The price tag of truth (continued)

Photograph of Roghun construction by Asia Plus (CC-usage).
Photograph of Roghun construction by Asia Plus (CC-usage).

Editor’s note: Continuing our coverage of the Roghun dam project, here’s an editorial by neweurasia’s Botur. Check out his earlier post here, as well as Tajik Voice’s posts here and here.

As previously reported, the Tajik Government started selling shares of Roghun hydro power plant in January aiming to raise $1.4 billion from population. They initiated this project in order speed up the construction of the giant plant, but did not care to provide the public with a detailed business plan showing credible proof as to how, who, when and what for specifically collected funds will be spent on. It is remarkably rare in the history of free market economy that such an immense project with so little preparation and much countrywide propaganda is offered for investment of citizens.

People have been brainwashed heavily with TV and radio, manipulated with force and deception that some in fact believe buying shares or contributing in some other form will eventually be a good return on investment. However, many people across the country are already complaining about pressure from government officials to compel citizens to purchase shares.

From students to retired seniors, ordinary workers of private and state companies to business owners all are expressing frustration and discontent with “official burden” on their budgets that they barely earn to sustain themselves. For instance, I’ve been told that half of the salary of a social worker in 500 somoni ($120) has been withheld for Roghun without her permission, tax officials have threatened an entrepreneur with all sorts of bureaucratic problems, and students who refuse to give a “voluntary” contribution to the project are neither graded nor admitted to final exams. The anxiety is high in Tajik society and the situation is shockingly harsh.

Certainly, President Rahmon and his puppet officials assert in their public speeches that purchasing shares is not mandatory, but they probably have different arrangements “behind the curtains.” Obviously, if top government people don’t require it from their subordinates, the latter will also have no incentives to carry over that pressure to the citizenry. This model has been a favorite governing method of shortsighted authoritarian leaders.

My conclusion is that although construction of Roghun power plant is vital for development of the nation (likewise for the entire CA region), such a careless and mindless approach in preparing a project plan, plus compelling people to give money for such an unclear implementation process, is a direct public deception which is very dangerous and can result in dissolving society’s trust in the government.  The history of Tajikistan shows that this trust goes a long way toward maintaining stability.

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