Foreign Policy Blogs

Tajikistan courts energy investment

Tajikistani WomenSeveral development banks have recently come to Tajikistan, planning to invest in Tajikstan's energy security‚ which Tajikistan really needs.  Last year, energy distribution problems precipitated a closure of Dushanbe's bakeries; the resulting bread riot (really a woman's sit-down demonstration) underscored the past-due need for energy infrastructure investment in Tajikistan. 

At, Gulru has written this winter has been "the hardest winter yet" since Tajikistan gained independence, with only two to three hours of heat per day in residences.

One of the great things about Gulru's post is that it underscores the difference between knowledge and capability.  In the post, Gulru advocates specific energy conservation technology at the household level.  Such thinking underscores that Tajikistan's people have the will to build a contemporary economy, and a clear expectation that they can help themselves.  Yet it is difficult to implement your best ideas when your first priority has to be physical survival.  Ultimately, infrastructural aid promotes economic growth, better education and medical care, more newspapers, and more food.

Tajikistan BakeryUzbekistan's gas pipeline malfunction precipitated October's bakery demonstration, but interrupted distribution from Uzbekistan is an old story for Tajikistan (and Kyrgyzstan).  In the spring, Uzbekistan gladly accepts water for agriculture and hydroelectric power from its upstream neighbors.  When winter comes, should any aspect of the Tajikistani-Uzbekistani relationship go amiss, heating fuel cutoffs are a nearly immediate sign of Karimovian displeasure.  Water does, after all, flow downhill, but gas pipelines are controlled by valves.  Ergo, Uzbekistan's ability to play tit-for-tat is a lot greater than Tajikistan's.

The Asian Development Bank formed its Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) division in 1997.  So far, CAREC has financed several regional studies that coordinate road and train transport, power plant and electrical grid development, improving old infrastructure and building new.  The plan presupposes regional cooperation as necessary to overall regional development.  In general, the CAREC agreement has been sponsored by China through the ADB.  China's trade with Central Asia has increased from 1997's USD 1 billion to 2005's USD 9.8 billion.  In October of last year, Central Asian states agreed to cooperate on certain aspects of the CAREC plan.

This month, The Brookings Institution's Wolfensohn Center for Development in the US has allied with the CAREC group, to provide consulting in inter-regional cooperation.

The Eurasian Development Bank arrived on March 2, 2006, to talk over a new Dushanbe office and discuss new energy infrastructure financing. 
[See previous post- Newest Central Asian development bank].

On March 5, Li Jun, vice president of China Export-Import Bank met with President Ehmomali Rahmonov to discuss a USD 2.67 billion loan for two major electric transmission lines, the North-South and the Lolazar-Khatlon line.  China is also financing the Dushanbe-Chanak road construction project. (RFE/RL Newsline, No. 42, March 6, 2007). 

 Hopefully, all these new deals will keep Tajikistan's bakery ovens hot.

Photos: Oxfam, Jeff Barbee