President Imomali Rahmonov told a donors’ conference in Vienna on November 24 that Tajikistan’s economy suffered $7 billion in damage from 1992-1996 as a result of warfare. (Russian agencies, November 25) The conference, at which a number of leading international humanitarian organizations were represented, also underscored the desperate plight in which the country continues to find itself.
The Moscow-brokered cease-fire signed in May 1997 seems, however, to have provided some benefits to the economy. According to CIS data, GDP during the first nine months of 1997 was only 2.8 percent below its level of September 1996, which in light of the 17 percent decline in GDP recorded last year, would be quite an improvement. (Russian agencies, October 27) According to other sources, the economy was even growing at 4 percent clip as of August. (Asia Plus agency, bulletin no. 32) However, the 66 percent cumulative GDP decline recorded during 1991-1996 seems unlikely to undergo dramatic reversal any time soon.
Rahmonov told the Vienna conference that the improving economic picture is due partly to Tajikistan’s relations with the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and other international financial institutions. Under a standby agreement recorded with the IMF in May 1996, Tajikistan can borrow up to $88 million in support of the country’s reform and recovery efforts. Credits allocated since then helped bring inflation down to 41 percent in 1996 (from 1,200 percent in 1995), and have funded Tajikistan’s Economic Transformation Program for 1995-2000. According to Rahmonov, the liberalization of prices, trade, foreign-exchange transactions, and commercial activities is virtually complete, and the government has "minimized" its interference in the economy. It remains to be seen whether any of this will help a country in which some 80 percent of the population is estimated to live below the poverty line, and in which the 8.3 percent infant mortality rate is the highest in Central Asia. (IPS – Tajikistan, November 21)
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