Tajikistan’s Supreme Assembly on December 12 opened its eighth session. A major component of the Assembly’s agenda is the passing of the 1998 draft budget. Citing the liberal tax breaks it provides for companies starting up in the country, Finance Minister Anvarsho Muzaffarov described the budget in an interview as "realistic and oriented to national manufacturers." The government hopes that, by pursuing an aggressive investment policy, inflation can be kept down to a target level of 21 percent. In addition, salary increases of up to 30 percent for lower-income wage earners are also seen as a step towards reviving the state economy. (Khovar news agency, December 8)
While the budget may signal a positive attempt by the government to begin Tajikistan’s economic reconstruction, it nevertheless leaves unanswered the important question of whether the country’s various factions can remain at peace long enough for such ambitious measures to be carried out. In an interview, Ibrohim Usmonov, head of the National Reconciliation Commission’s political subcommittee, noted that NRC ‘integration’ has to date been extended only to the presidential apparatus. At present, the Supreme Assembly, as well as the Supreme Court, are still void of representation from the United Tajik Opposition (UTO). (Iranian radio, December 7) That fact raises concerns as to the legitimacy of the current Supreme Assembly’s actions as well as to its ability to carry out the economic reforms noted above.
Another test for the legislature is the passing of the December 6 date for amnesty applications. First announced on August 1, this program was to facilitate a general amnesty for participants in the Civil War. Now, all citizens requesting amnesty must petition the Supreme Assembly directly for their case to be heard. (Tajik radio, December 9) It is questionable as to whether opposition figures will actually do that. These sorts of concerns only underscore the importance of the 1998 legislative elections, which will be seen as the first real political test in post-civil war Tajikistan.
Such issues may, in any event, be overshadowed by the actions of independent warlords in Tajikistan. Rizvon Sodirov’s kidnapping of two French nationals last month and the subsequent killing of one of them in a hostage rescue attempt continue to reverberate in the country. Despite reports of Sodirov’s death following the hostage crisis, the fear that such random acts could recur has led the international community to limit its personnel in the region — a development that comes, unfortunately, at the very time that such help is especially necessary.
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