New assistance strategy for Tajikistan

Program envisages support of up to US$80 million over next three years

The World Bank's board of executive directors yesterday discussed a new Country Assistance Strategy for Tajikistan. A CAS is a document that details the World Bank's work program in client countries and outlines how such support will help achieve specific development goals. It describes all of the Bank's planned country operations, including lending, analytical and sector work, and technical assistance.

The new CAS for Tajikistan would be in effect until July 2005, and envisages a lending program of up to US$80 million. The CAS is largely based upon, and is supportive of, the Poverty Reduction Strategy Program (PRSP) developed by the Tajik government through a highly participatory process and adopted by Parliament in June 2002.

The CAS was prepared in partnership with Tajik government and in consultations with local donors and key NGOs. The goal was to seek their feedback on the Bank's proposed assistance strategy to the country.

The primary objectives of the strategy include improving community-based support of public infrastructure and services, particularly health and education; fostering growth through private sector development; and strengthening institutions needed to promote a market economy.

"The goal of the CAS is to support implementation of the Government's PRSP in order to raise living standards in the country," says Cevdet Denizer, the World Bank Country Manager for Tajikistan.

Despite political stability and economic growth achieved after the end of civil war, the country's development agenda still remains challenging. A large external debt complicates economic management and affects Tajikistan's ability to reduce poverty. Poverty remains the main challenge faced by Tajikistan today.

Over 80 percent of the country's population are living in poverty, with children and the elderly particularly affected. As elsewhere, poverty in Tajikistan encompasses low levels of income and consumption, limited income earning opportunities, and poor and uneven access to basic public services such as education, healthcare, water supply and heat.

The previous CAS for Tajikistan covered 1999-2001 and envisaged a lending program of up to US$165 million. Specifically, the CAS addressed issues of improving rural infrastructure and creating rural growth, privatization of publicly owned enterprises, improving access and quality of social services, developing the competitive financial and private sector and enhancing institutional capacity. This strategy was complemented by investments in health, education and social sectors.

These efforts have already yielded some positive results. Examples include over half a million people in the poorest areas benefiting from implementation of 184 micro-projects, 20 pilot schools rehabilitated, and 18 new textbook titles printed and distributed countrywide. Ten collective farms have been restructured into about 300 private farms.

A total of 41 bridges, 40 health care facilities and more than 105 km of roads and irrigation canals providing water to about 16,000 hectares of land have been rehabilitated in the areas of Tajikistan most affected by war. Turnaround in economic growth has been registered since 1997 with inflation dropping from 164 percent in 1997 to 12.5 percent in 2001, and GDP growth reaching seven percent on the average during the past five years.

For more information about the World Bank's work in Europe and Central Asia, please visit: http://www.worldbank.org/eca.