01/28/2022, 09.36
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Corruption in Tajikistan is 'systemic'

by Vladimir Rozanskij

Transparency International ranks Dushanbe 150th out of 180 countries in the fight against corruption. A problem that affects all the former Soviet republics of Central Asia and the Caucasus. The Tajik authorities are trying to hide the phenomenon.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - Transparency International's Central Asia section has published its corruption prevalence index for 2021, putting Tajikistan in 150th place out of 180, in the group of the top 30 countries in this negative ranking. As Oltina Mirzobekova, Transparency's consultant, puts it, corruption in Tajikistan is 'systemic in nature'.

According to this survey, the majority of Tajiks believe that bribes, embezzlement of state funds, the government's inability to eliminate the phenomenon, nepotism and other similar problems have become commonplace. As examples, Mirzobekova cites 'the lack of independence of legal bodies and the defence of the law', 'non-transparency in the work of state bodies, which are not accountable to the population' and also 'the presence of conflicts of interest, especially at the highest and middle levels of power'.

The Radio Ozodi journalists tried in vain to ask the State Agency for Financial Control and Anti-Corruption for a comment on these evaluations, but in previous years it had already stated that it did not consider these international investigations credible. In recent months, President Emomali Rakhmon had acknowledged huge losses in public spending due to corruption, more than one billion somoni (about 80 million euros) in 2019-2020, of which 693 million had been reimbursed by the state budget.

Many experts argue that the statistics do not reflect the real situation, and there are very extensive corrupt schemes to divide up public money. The president is criticised for creating a 'family government', which creates the conditions for corruption. The head of the Anti-Corruption Agency, Sulaimon Sultonzoda, said at several press conferences in recent months that his staff had held "more than 700 interviews and meetings" with officials from ministries and state and regional bodies, producing extensive documentary material.

According to Šukrat Latif, an expert in social issues, these announcements are 'just propaganda, totally ineffective'. He noted that in a situation where people are afraid to denounce an official so as not to draw negative consequences on the family, these statements are very weak.

A Tajik journalist, Ekub Khalimov, has carried out numerous investigations into corruption, reporting many testimonies of ordinary people meeting with public officials and handing over bribes, for example 'at the Tajik-Uzbek border, where customs officers were constantly taking bribes, the procedures are often so complicated that people are left with no choice but to pay'. The fact is that 'you cannot support a family of 4-5 people with a salary of 1,000-1,500 somoni', Khalimov notes.

Another expert, Musaffar Olimov, a researcher at the Šark organisation in Dushanbe, believes that Transparency International's figures are credible, 'taking into account the conditions in our country, which are difficult to verify fully'. In any case, in his opinion, "the problems in the fight against corruption depend on the social conscience of the people, who are often conniving with corruptors to solve their own problems. We need to change the widespread mentality, starting by refusing tips of 20 somoni for any request'.

Over the last 10 years, according to international surveys, all the former Soviet countries have generally had a widespread problem of corruption, especially in Central Asia and the Caucasus, but perhaps things are beginning to change, despite the attempts of the regimes in power to silence any protests.

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