Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Tajik Reshuffle Spares Unpopular Energy Chiefs
After the government admitted it was unable to heat the country and keep industry going at the same time, the authorities have been forced to seek international help.
Strict limitations have been imposed in the meantime. The capital receives only 10 hours’ supply of electricity per day. Most regions have had no light or heating at all for weeks. (See recent IWPR reports on the crisis: Sparks Fly as Tajiks Endure Power Cuts, RCA No. 528, 25-Jan-08; and Tajiks Pull the Plug on Cafés, RCA No. 529, 01-Feb-08.)
The United Nations has already responded to the request for humanitarian aid and is preparing an international appeal.
In late January, at a government session broadcast live on television, President Imomali Rahmon leveled sharp criticism at ministers and officials for the power cuts.
“I will not forgive any of you. You will either have to work and show results, or quit,” Rahmon was quoted as saying.
“You are not taking care of the people, you do not love your homeland, and you do not love your nation Many of you are unworthy of your positions because you care only about yourselves and your relatives.”
After this verbal lashing, the president conducted a wide-scale reshuffle involving about 20 senior officials.
The most important changes affected the financial and agricultural sectors, as well as the health ministry and the Committee for Emergency Situations.
The president also conducted a clear-out of the central bank’s top management.
But there was no reshuffle of key energy-sector posts, much to the consternation of many Tajiks.
Residents of the capital who have been forced to cook in large kettles over open fires outside their houses, wrote to president expressing their fury at the management of Barqi Tojik, the state electricity monopoly.
Many called for the prompt dismissal of the energy minister, Sherali Gul, and the chairman of Barqi Tojik, Sharifkhon Samiev. But this did not happen.
Local analysts say they are not surprised, noting that the same old faces had merely been rotated around various government positions.
Economics professor Hojimahmad Umarov said the crisis had uncovered basic flaws in the government’s economic strategy, and a simple reshuffle was unlikely to change anything.
“There are no new faces in the government and you can judge the potential of the previous ones by the current situation in Tajikistan,” said Umarov.
An expert from government circles, who wished to stay anonymous, also cast doubt on the competence of the latest appointees, saying they all came from the old school of officials, few of whom had any management skills.
He said the absence of properly qualified personnel was one explanation for why the country was so unprepared for the icy winter and the resulting energy crisis.
“Politics needs young personnel with new innovative thinking, free from the Soviet type of thinking that, unfortunately, many of our officials have,” this expert maintained.
“We need good, sober-minded analysts and economists, whereas our officials can’t see an inch beyond their noses - and their pockets.”
Political scientist Rashid Abdullo said the president’s failure to sack energy chiefs had undoubtedly disappointed people.
“Instead of the expected and widely desired personnel reshuffle of the power industry, the head of state laid all the emphasis on maximising the managerial potential of the current leaders,” he said.
However, Abdullo said it was a mistake to blame everything on the power industry. Major changes here would not have produced immediate results, because there were serious flaws in a host of other agencies and departments.
In particular, the housing and utilities services were not prepared for this unusually cold winter, and the country’s worn-out central heating system had not worked properly for years.
One member of the Tajik parliament who wished to remain anonymous said the almost annual personnel reshuffles in government achieved little.
He agreed that simply changing officials around would not bring drastic social and economic improvements as long as there was such a dearth of skilled personnel.
“If reshuffles are to work, specialists with innovative thinking, a deep knowledge of the world economy and practical experience of management, marketing and banking - and people without a Soviet mentality - must come to power,” he said.
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