Tajikistan: Russian Remittances Soar 33 Percent
Tajik migrants working in Russia sent home almost $3 billion last year, an increase of 33.6 percent over 2010, reports the National Bank of Tajikistan. The $2.96 billion accounted for 45.4 percent of Tajikistan’s official GDP, the bank’s deputy chairwoman Malokhat Kholikzoda said on January 19. The real amount is probably higher since many migrants carry cash home with them. In December, the World Bank said Tajikistan's 2010 remittances accounted for 31 percent of the economy, placing Tajikistan first in an international ranking of most remittance-dependent countries. Tajikistan is thus deeply reliant on Russia to keep its struggling economy afloat, ensuring any diplomatic argument, no matter how ostensibly trivial, is an issue of national concern. Last November, when a Tajik court sentenced two ethnic Russian pilots flying for a Russian company to 8.5 years in prison for smuggling spare airplane parts, Moscow protested by recalling its ambassador and rounding up Tajiks for deportation. The response prompted panic in Tajikistan and unusually harsh criticism of President Emomali Rakhmon. His administration backed down and released the pilots. Even if relations remain smooth, however, Tajikistan is also especially vulnerable to shocks in Russia’s hydrocarbon-dependent economy.