April 17, 2020 / 9:48 AM / a month ago

Tajikistan says migrants returning from Russia, Kazakhstan

DUSHANBE (Reuters) - Many of the Tajik migrants whose remittances make up a bulk of the nation’s cash inflows have had to return home over the past few months as the countries where they worked lurched towards recession, Tajikistan’s government said on Friday.

The total damage to the Tajik economy from the coronavirus crisis and other external factors stood at $650 million, the economy ministry said. The Central Asian nation’s gross domestic product stood at about $8 billion last year.

“The numbers of returning migrant labourers rose sharply in February and March 2020, including from Kazakhstan and Russia, which account for more than 90% of migrants,” the ministry said, without providing exact figures. The economies of Russia and Kazakhstan have been hit hard by the plunge in oil prices.

The government, which has requested up to $240 million in emergency aid from the International Monetary Fund, said it was considering tax breaks for local small- and medium-sized businesses and tax reforms to protect and create jobs.

Tajikistan has reported no cases of the novel coronavirus on its soil, but it closed its borders at the end of March — which also stopped more migrants from returning.

The ministry said the drop in inflows was putting pressure on the local currency, the somoni, and budget revenue, also hurt by the drop in the price of its exports such as aluminium, cotton, gold and other minerals.

Reporting by Nazarali Pirnazarov, writing by Olzhas Auyezov, editing by Larry King

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