Innovationen und Reproduktionen in Kulturen und Gesellschaften (IRICS) Wien, 9. bis 11. Dezember 2005

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The Economics of Cotton and Its Socio-Politics and Environmental Impacts in Central Asia

Abolhassan Shirazi Habibollah (Tehran Azad University)



Cotton is a vital industry in what is an increasingly unstable but strategic part of the world. It is a crop that dominates the economies and the politics of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. The region accounts for 6.5 per cent of total world production in the current marketing year 2004/2005, contributing 15.4 per cent of total export. The Cotton industry in above countries helps to political repression, economic stagnation, widespread poverty and environmental degradation. Structural change could encourage the growth of an industry that benefits rural farmers and the state equally. Without such a reform, it is hard to improve economic development, tackle poverty and promote political liberalization in the region. The major aim of this paper is to find out that why the Central Asian leadership refused to embark on the process of structural reform in the field of Cotton industry. It highlights how the operations of the cotton industry have been connected with socio-economic and environmental impacts in Central Asia.

Millions of the rural poor work for little or no reward growing and harvesting the crop. The considerable profits go either to the state or small elites with powerful political ties. Forced and child labor and other abuses are common.

This system can only work in an unreformed economy with little scope for competition, massive state intervention, uncertain or absent land ownership, and very limited rule of law. Given the benefits they enjoy, there is little incentive for powerful vested interests to engage in serious structural economic reform, which could undermine their lucrative business as well as eventually their political power. This system is only sustainable under conditions of political repression, which can be used to mobilize workers at less than market cost. Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are among the world’s most repressive states, with no free elections. Opposition activists and human rights defenders are subject to persecution.

This paper demonstrates how the cotton industry in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan contributes to political repression, economic stagnation, widespread poverty and environmental degradation.

Innovations and Reproductions in Cultures and Societies
(IRICS) Vienna, 9 - 11 december 2005

WEBDESIGN: Peter R. Horn 2005-09-21