Tajikistan Making Strides


August 2006 

by Philip H. de Leon


Small and mountainous, with a population of approximately 7 million, Tajikistan sits between the Kyrgyz Republic and Uzbekistan to the north and west, China to the east, and Afghanistan to the south. It has long been a lesser-known country of Central Asia, overshadowed by regional political and social upheavals and the focus on its neighbors’ oil and gas resources. However, recent developments, including investments that demonstrate confidence in the country’s economy and political stability, have laid the groundwork for Tajikistan to become a more active player in the region. These developments include infrastructure and other improvements that make the country easier to access for U.S. businesspeople, as well as new commercial projects and prospects.

Infrastructure and Country Access

    * In February 2006, Turkish Airlines started direct flights from Istanbul to Dushanbe, facilitating access to the country.
    * In June 2006, the U.S. Embassy moved into a state-of-the-art new office building in Dushanbe. The new embassy offers full services to U.S. citizens in Tajikistan, and issues visas to qualified applicants. Previously, prospective travelers had to go to Almaty or Moscow to apply for a visa.
    * A new U.S.-funded bridge over the Pyanj River between Tajikistan and Afghanistan will open in 2007, helping to stimulate regional trade.

Commercial Projects and Prospects

    * Construction is underway on five 5-star hotels that are scheduled to open in 2007 in Dushanbe. The brand names will be Hyatt, Ismoili Somoni, Serena, plus a Turkish hotel and an Indian hotel.
    * March 2006 saw the groundbreaking ceremony for the Cyber Café in Dushanbe, a reciprocal gift from the sister city of Boulder, Colo. (Dushanbe gave Boulder a traditional teahouse in 1990). Although completion of the building is contingent upon ongoing fundraising efforts, once finished, the Cyber Café will be a state-of-the-art facility. (www.boulder-dushanbe.org).
    * In autumn, Penn.–based Lancaster International Trading Company (www.lancaster-trading.com) will open its Central Asian operations out of Dushanbe. The company plans to export Tajik agricultural produce to international markets.
    * In June 2006, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency (www.ustda.gov) awarded an $800,000 grant to the Ministry of Energy of Tajikistan to determine the viability of plans to develop electric power transmission and generation in Central Asia. Specifically, the project will evaluate options for Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan to export surplus electricity to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Virginia-based company AES will conduct the study with plans to build some of the transmission lines.
    * In March 2006, Tajikistan Minister of Industry Zayd Saidov reached out to U.S. companies in Washington, DC, with information on opportunities in the mining, chemical, food processing, and hydropower sectors in his country.

These positive developments do not mask the many challenges that lay ahead for Tajikistan, such as reducing poverty, combating corruption, eliminating bureaucracy, and enacting legislation that is duly protected and enforced by a neutral judiciary system. Although a challenging market, it can be rewarding for those companies that take calculated risks, do their due diligence, and know how to take advantage of U.S. government resources, such as BISNIS and the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe.

Online Resources for Tajikistan

Tajikistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry
www.tpp.tj/en

Embassy of the United States in Tajikistan
tajikistan.usembassy.gov

Embassy of Tajikistan in the United States
www.tjus.org

BISNIS Tajikistan Page
www.bisnis.doc.gov/tajikistan

EurasiaNet.org
www.eurasianet.org/resource/tajikistan

Avesta - News from Tajikistan
www.avesta.tj

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