Taxing Tajik Transportation

by Mark on 4/27/2010 · 13 comments

With the recent talk of Kyrgyzstan’s “north-south” divide I found this development in Tajikistan interesting. Like it’s neighbor Tajikistan can also be fairly characterized as suffering from a  “north and south” split. Politically speaking there exists a rift between the old, Khujandi power base of Soviet times and the new administration hailing from Kulob. Entho-linguistically the northern and southern dialects of Tajiki differ, the former having been greater influenced by Uzbek owing to the large percentage of Uzbeks in the Ferghana valley.

Geographically the Fann mountains cut off Khujand and most of northern Sugd province from the rest of the country.Transportation is particularly difficult. A train ride is the cheapest option but requires more than a day as the serpentine, Soviet route winds through Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. The regions are connected by reliable flights, but are cost prohibitive for the majority of people and untenable for trade.

Overland travel is perilous but with significant help from the Chinese (and Iranians) a new Khujand-Dushanbe-Chanak  road is currently under construction that promises to make the trip much faster and safer. Just a few months ago it took between 8-12 hours to cross both the Anzob and Shahkerstan passes a time that will likely half when the new road is complete. This would be good news except the Tajik government (which didn’t pay for the road)  has decided to celebrate their new connectivity by tolling it. Asia Plus has the details:

” Under the present mechanism of road roll management for the Dushanbe-Khujand-Chanak highway, vehicles are charged per kilometer; cars, trucks with load capacity of up to two tons and buses with no more than 19 seats pay 30 dirams (0.3 somoni) per kilometer, while trucks with load capacity of 2 to 7 tons and buses with 20 to 39 seats pay 60 dirams per kilometer, and trucks with load capacity of 7 to 14 tons and buses with more than 40 seats pay 1.50 somoni per kilometer. Heavy trucks with load capacity of 14 and more tons pay 1.88 somoni per kilometer.”

So to make the 345 km trip between Dushanbe and Khujand a shared taxi will have to pay 103.5 somoni (about 23 USD). Currently a seat in a shared taxi costs about 85 somoni. If drivers distribute this new toll over the four passengers it means that long haul travelers will have to pay a 111 somoni–an increase of over 30%. On the other hand, when the road is complete Mashrutkas and buses will be able to make the trip (currently they don’t) so the fare for the cheapest option will still be lower. However long haul transportation is really the lesser story. More concerning is the effect that toll booths will have on the poor residents between Khujand and Dushanbe. Again Asia Plus:

On Thursday April 22, 10,000 residents of 16 settlements located along the Dushanbe-Khujand-Chanak highway released an open letter to President Emomali Rahmon over a mechanism of road toll management for the highway that was introduced on April 1 this year. The full text of the letter is published in the Dushanbe weekly Farazh.

In other Tajik transportation news that the government has banned the use of 8 seater Chinese minivans in (“Tangems” as they are affectionately known) in Dushanbe leaving many indebted drivers out of work.

These days Tangem drivers are livid. Many of them took out loans to buy the vehicles (a new Tangem costs approximately $6,000). Others leased them. For many, there is no easy way to find alternative jobs in Tajikistan’s tight labor market. Saidjon, a Tangem driver who spoke to on condition that his full name not be printed, said that “many of the kicked-out drivers, including myself, will have to join the army of Tajik labor migrants in Russia or Kazakhstan.”

These levies against the Tajik working class on top of the Roghun campaign are interestingly timed. One would think the government would at least let the dust settle in Kyrgyzstan before further prodding it’s citizens to dissent.

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Christian April 27, 2010 at 12:08 pm

My very first mode of transportation in Tajikistan was in a Tangem. The driver was a real nice guy. I guess he’s gonna have his legs broken now for not being able to pay back the loan he took out on the van.

But in happier news, that guy who is importing those shitty Iranian taxi vans that no one wanted to buy because the Chinese tangems are better should soon be able to buy a better weekend house up the Varzob. Maybe he can live next to that guy who has a giant bronze bull in his yard.

Grant April 27, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Could the ban be a coincidence? Perhaps a policy that had been planned well beforehand and simply had the bad fortune to come out now? Also, despite what we think bureaucrats are not necessarily the most tactful, especially when the opposition is effectively tame.

Christian April 27, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Could be. But people in TJ will always attach the worst motivations to it (and I agree most of the time). Like the whole energy efficient light bulb thing when regular bulbs were banned. Someone on here made the comment that one person has an import monopoly on them.

mark April 28, 2010 at 3:13 am

Perhaps the toll to Varzob was the reason said business man felt it necessary to make more money? On the other hand blacked out BMW X6’s are probably exempt.

Ekspeditsya April 28, 2010 at 1:58 am

re: “Someone on here made the comment that one person has an import monopoly on them.”

I don’t know if you are being intentionally coy, but I have few such scruples. The person that has an import monopoly on Chinese-made “energy efficient” light bulbs is Rakhmon’s daughter.
Nothing wrong with that, you could argue, good business sense clearly runs through this highly talented family (sarcasm alert). But alas for the poor Tajiks, the new bulbs cost several times as much as the regular incandescent bulbs, but break after a few months.

Tajik April 28, 2010 at 10:26 am

Whoever came up with the idea of toll pricing, must have been using his ‘behind’ (yes, his, because women in Tajikistan politics is a rare “commodity”) instead of his brain, if there is any at all. So many people build their hopes on this tunnel for so many years, which has been planned to construct during the Soviet times. Now that it is being completed, it is likely to fall on the hands of corrupt gang groups’ monopoly. So long as this administration and the current political structure is in place, nothing is exempt or safe in Tajikistan, including public and private goods, and personal wealth.
Most likely ‘His Majesty, His Excellency, His Highness, and His Whatever The Heck’ he is, has been consulted and gave his ‘blessings’ before putting this stupid, senseless, highly illogic, self-serving pricing mechanism in place.

What a shame!!!

Michael April 28, 2010 at 11:48 am

I’m a little confused about the details of this pricing scheme. Having just taken this route, I was under the impression the tolls were a flat rate based on vehicle weight. How is this “distance” calculated? How can anyone know your originating point?

mark April 30, 2010 at 12:45 am

Are all polling stations already built or are their just a few on the southern end?

mark April 30, 2010 at 12:46 am

tolling* sorry

Michael April 28, 2010 at 11:50 am

Also, haven’t read this link yet, but tolls are being administered by and not the GAIshiki…

Tajik April 28, 2010 at 12:43 pm

I jumped into conclusion based on Mark’s article. I should have done an extra research myself before criticizing and bashing “His Majesty, His Excellency, His Highness, and His Whatever The Heck’ he is.

Anyways, this link gives you an idea on what and how much the tariffs are.

I do not blame you for disinformation in your article, but I do encourage you to try to do perhaps a little more research before posting future articles about any topic.
But thanks anyways.

Ekspeditsya April 30, 2010 at 2:51 am

Personally, I found acıgölfm’s automatically generated garble easier to understand, especially since it made more sense, than the drivel routinely churned out by Boratino.
I do not approve of censorship, but could a/some Registan moderators please not consider deleting this particular poster’s contributions since they are either usually abusive and off-topic, while also cluttering discussions and making reading the comments section unpleasant and difficult.

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