EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Tajikistan's experience in ending a brutal civil war and integrating opposition
factions into government has won deserved praise. Major advances have been made in
security around the country, and stability has improved significantly over the past two years.
Yet the economic situation remains dire; Tajikistan is one of the twenty poorest countries in the
world. Widespread poverty continues to fuel a major drug-trafficking business and provides potential
breeding grounds for Islamist militant or other extremist groups. There is a serious need to use
development assistance to build a viable state in this geopolitically vital part of Central Asia.
The development community should focus on priority areas and work together to
ensure real impact from limited resources. Traditional areas such as improving
agriculture; boosting the business environment; rescuing health and education
systems; knitting the country together with new infrastructure and
communications; and combating the drugs trade, should be high on the
development agenda. But above all, the government and the international
community need to take some realistic steps to improve governance, and in
particular tackle corruption, which is undermining all initiatives to improve
living standards and stability.
The West made serious commitments on state-building and development not only to
Afghanistan, but also to the surrounding states, and it is critical that it fulfils them. Aid to
Tajikistan has increased since the military campaign in neighbouring Afghanistan but much of it is
uncoordinated, and few organisations have a long-term strategy.
The economic situation is dire. The average monthly salary is less than U.S.$7 per
month, and unemployment is estimated to be over 30 per cent. At least 30 per
cent of children are chronically malnourished, and infant mortality rates have
increased. The education system is in disarray, threatening to undermine the
high levels of literacy enjoyed during Soviet times. Roads are often impassable
during the winter, separating the disparate regions and isolating the country
from the outside world. Boosting the economy requires diversification away from
reliance on two major export commodities: aluminium and cotton.
and more equitable land reform could quickly increase food production and
gradually eliminate the dependency of almost one million people on
international food aid. Shifting attention from Soviet-style industrial
projects to small and medium-sized business would also begin to have a real
impact on living standards. But this needs an end to government intrusion and
better access to credit and advice for entrepreneurs.
reform and improving the business environment are political issues which
require political responses. Tajikistan's difficult political trajectory since
independence has produced an often dysfunctional state sector, with inadequate
governance mechanisms, high levels of corruption, limited rule of law, and
insufficiently competent and experienced personnel. Tackling governance issues
will be a major, long-term effort, but unless there is a guiding strategic
concept, many international and government development initiatives will simply
issues, notably health and education, need urgent attention. A resurgence of
once-forgotten poverty-induced epidemics such as typhoid is a dangerous sign of
a health service in crisis. School attendance, particularly by girls, has
dropped sharply. Tajikistan threatens to become one of the few countries where
children will lag far behind their parents in education.
issues of infrastructure and communications also require serious attention. The
country's geography encourages regionalism and ensures that some regions remain
difficult for government agencies to govern. Renewed transport and
communications infrastructure should be a central part of initiatives to boost
internal trade and link Tajikistan into regional initiatives.
Finally drugs need to be approached as a development problem as much as a
security issue, with a new focus on employment and alternative agricultural and business opportunities
at all levels. Particular attention must be given to the border areas with Afghanistan.
The government and the international community must pool their resources and
consult closely on their application if they are to achieve meaningful progress on such a broad
front. The Consultative Group meeting in Dushanbe in May 2003 would be an opportune moment to
strengthen this coordination and in particular to integrate good governance priorities into
There is a strong international interest that Tajikistan avoid the fate of
Afghanistan. Ignoring its very real problems would likely engender the conditions in which
international terrorism and organised criminality thrive. However, many in the government are open
to new ideas and committed to moving the country away from its past reputation as a base for Islamist
militant groups and a transit station for drugs. Given the right mixture of government policy and
international assistance, a positive shift is feasible.
To the government of Tajikistan:
1. Improve food security by pushing ahead with land reform programs, adopting
measures to ensure greater access of the poor to land and more freedom for farmers to
diversify crops, and encouraging agri-business initiatives and rural enterprise programs.
Small and Medium Sized Enterprises
2. Improve the business environment by introducing low, flat taxes on small business,
simplifying regulations, and restricting government interference.
3. Break up state monopolies in areas such as tourism and transport and take down
barriers such as visa and travel restrictions.
4. Seek a gradual move towards more public participation in political life,
(a) elections at local level under the forthcoming law on local government;
(b) more opportunity for parliament and local councils to contribute to policy
consideration and review;
(c) more freedom for journalists to report and ministers to inform the public
on policy; and
(d) improved access to information at all levels by developing an independent
statistical agency, mandated to provide public information, and encouraging much more extensive
government contacts with media.
5. Make government ministries and bodies more effective by defining their
functions more clearly and introducing mechanisms to ensure they coordinate with each other.
6. Train local and government officials in all aspects of law making and
7. Accelerate real judicial reform and improvements in law enforcement.
8. Initiate civil service reform by introducing a standardised examination for
new entrants and increasing salaries for those already in the civil service who pass such a test.
9. Begin a multifaceted campaign against corruption, including:
(a) higher salaries for key officials, matched by reductions in the
size of the civil service;
(b) establishment of an independent anti-corruption commission, with
international involvement and a mandate to conduct transparent investigations and prosecutions;
(c) development of an environment in which journalists can report on corruption
without fear of retribution.
10. Develop a national plan that aims at reversing the decline of the educational
system, in particular the tendency of girls to drop out of the system prematurely, and at
attracting corresponding donor support.
11. Continue with plans to introduce a mixture of standardised pricing for medical
services and increased support for vulnerable groups, in consultation with international donors.
12. Improve public awareness of major diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria,
and HIV/AIDS and develop and implement a comprehensive policy to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.
To international financial institutions and bilateral donors:
13. Condition any measure to write off or restructure part of Tajikistan's
foreign debt to new government initiatives with respect to corruption and improved governance
at all levels.
14. Focus on boosting agricultural production outside the cotton sector through
legal support for farmers; technical assistance in land reform; support for crop diversification;
and assistance to farmers in building up NGOs and credit and marketing associations.
15. Support programs that help SMEs, particularly those that combine credit lines,
legal advice and advocacy; support lower, more simplified tax systems, and more limited regulations,
and provide training for government officials on the importance of the SME sector for the economy.
16. Work with the government to produce a national action plan for education, and
commit to financing such a plan, which should include strict monitoring of funds and more
community involvement in their expenditure, and higher teachers' salaries.
17. Develop with the government crop-replacement programs and other forms of
income-generation to supplant the drug-trade and foster long-term economic growth in high-transit
18. Review infrastructure and communications programs (EU TRACECA, UNDP Silk
Road) and develop a new approach that:
(a) emphasises agreement among the countries of the region to meet and apply
common customs and border procedures;
(b) focuses on improving those roads that are most important to state-building
because their development will do most to create new opportunities for the poorest areas of
the country to participate more extensively in regional trade; and
(c) links all infrastructure funding to monitored commitments to remove
unnecessary barriers to trade and movement on such routes.
To the government of Russia:
19. Protect the rights of migrants working in Russia from harassment and abuse,
including by simplifying registration procedures and reducing their costs, thereby encouraging more
compliance with Russian laws by employers; make it easier for migrant workers to obtain residence
permits and other official documents so that they can enter and be subject to the benefits and
obligations of the formal economy.
20. Recognise that tackling drugs involves more than interdiction and provide
political and logistical support for income-substitution projects in high-transit areas.
Osh/Brussels, 24 April 2003