In 2020, Emomali Rahmon won Tajikistan’s presidential election–according to the state–by 93%, continuing an authoritarian reign that began in 1994, as the country was in the midst of a bloody civil war. And while Rahmon’s administration has been characterized for decades by international human rights groups as ruthless, patriarchal, cronyistic, and deeply corrupt, the president only seems occupied with further solidifying his power, and now, even setting the stage for a dynastic family rule. Tajik civil society, on the other hand, has suffered a great loss of human rights and freedoms, along with economic opportunity. Individual citizens–be it for expressing opinions critical of the government or falling within certain ethnic or religious minorities have also been persecuted relentlessly under the Rahmon administration. The COVID-19 pandemic further revealed how Rahmon’s government is at fault for a perilously fragile economy and society.
By the time Rahmon had secured another seven year tenure as president in October, 2022, COVID-19 was already battering the nation and putting the economy into a tailspin. Throughout the preceding months, state media had outright denied the disease existed within the country’s borders, hid cases, and forcibly silenced doctors, reporters, and anyone expressing the truth of the situation publicly. Though the disease caused havoc in nearly every financial quarter around the world, Tajikistan was particularly hard hit. That same year, migrant remittances (which accounted for upwards of 28% of the nation’s GDP) plummeted, 40% of households struggled to buy food, and the national currency, the Somomi, depreciated so far as to trigger a 30% spike in costs for daily essentials.
Tajikistan Economics Crises:
A deeper probe into Tajikistan’s economic system reveals a web of dangerous fault lines that run back to the president, his cadre of elite associates, and their clientele. Tajikistan’s business world is dominated by state-controlled utilities or otherwise privatized by a select group of individuals with direct ties to the Rahmon family (if not the family themselves), or politicians with high positions in the administration. Rampant corruption, an intentionally opaque bureaucracy, and a disregard for the law as it is written often move economic development and innovation at a glacial pace. And the most vulnerable of Tajikistan’s population–women and children in rural areas, as well as ethnic minorities such as the Pamiri people of the GBAO–bear the brunt of the economic fallout.
Tajikistan’s labor force is largely unskilled, and the country is thoroughly reliant upon migrant remittances–money sent back to families from cross-border migrant work, usually in Russia. Additionally, 30% of the working population is engaged in the informal business sector. The lynchpin of Rahmon’s business development plan has been focused on large infrastructure projects such as the Rogun Dam. Projects such as this, however, often falter due to a lack of skilled labor and an inability to raise finances. Due to the corrupt nature of doing business in the country, as well as fear of tax extortion by the government, foreign investment is scarce, with Russia and China bankrolling the debt.
laws and regulatory rules :
The laws and regulatory rules that supposedly guide business in Tajikistan are largely ignored or interpreted to serve the regime. For example, officially, regulatory laws are in place that prohibit monopolies, though the state-controlled industries that dominate the economy are completely monopolistic, and can be made so under the pretenses of “national security”. There is no room for actual market competition, due to ubiquitous state-mandated price fixing, subsidies that protect the administration’s private interests, and other interventions that favor Rahmon’s associates. Likewise, on paper, all it takes to open a business in Tajikistan is filling out a few forms and paying a nominal fee. The reality however, is that one must have political connections, endure an expected patronage to bureaucrats, and keep out of any economic territory already controlled by the administration. In fact, foreign trade is all but dominated by individuals in high political power.
Having bestowed upon his eldest son, Rustam Emomali, the role of Chairman of the Upper House in 2020, many believe Rahmon is planning his successor, thereby strengthening his family’s grip on the nation for another generation. Sadly, Tajikistan is considered to have plenty of natural resources, such as hydropower and mineral reserves, though due an entrenched culture of corruption, the nation’s elite–backed by a repressive military and police wing that can be turned on the people at its behest–seem keen to continue exploiting an economically anemic populace rather than do anything in the interest of the nation itself.