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Tajikistan risks 'social unrest'

President Emomali Rakhmon
President Rakhmon has failed to implement reforms, the report says

Tajikistan, Central Asia's poorest nation, risks becoming a failed state, an international think-tank has warned.

The International Crisis Group warned of social unrest as income sent home by Tajiks working abroad begins to dry up.

Such funds account for almost half of the country's income. Many Tajiks are losing their jobs as the global slump hits their host nations.

Making matters worse, the group said, the government seems incapable of coping with the grave situation.

Social unrest

"Far from being a bulwark against the spread of extremism and violence from Afghanistan, Tajikistan is looking increasingly like its southern neighbour - a weak state that is suffering from a failure of leadership," the ICG said in a special report published late on Thursday.

International donors, including the US, the UK and EU currently provide substantial financial assistance to the government but much of this is believed to be lost through corruption.

"President Emomali Rakhmon may be facing his greatest challenge since the civil war of 1992-97," the report said.

"At the very least the government will be confronted with serious economic problems," it added, warning: "At worst the government runs the risk of social unrest."

Some 70% of the population is now said to live in abject poverty in the countryside, with hunger spreading to the cities, particularly Khujand, once one of the most prosperous parts of the country.

Review aid

The former Soviet Republic's energy infrastructure is suffering "near total breakdown for the second winter running", the group adds.

According to the ICG, Tajikistan needs to import gas and electricity yet earlier this week, neighbouring Uzbekistan halved its natural gas supplies, citing Dushanbe's growing debt.

In the past few years increasing numbers of young Tajiks have left the country to work as seasonal labourers, primarily in Russia and Kazakhstan.

The money they sent home last year amounted to some $2 billion (1.4m) almost half of the country's gross domestic product (GDP).

The ICG said there were no alternatives to President Rakhmon and called on the West to review its aid programmes. It also urged the Tajik government to work out how to create jobs and avert famine.

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