Your Excellency President Rahmon,
Distinguished members of the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan,
Dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
There are moments, in which vision and determination form the foundation for transformative projects. Today is such a moment. By putting into operation the first turbine of the Rogun hydropower plant, the country is starting to honor its promise—made to its people in the cities and remote villages, to its local businesses, schools, and hospitals—that (i) inexpensive, renewable energy can be supplied without interruptions, that (ii) energy exports can provide the Government with a revenue base, from which to finance critical investments in human capital, help transform Tajikistan’s economy, and create the foundation for a prosperous future.
Against the backdrop of a long history of power outages, particularly during the cold winter months, Tajikistan’s energy sector has been the World Bank’s priority area of engagement. Our current investments in this sector stand at US$415 million, supporting Tajikistan’s efforts in (i) rehabilitating the Nurek HPP; (ii) advancing its ability to export surplus energy through the CASA-1000 transmission network to neighboring markets in South Asia; and (iii) implementing broader energy reforms. We have agreed jointly on this program, with a view to assuring sector sustainability, eliminating seasonal rationing, and ensuring stable electricity supply to families and businesses.
The World Bank financed the 2014 Rogun Assessment Studies, which concluded that Rogun has the potential of (i) placing Tajikistan onto a trajectory of inclusive and sustainable growth; (ii) serving as the foundation for a regional energy market spanning from Central to South and East Asia; and (iii) and fostering collaboration among neighbors on vital regional issues, such as water resource management across the entire Amu Darya Basin. While the World Bank is not a financier of the Rogun investment project, our studies have shown that the hydropower plant, once finalized, has the potential of increasing the security of the entire cascade along the Vakhsh River and—by removing sedimentation—extends Nurek’s expected life span by about a century.
Clearly, a project of this significance and size faces important challenges of a technical, economic, or political nature. One such challenge, which had placed the project on uncertain grounds for the longest time, has been resolved—thanks to you, Mr. President. I refer to the historic rapprochement between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, which was exemplified during the two-day state visit of President Mirziyoyev to Dushanbe in March. In fact, I remember from our earlier meetings that you told me repeatedly that relations between the two countries would improve.
To ensure that the Rogun investment can generate sustained social and economic development, the Government of Tajikistan will have to embed the Rogun investment into a broader economic reform program and prudent macro-fiscal framework. Central to this task are efforts to increase budgetary revenues needed to finance Rogun and other priority expenditures. In light of the interests expressed by neighboring countries in energy and other products and services “made in Tajikistan”, the Government has a good opportunity to broaden the tax base, provided it succeeds in encouraging enterprises to increase investments, accelerate innovation, and generate new, high-quality employment opportunities for Tajikistan’s young population.
Mr. President, the Rogun investment is an opportunity to increase investors’ confidence in their ability to be successful in Tajikistan, if accompanied by policies that focus on improving the business and investment climate. These are then “Rogun policies” as much as they are socio-economic development policies.
Allow me please, Mr. President, to take this opportunity to reconfirm the World Bank’s willingness to support Tajikistan with reforms that will make this impressive and visionary investment a success. It is with the utmost sincerity, Mr. President, that I congratulate you and the people of Tajikistan for the remarkable results achieved today.