Tajikistan, the poorest country in Europe and CIS Region (46.7 percent of the population in 2012 was deemed poor (Human Development Report 2013)), is undergoing severe domestic and external pressures. On the external side, with Al Qaida under pressure in Afghanistan and Pakistan, some of the militants are expected to end up in Tajikistan and other Central Asian countries. Domestically, there is public dissatisfaction with government efforts to resolve pressing social and economic problems. However, President Emomali Rakhmon is credited with restoring peace and stability following the civil war in 1992-1997. Tajikistan gained independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991, and is ruled by a presidential system. More than 7 million people belonging to over 80 nationalities and ethnic groups reside in Tajikistan. Tajikistan comprises of Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Oblast, Sughd Oblast, Khatlon Oblast and 11 Districts of Republican Subordination. Tajikistan has borders to Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, China and Afghanistan.
Although the official unemployment rate is set at 2.5% (CIA World Factbook 2012), the number is estimated much higher. More than a million of Tajik’s currently work as labor migrants, predominantly in Russia and other former Soviet states. The global financial crisis has increased economic hardships, most notably through a major decline in workers’ remittances (which account for nearly 50% of GDP) (BBC Country Profiles 2012). The country is relying heavily on international financial assistance, including a three-year Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) from the IMF.
Even though Tajikistan’s economy has grown fast in recent years, there remain challenges that hamper development. For one, Tajikistan remains the poorest country in the former Soviet sphere. Although Tajikistan’s economy has grown significantly since 2000, recent advances are at risk of being lost. Tajikistan’s economy is particularly susceptible to the global economic crisis, due to its reliance on labor migration. In 2008, 33% of the economically active population was engaged in external labor migration and remittances comprised approximately 50% of GDP. In 2009, a 30% decrease in remittance inflows is expected and will likely further increase the current rate of unemployment (presently at 33%, as stated by the World Bank).
Tajikistan’s relations to its neighbors could also be called challenging. The projected withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan in 2014 raises fears in Tajikistan of militant insurgence and big numbers of Afghan refugees arriving at the border. Relations with Uzbekistan are tense. Uzbekistan is angered by the construction of a Tajik dam that they fear will restrict irrigation water supply in Uzbekistan. Tajikistan accused Uzbekistan subsequently of upholding an economic blockade. Demarcation of the borders to Kyrgyzstan and China has lead to disputes between the neighboring countries.
Additional development challenges include the following:
Risk of exponential increase in HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, if not immediately addressed
Insecure borders can stimulate challenges related to international terrorist and religious‐extremist organizations, drug and weapons smuggling, and illegal migration. Present principles of border management of the country are largely inadequate to address these challenges
Difficult terrain, environmental hazards, and energy availability disrupt economic progress, as electricity in many areas of the country are limited to 4‐8 hours per day during the winter
Following the civil war period (1992‐97), Tajikistan slowly transitioned from the status of post‐conflict recovery into an economically viable nation‐state, promoting sustainable development based upon nascent democratic and market economy principles.
Tajikistan joined NATO's Partnership for Peace in 2002, and most recently became a member of the World Trade Organization in March 2013.
A Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) between the EU and Tajikistan was signed in October 2004 and it is currently being ratified by the EU Member States, while it has already been ratified by Tajikistan. Pending its ratification, an Interim Agreement on trade and trade-related matters is being implemented since May 2005.The future EC assistance will focus on the following priority areas: rural development and poverty reduction, agriculture and land reform, promotion of good governance and economic reforms.
Brief history timeline to independence:
c 2500 - Aryan followers of King Yama crossed the Oxus River from Central Asia into Tajikistan and created a new calendar with the new year (Now Roz, Now-Ruz) marked by spring.
999 - Turkish dynasties became the rulers of Transoxania, and area that covered much of what later became Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.
1924 - Stalin divided remnants of Turkestan into the current Central Asian republics.
1929 - Tajikistan was created by Stalin to divide and rule the ethnic Muslim peoples of Central Asia.
1963 - The Soviet Union planned to harness hydroelectric power and feed a huge aluminum smelter in Tajikistan.
1991 - Tajikistan gained independence from the Soviet Union.
1992 - Civil war and fighting between the Russian-backed government and rebels began. It lasted till 1997.
1996 - Dec 4, Government troops repulsed an attack by Islamic rebels. Pres. Emomali Rakhmonov was to meet with the Muslim opposition. Russia had 25,000 troops guarding the 900-mile border with Afghanistan where the rebels had bases.
1997 - Jun 27, A Tajikistan formal peace accord was signed in Moscow that was brokered by Russia and Iran. A power sharing arrangement was foreseen between President Emomali Rakhmon and opposition leader Said Abdullo. At least 50,000 people were killed during the 5-year civil war.
2003 - Jun 22, Tajiks voted on changes to their constitution that would allow President Emomali Rakhmon to potentially stay in power for another 17 years. An overwhelming majority of voters approved the constitutional change.