Broader export base needed to sustain Tajikistan’s strong growth

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Tajikistan must look to deepen its industrial base, improve the productivity of its agricultural sector, and reduce barriers to private investment to remain on a high growth path, says a new Asian Development Bank (ADB) report.

The country diagnostic study, Tajikistan: Promoting Export Diversification and Growth, takes an in-depth look at the challenges and opportunities policymakers face in strengthening and broadening the country’s economic base to meet the government’s target of doubling its gross domestic product (GDP) within a decade.

“Tajikistan has made huge strides in recent years, with GDP growth averaging over 7% during 1997-2015. But that progress is threatened by less favorable external conditions, a slump in prices of its key commodities, and pressure on remittances,” said Bambang Susantono, ADB’s Vice President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development. “Policymakers, in conjunction with the private sector, now need to find ways to upgrade existing exports, as well as finding new growth drivers, particularly in the industrial sector, to maintain growth momentum.”

The agriculture sector accounts for about two-thirds of the labor force but it suffers from low productivity levels. The industrial sector remains narrow and job opportunities in it have actually declined. Private investment needed to fuel greater diversification is being held back by limited and high cost finance, and poor transport and electricity infrastructure.

Reviving the industrial sector and diversifying exports is key to expanding job opportunities outside the agricultural sector, and creating a more inclusive society, the report notes. Potential areas that offer promise include agro-food processing, crop and animal farming, textiles and garments, and mining and quarrying. To develop these new niche opportunities, the government should facilitate and support the private sector as the key catalyst for change.

Steps that policymakers could take to lift private investment and exports include providing incentives for entrepreneurs engaged in new economic activities or products, and creating new economic zones. To improve access to finance, banks and nonbank financial institutions should be encouraged and incentivized to create more diverse and affordable credit products. Producing more work-ready graduates will require an overhaul of existing curricula and making vocational courses more relevant to meet the needs of future growth.

Making agriculture more productive, through infrastructure improvements and the introduction of new technologies, will also release excess labor who can be employed in the industrial and service sectors as they expand, the study said.

Tajikistan joined ADB in 1998, and to date ADB has approved over $1.4 billion in concessional loans, grants, and technical assistance to the country. ADB’s current partnership strategy with Tajikistan focuses on improved connectivity, energy security, and private sector development.

ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, ADB in December 2016 will mark 50 years of development partnership in the region. It is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2015, ADB assistance totaled $27.2 billion, including cofinancing of $10.7 billion.

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Mridha Shihab Mahmud

Mridha Shihab Mahmud is a writer, content editor and photojournalist. He works as a staff reporter at News Hour. He is also involved in humanitarian works through a trust called Safety Assistance For Emergencies (SAFE). Mridha also works as film director. His passion is photography. He is the chief respondent person in Mymensingh Film & Photography Society. Besides professional attachment, he loves graphics designing, painting, digital art and social networking.
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