Tajikistan invited foreign and local investors, top government representatives and international financial institutions (IFIs) to participate in this week’s first ever Tajikistan Economic and Investment Forum in a demonstration of its growing integration with the global economy.
The aim of the event was to promote the country as an investment destination and to inform the global financial community about recent steps taken by the government towards a better investment climate.
The event, which took place in Dushanbe on 15 October 2014, was co-hosted by the State Investment Committee of Tajikistan, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and Brussels-based Euroconvention Global.
The opening address was given by the President of the Republic of Tajikistan, Emomali Rahmon. Following the President’s address, the EBRD Director for Central Asia, Masaru Honma, spoke about the Bank’s commitment to Tajikistan, where, he said, further reforms will stimulate investment, both local and foreign.
On the sidelines of the forum, the Financial Times (FT) and the EBRD teamed up to start a dialogue between investors and the government. The event, titled “FT-EBRD Leadership Briefing”, was held in a format that enabled an open and frank exchange of ideas (under the Chatham House Rule). The event was held in partnership with GIZ, the German development agency, KfW, the German development bank and the International Finance Corporation, a member of the World Bank Group.
The EBRD’s Head of Office in Dushanbe, Richard Jones, said: “The fact that the Government has launched an investment conference on this level is a testament to how Tajikistan is opening up to the world. In a country which has traditionally relied on remittances and donors, there’s now talk about accessing global capital markets. Businesses have benefited from recent reforms, including simpler taxes and less red tape. By co-hosting the Government-led forum and launching the informal event with the Financial Times, the EBRD aims to support better private-public dialogue and ultimately to bring more private investment into Tajikistan.”
The FT-EBRD briefing touched on many important subjects such as investment climate, Russian economic slow-down and steps towards more transparency both on the regulators’ side and on the private sector’s side. Participants included investors from China, India, Russia, Singapore, the West and many other destinations.
Ralph De Haas, EBRD Acting Director of Research, said: “As highlighted by many speakers in the past two days, the country has a big potential in hydropower, mining, agribusiness, and – as befits the ancient centre of the Silk Road – for transit. Further steps to improve business climate will help unleash this potential. Our survey of over 350 Tajik enterprises has shown that key concerns for them are power outages, limited access to credit and unfair competition from the informal sector. Strengthening the banking sector and the associated financial infrastructure, including a well-functioning credit bureau, will be crucial to improve access to credit among small and medium-sized enterprises.”
One subject brought up by many speakers was the need for Tajikistan to promote itself in the world and to boast its potential in order to attract more investment interest.
The event’s moderator, FT correspondent for Moscow and Central Asia, Jack Farchy, said: “Tajikistan is the definition of a frontier market for foreign investors. But it was clear from the large number of attendees at this forum that there is genuine interest in the country. The Financial Times will be closely following developments in Tajikistan and reporting on whether this interest translates into deals.”
Tajikistan has been growing rapidly in the past few years; in the last two years, GDP grew by over 7 per cent annually, reducing somewhat in 2014 due to the slow-down in Russia.
Also on the fringes of the investment forum, the EBRD and the Mayor of Khujand signed a loan agreement to modernise wastewater infrastructure in the city. The project will also be supported by the Swiss government.