

Owing to rampant unemployment, many young Tajiks are forced to migrate outside their home country in order to seek newer job opportunities. Tajikistan seems to be leading the race in this aspect: out of the 7.5 million populace, roughly 1.5 seem to be working abroad. Furthermore, Tajikistan is also the global leader in terms of financial remittances (in 2011, the World Bank stated that remittances constituted 47% of the national GDP).

Professions of repute, such as medicine and education, have become notorious in Tajikistan due to the poor pay. The average monthly salary of a university professor or a doctor in Tajikistan varies between $70 and $150. Even though there is provision for free healthcare, medicinal infrastructure is not the best out there.

What Keeps Rahmon in Office?

So, if life is so difficult for the average Tajik masses, why isn’t the international community paying any heed?

The non-state media in Tajikistan is, surprisingly, pretty bold. While there have been cases of certain restrictions on media outlets, the Tajik media, in general, happens to be quite vocal with its criticism of the government.

Plus, while Tajikistan may not be enjoying the fruits of prosperity, it is one of the select few countries in Central Asia that can boast of relative stability. Rahmon’s rule has provided Tajikistan with much-needed support from both Russia and the West, including EU.

For instance, Tajikistan enjoys a heavy list of favors from Russia — economic privileges as well as investments in the hydropower sector. In return, Rahmon ratified the presence of a Russian military base in his country (right on the eve of Presidential elections, by the way).

Similarly, Rahmon is well-loved by the Western countries too. Factors such as the impending withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan and the strategic location of Tajikistan have persuaded the Western world to turn a blind eye to Tajikistan’s internal affairs. High-profile economic crimes as well as misuse of power are serious issues indeed, but since Tajik territory and air-space are required by NATO forces every once in a while, turning a blind eye to such serious issues is a better option.

Conclusion

Tajikistan shares a long common border with Afghanistan which was handed over to Tajik troops after the Russian border guards left in 2005. Assuming if Rahmon is removed, Tajikistan’s relatively stable regime might be replaced by an Islamist regime imported from Afghan lands. Furthermore, having a pro-Western regime in Tajikistan ensures that possibilities of drug trafficking and/or potential aggression are eliminated.

As a result, neither Russia nor USA are bothered if the ordinary Tajiks are forced to purchase vegetables at ridiculously high prices. Bigger things, such as world domination, natural resources and geo-political stratagem are at stake here, after all.

Lastly, the Tajik population too has not forgotten the scars of the Civil War. A peace treaty was signed with Russia in 1997, but the memories of destruction still remain. Fear of instability and nightmares of the Civil War neutralize any chances of a Tajik Spring (as compared to Arab Spring).

A change in regime at this stage or an inexperienced government might just be the catalyst needed to transform things from bad to worse. An authoritarian and inefficient regime is obviously better than civil strife, and dismal economic prospects are preferable over unrest and killings.

Sufyan bin Uzayr is the author of “Sufism: A Brief History”. He writes for several print and online publications, and regularly blogs about issues of contemporary relevance at Political Periscope. You can also connect with him using Facebook or Google+.  

Sufyan bin Uzayr is the author of Sufism: A Brief History”. He writes for several print and online publications, and regularly blogs about issues of contemporary relevance at Political Periscope. You can also connect with him using Facebook or Google+ or email him at sufyanism@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
January 20, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Divide and Rule: Class, Hate, and the 2016 Election
Andrew Levine
When Was America Great?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: This Ain’t a Dream No More, It’s the Real Thing
Yoav Litvin
Making Israel Greater Again: Justice for Palestinians in the Age of Trump
Linda Pentz Gunter
Nuclear Fiddling While the Planet Burns
Ruth Fowler
Standing With Standing Rock: Of Pipelines and Protests
David Green
Why Trump Won: the 50 Percenters Have Spoken
Dave Lindorff
Imagining a Sanders Presidency Beginning on Jan. 20
Pete Dolack
Eight People Own as Much as Half the World
Roger Harris
Too Many People in the World: Names Named
Steve Horn
Under Tillerson, Exxon Maintained Ties with Saudi Arabia, Despite Dismal Human Rights Record
John Berger
The Nature of Mass Demonstrations
Stephen Zielinski
It’s the End of the World as We Know It
David Swanson
Six Things We Should Do Better As Everything Gets Worse
Alci Rengifo
Trump Rex: Ancient Rome’s Shadow Over the Oval Office
Brian Cloughley
What Money Can Buy: the Quiet British-Israeli Scandal
Mel Gurtov
Donald Trump’s Lies And Team Trump’s Headaches
Kent Paterson
Mexico’s Great Winter of Discontent
Norman Solomon
Trump, the Democrats and the Logan Act
David Macaray
Attention, Feminists
Yves Engler
Demanding More From Our Media
James A Haught
Religious Madness in Ulster
Dean Baker
The Economics of the Affordable Care Act
Patrick Bond
Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions
Robert Fisk
How a Trump Presidency Could Have Been Avoided
Robert Fantina
Trump: What Changes and What Remains the Same
David Rosen
Globalization vs. Empire: Can Trump Contain the Growing Split?
Elliot Sperber
Dystopia
Dan Bacher
New CA Carbon Trading Legislation Answers Big Oil’s Call to Continue Business As Usual
Wayne Clark
A Reset Button for Political America
Chris Welzenbach
“The Death Ship:” An Allegory for Today’s World
Uri Avnery
Being There
Peter Lee
The Deep State and the Sex Tape: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, and Thurgood Marshall
Patrick Hiller
Guns Against Grizzlies at Schools or Peace Education as Resistance?
Randy Shields
The Devil’s Real Estate Dictionary
Ron Jacobs
Singing the Body Electric Across Time
Ann Garrison
Fifty-five Years After Lumumba’s Assassination, Congolese See No Relief
Christopher Brauchli
Swing Low Alabama
Dr. Juan Gómez-Quiñones
La Realidad: the Realities of Anti-Mexicanism
Jon Hochschartner
The Five Least Animal-Friendly Senate Democrats
Pauline Murphy
Fighting Fascism: the Irish at the Battle of Cordoba
Susan Block
#GoBonobos in 2017: Happy Year of the Cock!
Louis Proyect
Is Our Future That of “Sense8” or “Mr. Robot”?
Charles R. Larson
Review: Robert Coover’s “Huck out West”
David Yearsley
Manchester-by-the-Sea and the Present Catastrophe
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail