Situation and cooperation

Lake Karakul in the Pamir Mountains in Tajikistan.

Tajikistan was the poorest of the Central Asian republics even back in Soviet times. After the Eastern Bloc disintegrated and the country attained independence in 1991, tension arose between various regional interest groups. Politically, the post-Communist government found itself confronted by an opposition that was mostly Islamic. This sparked a civil war across Tajikistan in 1992. Estimates put the death toll at up to 100,000.

Tajikistan is a largely isolated country, both politically and geographically, in a region where security is fragile. Furthermore, it is off the beaten track when it comes to international trade routes. And the long border with Afghanistan, which runs for more than 1,000 kilometres, means that there is a risk of Islamist groups entering the country and has also led to Tajikistan serving as a transit country for drug traffickers.

Around 90 per cent of the country's territory is covered by mountains. The steep and rugged mountain ranges make it difficult to build and maintain an effective infrastructure. They also limit the opportunities of many Tajiks to remain in touch with the nation's capital, Dushanbe, and the policies that are made there. People's lives are often strongly focused on their ethnic and local identity, including family networks, clans or the local community.

Social situation and poverty reduction

School in Tajikistan.

During the Soviet era, the standard of education and health systems was relatively good. However, investment in these sectors since independence has been inadequate. As a consequence, Tajikistan’s social infrastructure is disintegrating. Women, children, old people and people with disabilities are hit particularly hard by this development. Child and maternal mortality is high, while diseases such as tuberculosis and typhoid are on the increase. About one third of the population, especially children, are undernourished or suffer from malnutrition. Moreover, around a quarter of the entire population of Tajikistan have no access to safe drinking water.

The education sector is also in a critical situation. Many schools are in poor condition and are lacking adequate technical equipment. The teachers are underpaid and often do not have adequate skills for the job. The country also lacks a vocational training system designed to meet the needs of the labour market. Another development results from the fact that Tajikistan's society is becoming increasingly patriarchal: in recent years, access to education for girls has been deteriorating further, especially in rural areas. The percentage of girls who are married before they reach their majority is increasing.

The number of poor people has been significantly reduced in the past decade, but more than 30 per cent of the population still live below the national poverty line (1999: 81 per cent). Tajikistan is currently ranked 127th out of 189 countries on the Human Development Index (HDI).


The presidential palace in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan

Since 1994, political and economic power have largely been concentrated in President Rahmon’s hands and in the hands of his entourage. Governance is becoming more and more authoritarian and marked by a growing personality cult.

There is no effective parliamentary control of the regime. Activities of the opposition parties are obstructed. The work of non-governmental organisations is heavily regulated. The media, which for some time enjoyed a certain degree of freedom compared with other countries in the region, are increasingly put under pressure and faced with censorship. None of the previous presidential elections or parliamentary elections lived up to the standards set by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Although Tajikistan is a signatory to all important UN human rights treaties, they are not being adequately implemented in practice. For instance, there are deficits in relation to freedom of religion, the involvement of civil society and women's rights. The conditions in prisons are poor. The non-governmental organisation Amnesty International regularly reports on cases of torture and abuse of prisoners.

Decisive factors holding back development are corruption and nepotism at all levels of administration and the legal system. In the Corruption Perceptions Index compiled by the non-governmental organisation Transparency International in 2015, Tajikistan ranks 136th out of the 167 countries evaluated.

Economic development

The country has seen little progress in the process of transitioning to a free market economy.

The Tajik economy falls far short of providing enough employment opportunities for the country's quickly growing population. Diversifying the economy and increasing industrial production remain a challenge. As a consequence, levels of labour migration are still high. Up to one and a half million Tajiks work abroad, especially in Russia. Until 2014, their remittances accounted for approximately 50 per cent of Tajikistan's gross domestic product. Due to the economic crisis in Russia, however, the volume of remittances has been dropping sharply since 2015.

In the early years of the new millennium, the Tajik economy boasted high growth figures of between 7 and 8 per cent. During the global economic and financial crisis growth was halved, though it then stabilised at around 7.5 per cent. Since the Tajik economy is highly dependent on the world market prices for aluminium and cotton – the country's main export products – growth plummeted again in 2015.

Only about 7 per cent of the country's terrain is suitable for agriculture. Cotton is grown almost entirely as a monoculture in Tajikistan. As a consequence, part of the scarce arable land is lost to soil erosion and salinisation every year.

In Tajikistan, 98 per cent of electricity is supplied by hydropower plants but the huge potential for power generation is nowhere near being fully tapped. This means that Tajikistan is faced with supply shortages and electricity rationing in the winter months again and again. The construction of new hydropower plants is thus one of the priorities of the Tajik government.

Opportunities for development

The Vakhsh River at the Nurek Dam in Tajikistan

Tajikistan's biggest economic resource is its abundance of water. Tajikistan has almost 60 per cent of the water resources available to the Central Asia region. The country's steep, fast-running rivers provide excellent conditions for hydroelectric power generation. The extraction and processing of mineral resources such as gold, silver, uranium, aluminium, wolfram, marble and granite also offer potential for the country's development.

With its impressive mountainous landscapes, Tajikistan could also become an attractive tourist destination, especially for eco-tourists and mountaineers. However, the country still lacks the infrastructure needed for this.

The high level of corruption, poor governance, a lack of legal certainty, unpredictable tax authorities, bureaucratic obstacles and insufficient infrastructure, especially in the energy sector, damage Tajikistan's ability to attract investment. These areas need to be reformed if the country is to achieve sustainable development.

Priority areas of German development cooperation with Tajikistan

Germany officially commenced development cooperation with Tajikistan in 2003. At the government negotiations in December 2016, Germany pledged some 33.5 million euros to its partner country for the years 2016 and 2017. Of this, 17 million euros were allocated to Financial cooperation and 16.5 million to Technical Cooperation.

The following were agreed as priority areas of cooperation:

  • Sustainable economic development
  • Health

Germany is also supporting projects in the areas of renewable energy (small-scale hydropower), municipal infrastructure (schools) and forest protection. These bilateral cooperation projects are complemented by projects aimed at promoting regional cooperation. In this way, German efforts fit in with the EU strategy for Central Asia.

Sustainable economic development

The goal of German development cooperation in the field of sustainable economic development is to improve employment and income opportunities for all population groups, and especially for young people in Tajikistan. The areas of activity for German development cooperation with Tajikistan include financial system development, private sector promotion and local economic development in selected high mountain regions.

The Rural Finance Project, for example, is helping private financial institutions to target their business at micro- and small-scale enterprises and private households in rural areas. To this end, Germany is supporting the establishment of the First Microfinance Bank of Tajikistan (FMBT). It is providing this and other banking institutions with funds that will enable them to give out loans to the aforementioned target groups.

Furthermore, KfW holds shares in ACCESS Bank Tajikistan, which serves the mid-range of the credit market. This is creating new jobs and sources of income in rural areas.

A project focusing on the promotion of value chains in the agricultural sector is helping to improve the political environment for economic growth and is supporting the introduction of inclusive business models and service offers for companies.


The Macheton tuberculosis hospital after the 2012 refurbishment

Improving the state of health of the population is an important goal of development cooperation between Germany and Tajikistan. A central aim is to improve people's access to appropriate treatment and raise the quality of health services, especially in rural areas. In keeping with the National Health Strategy 2010 to 2020, the focus will be on improving maternal and child health, rights-based modern family planning, food and nutrition security and the prevention of and fight against infectious diseases, particularly tuberculosis.

In Khatlon Province, one of the poorest regions in Tajikistan, Germany is for instance helping modernise hospital departments for obstetrics, neonatal care and accidents and emergencies. In addition, medical staff are being given further training in the fields of hospital administration, maintenance and repairs and waste management, and in introducing modern patient care methods.

Tuberculosis can only be combated successfully if the tuberculosis infection is identified and treated at an early stage. As part of the tuberculosis programme, Germany is supporting the national tuberculosis hospital (the "Macheton") and another hospital in the Sughd Province of Tajikistan. Funding from the BMZ is enabling these hospitals to modernise and upgrade their facilities. In addition, there are training measures for medical, technical and administrative staff.

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