October 15th, 2018
Excellency, President of Tajikistan, Mr. Emomali Rakhmon
Ministers and Distinguished participants,
I would like to thank you Mr. President, for the opportunity to speak at this important international forum on entrepreneurship and investment. We are meeting at a time of many favorable changes in the region for economic development and trade cooperation creating new windows of opportunity to transform Tajikistan’s economy, expand domestic private sector and increase employment. Moreover, today’s agenda is also at the heart of achieving the five priorities of National Development Strategy and several SDGs.
It is now common knowledge that majority of the jobs in the world are created by private sector, particularly SMEs and that investing in entrepreneurship development can transform unemployed young men and women into employers and can also promote innovations to address longstanding development problems, especially in rural areas.
It is commendable that the Government of Tajikistan has taken many steps to promote entrepreneurship, skills development and giving special attention to women. For instance, the Entrepreneurship Support Fund, established with initiative of the President is contributing to SMEs development by providing affordable credits to entrepreneurs. It’s potential and scope could be further enhanced to support innovations in business and social entrepreneurship, ease the access to finance for young entrepreneurs, start-ups and women-led initiatives. The United Nations is acting as a global knowledge and partnership broker and we are ready to render our technical support to the Government of Tajikistan to strengthen capacities to introduce innovative finance mechanisms for business and trade promotion and to resolve the challenges that entrepreneurs face nowadays.
Many efforts are being made to improve Tajikistan’s Doing Business climate, with good progress achieved. By continuing systematic and time bound approach to undertake sequential reforms, Tajikistan will be able to strengthen its policy and regulatory environment with clear taxation and inspection rules; fair competition, access to affordable finance and rule of law, which will strengthen entrepreneurship. UNDP is collaborating closely with different Government institutions, including State Investment Committee, and the Consultative Council on some of these issues, and we are also ready to continue working closely with partners to make executive documents like presidential decrees, laws and government regulations easily accessible to businesses and investors, so they are aware of procedures and requirements. For example, as a result of our cooperation with the Agency of Statistics to simplify procedures for trade statistics collection, the time spent by businesses to submit their reports has been reduced by half. I can bring many such examples, but the time is limited so let me focus on few other strategic issues.
I would like to highlight the importance of women entrepreneurship. In Tajikistan, high male labour migration means that women are engaged in earning income and are managing business. Tajikistan has adopted favourable laws in Tajikistan, such as equal right to land, property and access to bank loans to unleash economic potential of women. I should note that Tajik women need continued support to increase their awareness about their rights and government procedures and opportunities to develop new skills and diversify from embroidery and tailoring related work to enter higher value chains. Support to economic empowerment of women remains one of strategic priorities for UN in Tajikistan and we will continue working on improving female financial literacy and gender sensitive entrepreneurship development programmes.
In addition to women, Tajikistan’s youth can become part of the solution and help diversify economy and create domestic jobs. Investing in youth centric entrepreneurship ecosystem will require modernization of education system, market demand driven vocational training and youth friendly policies which can promote “startups”. There are many initiatives around the world, for instance Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund and many others, that are promoting grants/concessional lending to young entrepreneurs for innovative solutions, “start-ups” for market based or incentive driven solutions in agriculture, agro-business, renewable energy, etc.
Venture capital is a common practice to leverage domestic private finance to promote SME growth even in risky environments. Tajikistan can benefit from a well-designed approach to expand SMEs by providing risk capital such as equity, loan, combined with technical assistance for business development, but these new ways of financing will first require appropriate changes in the regulatory environment to make it conducive for private equity investment.
Entrepreneurship development is one of the key priorities of Tajikistan and many initiatives are underway. Through our various project in Tajikistan, in close partnership with the Government and private sector, UNDP and other UN agencies have been piloting several innovative approaches, such as Business Challenge Fund for SMEs, under our Aid for Trade project, we are extending affordable microloans for local economic development, small grants to youth and women-led business in rural areas. To promote export potential of the country, we are working with several SMEs in Sughd, Khatlon and RRS and providing them consultative support so they can get quality certification for their products and improve business management practices for their production lines. Jointly with local entrepreneurs, we are exploring potential of green products value chains to promote ecologically clean and environmentally friendly products which have unique characteristics and benefit local population.
We are closely collaborating with several government institutions and executive authorities at the regional and local level and assisting their efforts to promote investment and economic potential of their territories, develop branding strategies, and design action plans for trade and export promotion. Just recently we assisted the Government to organize a Business to Buisness event in Bokhtar, in Khatlon region, aimed to promote cross-border trade and cooperation with Afghanistan. We are partnering with many Business Development organizations, e.g. National Association of Business Women in Tajikistan, Business Club ‘Accelerate Prosperity’, Youth Entrepreneurs Club and many others, to build business, leadership and vocational skills of women in rural areas and to promote youth startup ecosystem.
Surely these are just some practical examples of promoting entrepreneurship and much more efforts are needed to advance policy reforms for conducive and predictable business environment, innovative and transparent administrative practices and skills development to unleash full potential of entrepreneurship and promote private sector development in Tajikistan. I would like to reiterate once again that UN stands ready to support the Government and national stakeholders with global knowledge and best practices and technical assistance to foster achieving strategic goals that the Country stipulated under the framework of its National Development Strategy and SDGs.