Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon runs a corrupt, alcohol-sodden fiefdom, according to new wikileaked US Embassy cables available on The Guardian website. The reports describe a dysfunctional state where the dishonest top leadership is more interested in making money than envisioning a stable, prosperous future for its people.
Per usual, Rahmon (né Rahmonov) is portrayed as neither smart, nor caring; he realizes that economic prosperity leads to stability, but has little interest in sharing: “He has no deep understanding of the complexities and realities of the global economy. He wants Tajik economic growth, and he wants it now,” Ambassador Richard E. Hoagland wrote in November 2005.
The greatest obstacle to improving the economy is resistance to reform. From the President down to the policeman on the street, government is characterized by cronyism and corruption. Rahmon and his family control the country's major businesses, including the largest bank, and they play hardball to protect their business interests, no matter the cost to the economy writ large. As one foreign ambassador summed up, President Rahmon prefers to control 90% of a ten-dollar pie rather than 30% of a hundred-dollar pie.
Hoagland confirms that the Tajik Aluminum Company in Tursunzoda, the most profitable factory in the country, is simply a cash cow for Rahmon and his family.
“The Tajik Aluminum Company (Talco) accounts for most of Tajikistan's exports. Though it is technically state-owned, most of its revenues end up in a secretive offshore company controlled by the President, and the state budget sees little of the income.”
The controversial Roghun hydropower project is needed to provide electricity to Talco, and the people are expected to pay. Though the government is “forcing the population to cough up the funds…the Roghun campaign looks like a means to ensure Talco's continued profitability.”
Alcohol indulgence is a common theme throughout the cables.
At a strange going-away dinner hosted by Defense Minister Sherali Khairulloyev, Hoagland demonstrates his own sense of humor and high tolerance for spirits.
The Ambassador lost track of the toasts after the tenth. His shot-glass held vodka. The minister's high-ball glass was kept filled with un-cut Scotch. Late into the lunch, the minister was slurring badly and was not walking a straight line. Nevertheless, as the Ambassador kept attempting a gracious retreat, the Minister insisted on showing him "secret rooms" in the ministry. Each "secret room" was merely another public conference room with a large fresh flower display and -- again and again -- another round of toasts set out.
Hoagland was touched, however, by the attention, which he took to indicate a warming of relations between Washington and Dushanbe after a few years of ascending Russian influence in Tajikistan.
Although this drunk-fest is how many old-guard former Soviets do mutual business, it was most unusual for an American guest. It was, to a degree, a mark of respect. We would not be surprised if President Rahmonov had ordered Khairulloyev to "do something for the departing Ambassador," and we rather wonder if this may have been a sort of valedictory by an old-guard security minister who suspects his days of service are numbered. Whatever, we were pleased to have drunk Khairulloyev well under the table.