Vladimir Putin: In the course of our one-on-one meeting with the President of Tajikistan, we exchanged opinions on the status and prospects of the relations between our countries. The overall conclusion is that Russian-Tajik relations are developing progressively and have a good outlook. Further strengthening of bilateral cooperation will raise our allied relations and strategic partnership to a new level.
At the same time, we should progress from joint search for and development of decisions to their adoption and implementation. Our work must be systemic and dynamic. The ministries and agencies of our countries have their job cut out. What is important today is to raise the trade and economic ties to a level that matches our political and military ties.
The growth of trade, although admittedly slow but sustained, is a promising sign. In 2002 trade increased by 7% on 2001, and in the first few months of this year 7.5% on 2002. The overall trend is good.
We should make more active use of the potential for increasing bilateral trade. I am referring to increasing supplies of cotton and aluminium to the Russian market and expanding the range of traded goods in general. The regions of Russia and Tajikistan can make an important contribution to the development of mutual trade. The inter-governmental commission should play the main coordinating role on economic issues. It is already doing well. That trend must be speeded up. I think we should listen to the co-chairmen of the inter-governmental commission.
Hydropower is a priority in the development of Tajikistan’s economy. We have discussed it in our one-on-one meeting with the President and he has mentioned it just now. It can be a truly important element of our economic cooperation. Tajikistan is interested in the completion of construction of the Sangtudinskaya hydropower plant with Russian participation. The idea merits attention. Experts have already studied that problem. Emomali Rakhmonov has already said that RAO UES of Russia has looked at the project. In short, there is work to be done. The power generated at that station can be supplied to the Urals Region of Russia via Kazakhstan under a replacement scheme. As a result everyone will stand to gain. Tajikistan will be able to fully cover the seasonal power shortage and possibly supply power to neighbouring Afghanistan. We should think about who will pay for it and how, but on the whole let us assume that the economy of Afghanistan will gradually be restored and solvent demand there will emerge and grow. It will no longer be necessary for Kazakhstan to transmit power from its southern regions to the north. That is a major problem. Russia for its part will get the necessary amounts of comparatively cheap power from northern Kazakhstan. By the way, we discussed this subject with the President of Kazakhstan when we met in Omsk.
We believe that Russian companies, including RAO UES, could take part in implementing that project, considering that the project documentation and estimates for the construction of Sangtudinskaya power plant have already been prepared by the Gidroproekt Institute. It is possible to supply equipment and building technology. Financing the project is an important problem. The preliminary estimate puts the cost at about $250 million over three years.
The EurAsEC integration committee has raised the issue of completing the construction of the Sangtudinskaya power plant collectively. The agenda for tomorrow’s meeting of the EurAsEC Interstate Council includes the issue of joint actions to complete the construction of that power plant. The EurAsEC states are to split the cost of financing the project. We will discuss it with our colleagues tomorrow and see their reaction.
On the whole the programme of completing the construction of the power plant may be a pilot project in creating a mechanism of interstate financing of investment projects as part of the common economic space of the EurAsEC.
As regards the completion of the Ragunskaya hydropower plant, some of our companies, especially construction companies are ready to pitch in. The issue of financing needs some further consideration.
The issues are not easy to solve, but I have been told that Russian companies are interested in taking part.
Another important matter concerns the hundreds of thousands of Tajik citizens who come to Russia every year for seasonal work. We have discussed this problem with Emomali Rakhmonov. On the whole, it is a mutually beneficial process. Russia has enough economic niches in which there is a labour shortage. Russia is interested in an inflow of manpower. For many citizens of Tajikistan it provides an opportunity to support their families. I think it is also a major benefit in terms of maintaining good relations among people.
However, some of them become illegal labour migrants because they evade Russian laws on registration and employment. In our opinion, these laws need to be improved because there are still some loose ends in the legislation. But in any case people often suffer and we must close these problems and settle them.
We have agreed that work on the agreement, on the terms and procedure of employment of labour migrants will be stepped up. The agreement should be ready by May. The relevant Russian and Tajik agencies which issue papers to citizens of Tajikistan to enable them to work abroad must establish ties with the Russian governmental agencies and private companies which officially hire foreign labour for work in Russia.
I think this is a major issue. It is a problem facing concrete people and we should do everything to make them feel comfortable. For our part we will exert our best efforts towards that end.