Abduljali Karimov runs a fruit stand in Hushyori, a village 45 kilometers north of Dushanbe, on the main road to Tajikistan’s second largest city, Khujand. In April, a new neighbor moved in next door: a tollbooth. Since then, he says prices in his mountainous hamlet have been on the rise.
Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon has once again donned the mantel of father figure, instructing his people to be charitable during the holy month of Ramadan.
In a televised broadcast on August 9, Rakhmon requested that during the holy month, which began on August 11, the good people of Dushanbe reach out to the weak and vulnerable. To that effect, he asked shopkeepers to resist the temptation to raise the prices of their goods with the holiday market.
Muslims fast during Ramadan, abstaining from food, cigarettes and sex during daylight hours. But the nights can be gluttonous with feasts erupting as soon as the sun dips below the horizon and again in the wee hours before dawn. Prices often rise during the month, putting pressure on Tajiks who, on average, already spend 70 percent of their income on food.
Dushanbe Mayor/Parliamentary Speaker Mahmadsaid Ubaidulloev – Tajikistan’s Number Two – has backed Rakhmon’s injunction. On August 6, Ubaidulloev ordered price controls on goods sold in the local markets for the month.
Tashkent is expanding its de facto trade embargo against Dushanbe, levying new tariffs for trucks crossing the border, and continuing to delay train freight bound for Tajikistan. Seven months into the blockade, Tajik businessmen are hurting, and the government is worried about its long-term economic impact.