Food and fuel surge in Tajikistan reportedly results from Russia-Ukraine conflict
An article posted on Eurasianet’s website, in particular, notes that car fuel prices are the most visible indictor of current difficult economic situation in Tajikistan, which relies on imports for much of its staple needs.
Prices sometimes change from hour to hour. The price for one liter of 92-octane gasoline has gone up from 10.60 somonis to 12.30 somonis in the space of a week. The liquid natural gas (LNG) has risen from 6.40 somonis per liter to 7.40 somonis. Some gas stations have reportedly closed rather than having to deal with the volatile prices.
The article says this sudden inflationary spiral is all happening downstream from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. International sanctions against Russia have caused a collapse in the value of the ruble, which has in turn heavily depreciated the value of remittances sent home by Tajik migrant laborers in Russia. The performance of the somoni is also tied to the fate of the ruble.
Certain groceries have reportedly increased by 30 percent in price.
By the morning of March 14, a 50-kilo sack of flour had risen in cost from 275 somonis last week to 370 somonis. Sugar is selling at 14 somoni a kilo, where it sold for 10 somoni before. A liter of vegetable oil has gone from 20 somonis to 25 somonis.
Average salaries in Tajikistan at the start of this year were around 1,500 somonis. But it is the ruble remittances that matter. And if 1,000 rubles sent from Russia were being redeemed for 150 somonis at the start of the month, the figure is now 90 somonis.
The population is unlikely to get much support from the government, as earlier economic crises in 2008, 2014 and 2020 have shown, according to the article.
Zafar Abdullayev, a former Tajik journalist, says Tajiks will now face a period of profound austerity.
“There will be few vitamins in people’s diet, less meat, less fruit, less medicine, and so on. Surviving, just surviving. This is going to be survival, not life,” Abdullayev said.
Abdullayev argued that if anything, Russia’s misfortunes could be seized upon as an opportunity for Tajikistan to pursue vigorous political and economic reform.
The article notes that in contrast with nearby, similarly Russian crisis-affected nations like Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, the government in Tajikistan has not made any indication it is shaping an anti-crisis plan.
And economic expert Bahriddin Karimov (a pseudonym) told Asia-Plus news agency in a recent interview that that this downturn may be even worse than the ones the country has endured before.
“[It] will have a very long-lasting negative effect. The government of Tajikistan should not imagine that the crisis can simply be waited out and that everything will be as before,” said he said. “Neighboring countries that are economically dependent on Russia will need to look for new sources of economic growth and new external partners in order to survive in this new reality.”
Apart from everything else, this impasse should close the book for now on any idea of Tajikistan entering the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), Karimov said.
“In general, the whole strategy of dependence on migration and remittances from Russia will become completely unviable for Tajikistan when the Russian economy collapses,” he said.