11 july 2020

Central Asia news

Uzbekistan's withdrawal from the Eurasian Economic Cooperation Organization will help Tajikistan solve some of its problems

28.11.2008 22:19 msk

Nezavisimaya Gazeta

Business Tajikistan

Russian Presidential Administration Director Sergei Naryshkin said in Dushanbe that Tajikistan might count on participation in the Customs Union and become a partner of Eurasian Bank of Development founders in the near future. According to Naryshkin, it will make investments more readily available to Tajikistan. What really counts meanwhile is that construction of the Rogun Hydroelectric Power Plant may be resumed soon.

Naryshkin told journalists that he had come to Tajikistan to make sure the agreements the Russian and Tajik leaders made during President Dmitry Medvedev's official visit were being implemented. As far as Naryshkin was concerned, there was some minor lack of agreement on issues of military-political cooperation between Russia and Tajikistan, but relations in the humanitarian and energy production spheres were absolutely harmonious. "The Moscow State University opens a subsidiary in Dushanbe in 2009," Naryshkin said. "Built by the RAO Unified Energy Systems, Sangtuda-1 Hydroelectric Power Plant will officially go on line in early 2009."

If Naryshkin's words are any indication, Russia is about to become involved in another major project known as the Rogun Hydroelectric Power Plant. It will also build three smaller power plants on Tajik rivers. Naryshkin said President Emomali Rakhmon and he had discussed details of the Rogun project. In any event, Tajikistan needs deeper integration into the Eurasian economic community if it wants major investments. To be more exact, it should launch preparations for joining the Customs Union (Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus) and become a fully-fledged partner of the Eurasian Bank of Development as sponsor of major projects in the power production sphere.

Tajikistan applied for full membership in the Eurasian Bank of Development in April 2008. "Yes, Tajikistan did apply for membership. I earnestly hope that its request will be granted before long," Vladimir Yasinsky of the Eurasian Bank of Development said. "If you ask me, Tajikistan shouldn't count on our readiness to finance very many projects on its territory right away. First and foremost, we will sponsor development of the infrastructure needed for purposes of integration." In other words, development of power production and transport corridors.

"As for participation in sponsorship of construction of the Rogun Hydroelectric Power Plant... completion of its construction, that is, we know that the government of Tajikistan and the World Bank ponder establishment of an international consortium. Acting by the book means that they will need consent from all countries of the basins of the Amudarja and Syrdarja. So far as I know, there is certain friction between upstream and downstream countries and collision of interests. It follows that the decision to complete construction of this particular hydroelectric power plant will have to be political," Yasinsky said.

"That Uzbekistan wouldn't even hear of completion of construction of the Rogun Hydroelectric Power Plant is understandable. It is known for example that Uzbek President Islam Karimov did his best to secure Moscow's support for his idea that construction of major hydroelectric power plants on trans-frontier rivers should be decided at the regional level. Because there will be conflicts otherwise. What I'm saying is that whatever country decides to complete the construction, it had better consider all existing risks," Ajdar Kurtov, analyst with the Institute of Strategic Studies (Moscow), said. Kurtov added that he thought that the situation around the Rogun Hydroelectric Power Plant tended to escalate.

Andrei Grozin (Department of Central Asia and Kazakhstan) challenged Kurtov's opinion and said completion of the Rogun construction offered Dushanbe an opportunity to solve a problem of strategic magnitude, i.e. provide power for the country. According to Grozin, the impression is that Russia means business. "This turn of events may be ascribed to Tashkent's new policy. There is definitely a connection between Uzbekistan's withdrawal from the Eurasian Economic Cooperation Organization and Moscow's offers to Tajikistan," Grozin said. The specialist did not rule out the possibility, however, that Uzbekistan might reconsider its foreign political options yet. "And that in its turn will foment a change in Russia's attitude towards completion of construction of the Rogun Hydroelectric Power Plant," he said.

Russian Aluminium planned to complete construction of the hydroelectric power plant in question by 2009 but discord over the technical and economic assessment resulted in suspension of the whole project. When its efforts to set up an international consortium failed, Tajikistan decided to try and complete construction on its own but found the strain too much for the national budget to endure (completion of construction will require $3-4 billion). Its hopes are pinned on Moscow again.

Victoria Paniflova, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, No 258, November 28, 2008, p. 5. © Translated by Ferghana.Ru