"This shows confidence in the adherence of the Tajik government to reforms," Emin Sanginov, the director of the aid coordination unit of the Tajik president's executive administration, told IRIN from Dushanbe on Tuesday. "The EU is one of our major donors, and this is encouraging."
A prominent feature of the agreement is a new memorandum of understanding on providing some US $6 million towards improving food security in the impoverished republic of 6.2 million people. Also under the new understanding, the EU will give Tajikistan about $10 million worth of aid towards implementing regional projects for drug control, border management, environmental protection, transport rehabilitation and energy sector reforms.
At the national level, Tajikistan will be granted an almost equal sum for the implementation of the bilateral trade and cooperation agreement, and reforms in the police, customs and the labour ministry. To reduce poverty and raise living standards, Tajikistan will get funding for projects relating to the raising of individual incomes and addressing social issues in the southern Khatlon region and the Ferghana valley. Other projects will support the development of civil society and vocational education.
According to Sanginov, since 1992 the EC's Humanitarian Office (ECHO) has provided Tajikistan with about $135 million in humanitarian assistance. "This has helped people most affected by the 1992 - 1997 civil war and the 1999 - 2001 drought," Cecile Pichon, an ECHO official responsible for Central Asia told IRIN. These funds were used towards improving medical services and preventing epidemics, rehabilitation of housing for refugees and the recovery of water resources and energy supply.
She maintained that under ECHO's mandate of emergency assistance and relief to victims of natural disasters and armed conflict, Tajikistan received some $10 million this year. "A new funding decision for a similar amount is expected early next year," she said, adding that given the high incidence and damaging effects of natural disasters in Central Asia, ECHO would launch a regional disaster preparedness action plan in 2003.
Apart from humanitarian and development assistance, some European companies and countries have directly invested in Tajikistan. "We understand the changing role of the state during the transition to a market economy, and our objective is to create a favourable investment climate," Sangivov said. Over the past decade EU member states have invested some $229 million, mainly in the mineral extraction industry, agriculture, energy and the food industries. At present, there are 34 joint ventures with a total investment funding of about $173 million.
Inasmuch as the EU investment amounts to 53 percent of total foreign investment, this is expected to contribute towards reducing poverty in the country. Up to 80 percent of the Tajik population lives below the poverty line. "Undoubtedly, such investments will provide substantial support to our president and the government's efforts in reducing the poverty levels in country," he said.
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