Tajikistan Adopts Partial Moratorium on Business Inspections
Tax officials, prosecutors, the auditing chamber and anticorruption agents can still run checks, so the benefits will likely be very limited.
A two-year moratorium in Tajikistan on inspections of privately owned industrial production facilities looks promising only at a first glance.
President Emomali Rahmon’s office said in a press release on January 23 that the decree was aimed at creating a “favorable climate for the development of productive entrepreneurship.”
But as the statement explains, tax officials, prosecutors, the auditing chamber and anticorruption officials and the National Bank will still be allowed to run checks, so it is not immediately obvious that businessmen will be getting much relief.
Under the moratorium decree proposed to parliament by Rahmon, checks could only go ahead when there was a suspicion that consumer rights were somehow being violated. Moreover, the moratorium only extends to production facilities, not other types of enterprises.
During an address to parliament in December, the president spoke about his professed concern for the frequency of raids on private enterprises, saying it was cramping the development of the business community. According to Rahmon, there are no less 78 different government bodies empowered to drop in on businesses and run checks.
The practice has become a favored way of plumping up the state budget, since they often yield fines and other forced payments. In his meeting with entrepreneurs on October 14, Rahmon noted that in the 20 months that had elapsed from the start of 2016, tax revenues from private enterprise had reached 1.52 billion somoni ($173 million). No small part of those is netted through ad hoc checks.
RFE/RL’s Tajik service, Radio Ozodi, in December cited a group calling itself the Business Association of the Republic Tajikistan, as saying that in 2017 more than 200,000 people engaged in various forms of private enterprise — from anything as trivial as running a market stall — simply gave up. The worst affected was the northern Sughd region (65,000), followed by Dushanbe (50,000), the report claimed.
Experts suggest this has happened mainly because of high taxes and the relentless demands for bribes from inspecting officials. But that isn’t all.
Another extralegal burden weighing on small-scale private business operators is the requirement to regularly provide unofficial donations for the organization of festivities to mark anything from national holidays to special local events. Catering establishments have to provide important officials with free meals, shops have to give away their goods for free and then there are the standard protection payments due to informal patrons. All in all, it is hardly worth it.