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Tajikistan

Tajikistan

Population 8,9 million
GDP 801 US$
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Synthesis

major macro economic indicators

  2016 2017 2018 (e) 2019 (f)
GDP growth (%) 6.9 7.1 6.0 5.0
Inflation (yearly average, %) 6.1 6.7 6.5 7.0
Budget balance (% GDP) -9.8 -6.8 -7.7 -6.8
Current account balance (% GDP) –3.8 -0.5 -2.5 -3.0
Public debt (% GDP) 42.0 50.4 52.7 54.0

(e): Estimate. (f): Forecast.

STRENGTHS

  • Significant hydroelectric potential
  • Wealth of raw materials (zinc, lead, aluminium, gold, cotton)
  • Financial support from international donors and China (OBOR)

WEAKNESSES

  • Fragile banking system; credit is expensive, underdeveloped and directed
  • Dependent on remittances from expatriate workers
  • Proximity to Afghanistan
  • Islamist terrorist risk against a backdrop of poverty and lack of employment
  • Infrastructure (energy, transport, health, education, water)
  • Foreign exchange market and trade closely controlled
  • Large informal economy

RISK ASSESSMENT

Public investment provides a major source of growth

As in the previous year, growth is expected to moderate in 2019. It will remain dependent on public investment, which is mainly focused on the construction sector. Construction of the Rogun hydroelectric dam and high-voltage lines as part of the CASA-1000 project, which will allow Tajikistan's and Kyrgyzstan's hydroelectric surplus to be exported to Pakistan and Afghanistan, reflects this policy. Construction of the Rogun dam’s first turbine is scheduled to be completed in late 2018. This will enable electricity production to start up, supporting growth in 2019. Even so, private investment is still expected to suffer because of the fragile banking system and credit restrictions, which are justified by the high ratio of non-performing loans (around 25% in July 2018). Consolidation of the banking system will be a key factor in restoring growth to its potential level. Through its exports, the economy will remain dependent on commodity prices, which could soften. The economy will also continue to benefit from remittances from expatriates (31% of GDP in 2017), mainly from Russia, which will stimulate Tajik household consumption. However, non-membership of the Eurasian Economic Union will continue to hamper the ability of workers to move to Russia.

Inflation, fuelled by the regular depreciation of the somoni against the US dollar, is expected to remain high in 2019. It may even rise again, driven by a recovery in private consumption and imported inflation, after edging down in 2018 because of the slower increase in basic food prices.

External fragility despite massive support from the diaspora

Fiscal consolidation, which began in 2017, ground to a halt in 2018 with the slowdown of growth. In 2019, the slight rebound in activity should enable the country to post a declining government deficit once again. However, the level of external public debt is growing rapidly, as the country relies increasingly on support from China and multilateral financial institutions to finance its public investments. With external public debt representing about 40% of GDP, Tajikistan is exposed to currency risk.

Despite remittances from expatriates and the remuneration of Tajik workers abroad, the current account will be in deficit in 2019. The trade balance will remain negative (25% of GDP in 2017). Low diversification requires imports of capital goods and intermediate products for public investment and the extractive industry, as well as imports of consumer products. However, in April 2018, Uzbekistan began consuming Tajik electricity again after a nine-year hiatus. The rapprochement of the two countries since the 2016 Uzbek presidential election represents a great opportunity for Tajikistan. If the process continues, the Tajik trade balance will benefit from this important new source of exports. The deficit in the balance of services, linked to the construction of infrastructure, particularly in the hydroelectricity sector, will, to a lesser extent, weigh on the current account. Loans from multilateral agencies and China, capital contributions and FDI finance the current account deficit and maintain foreign exchange reserves at a level equivalent to more than five months of imports. Total external debt represents 77% of GDP, a quarter of which is related to FDI.

Political scene dominated by the Rahmon family

President Imomali Rahmon has been at the head of the country since 1992 and is reportedly laying the groundwork for his succession. At the age of 66, he appointed several members of his family to senior positions in his government. In addition, in 2018, a law lowering the age of eligibility for the presidency from 35 to 30 years was passed by parliament. This would allow his son to run in the next elections, scheduled for 2020. However, social frustrations are tangible, fuelled by corruption and poverty, with about 30% of the population living below the poverty line. In addition, the country has to cope with the radicalisation of part of its Muslim population. Faced with this situation, the President has been taking authoritarian action, which has included closing down mosques and issuing a dress code. In external relations, dependence on China is increasing. In addition to being the country's main creditor and the second-largest market for its exports, China accounts for 70% of inward FDI. Meanwhile, the presence of the Taliban in northern Afghanistan is affecting security in border areas, although the Russian military presence should prevent any spillover of the conflict into the Tajik area.

The business environment is poor, with government control over the economy through state-owned companies curbing foreign private investment. The country ranks 180th out of 205 countries in the World Bank's ranking for regulatory quality.

 

Last update: February 2019

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