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Tajikistan: Opposition Slams Energy Tariff Increase

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Tajikistan: Opposition Slams Energy Tariff Increase
Many Tajiks will consider it a gut punch: At the end of another winter of power shortages, the impoverished country’s state electricity company has said it will raise prices 20 percent.
The announcement came as authorities further restricted electricity supplies in some rural regions to less than three hours a day, reports Asia-Plus. Tajikistan produces most of its electricity through a network of hydropower plants; in late winter, when rivers and reservoirs are low, the turbines are unable to generate nearly enough to meet demand.
In a March 12 statement, the opposition Islamic Renaissance Party (IRPT) slammed the tariff increase, which is scheduled to begin April 1, for hurting a population already in crisis, reportsAvesta. The World Bank had long urged price increases to shore up the dilapidated energy sector, but the IRPT said government officials selectively implement foreign recommendations when they serve those in the highest places, but do not care for advice concerning other problems such as political reform.
“There is no doubt that in the course of reforms in this sector changes in electricity tariffs take place sometimes. However, the authorities must pursue a pricing policy that takes into account the conditions in which people live,” said the statement.
“The implementation of these recommendations is unfounded, as numerous other recommendations of international organizations on holding transparent elections, protecting human rights and conducting political reforms go ignored for decades.”
The IRPT also suggested ending preferential tariffs for large industries. One of the world’s biggest aluminum smelters, the Tajik Aluminum Company (TALCO), consumes 40-50 percent of the country’s electricity supply, but pays the lowest energy tariffs in the country, according to the International Crisis Group. Much of the revenue goes to an opaque company registered offshore.
Reporting on the tariff increase, the Associated Press said TALCO’s “revenue is widely believed to personally benefit President Emomali Rakhmon.”
Energy tariffs are a sensitive issue in Central Asia, where decrepit infrastructure and graft mean frequent disruptions in service. In Kyrgyzstan in 2010, a sudden spike in tariffs fueled street demonstrations that ousted then-President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
Source: Eurasianet.org


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