With the signing of a peace treaty in June, 1997, hopes are reviving that the more than 5 million people of Tajikistan will be able to rebuild their economy. GDP is up 4 percent in the first eight months of the year, totaling $2.5 billion. However, consumer prices have risen 125 percent over the same period, with a sharp surge registered in August, and the average worker survives on a salary of $50 a month. (Asia Plus agency, Bulletin no. 32)
The Tajik ruble (TR) was introduced in May 1995 (at a rate of 1 per 100 Russian rubles). It slid from TR50 to the dollar to TR300 to the dollar by the end of 1995. In 1996 the TR roughly held its value, while inflation came down from 1,500 percent registered in 1995 to around 40 percent. Since January, 1997, however, an acceleration of inflation has caused the Tajik ruble to lose half its value: it now trades at 750 to the U.S. dollar. The inflation is due to a 55 percent increase in the money supply and a surge of bank credit. Inflationary pressure was exacerbated by a fiscal deficit: the government raised 18 percent of GDP in revenue and spent 25 percent, leaving a deficit of 5.5 percent. Rebuilding the financial system is one of the many challenges facing the country. There are currently 24 banks, including three foreign ventures (two joint ventures with Luxembourg and Cyprus and a branch of the Iranian Tijorat Bank).
Foreign trade is up 27 percent on 1996, with exports in the first eight months reaching $502 million and imports $367 million. Aluminum accounts for 27 percent of exports, and cotton 14 percent. Tajikistan is now renewing its efforts to join the Russia-Belarus-Kazakstan-Kyrgyzstan customs union: earlier requests were rebuffed by Moscow. Complicating the situation is the fact that almost all Tajikistan’s exports and imports must travel across Uzbekistan, which is not a member of the customs union. Foreign investment has started to pick up in the northern Leninabad region, which was largely untouched by the fighting and where industrial output this year grew 7 percent. Recently opened joint ventures there include a cigarette factory and a plastic bottling plant.
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