Mirziyoyev putting Uzbekistan among leaders

Victoria Panfilova, columnist of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, specially for Vestnik Kavkaza
Mirziyoyev putting Uzbekistan among leaders

The annual address delivered by President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev on January 24 was devoted to internal issues of the country's development. The head of state declared 2020 the year of development of science, education and digital economy. Priorities in the international direction were also identified - Russia, the U.S., China, European and Asian countries, cooperation with neighbors and within the framework of integration associations.

Mirziyoyev summed up the results of the first reforms in the country and announced strategic plans for the future: developing production with the government reduced take, establishing a productive atmosphere for the further development of the investment sphere and favorable conditions for entrepreneurs, developing employment opportunities as a means of combating poverty, developing medical services and others.

The head of state noted that the inflow of foreign direct investment increased over the past year to $4.2 billion, which is $3.1 billion more than in 2018. The share of investments in GDP reached 37%. "For the first time, our country received an international credit rating and successfully placed $1 billion worth of bonds on the global financial market," Mirziyoyev noted. He emphasized that Uzbekistan’s position in the credit risk rating of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has improved for the first time in 10 years. According to experts, this will encourage foreign investors to invest in new development projects of Uzbekistan.

The leader of Uzbekistan emphasized the importance of supporting small and medium enterprises - the engines of the country's economic growth: "As a result of reforms carried out last year, 93 thousand new business entities were created, which is almost 2 times more than in 2018." According to him, measures are being developed to improve the country's position in the Doing Business ranking. The president expects Uzbekistan to take 50th place in the World Bank's Doing Business ranking. It can happen on the basis of the plans to commission new 206 large facilities that will be implemented as part of an investment partnership. As noted in the address, the gradual payment of taxes will be introduced for the first time in the tax sphere.

Mirziyoyev made a special emphasis on the problem of corruption. "Until all sectors of the population and the best specialists are involved in the fight against corruption, until our whole society is, figuratively speaking, vaccinated with a 'vaccine of honesty', we cannot achieve our goals. From eliminating the consequences of corruption, we must proceed to early warning," the head of state noted and suggested creating an anti-corruption agency.

"The president’s idea of establishing an anti-corruption body is important for economic and social growth, strengthening the country's positive image," Honorary Consul of Uzbekistan in Campania and Molise (Italy) Vittorio Giorgi said.

Attention was also paid to social reforms to radically improve the people's life, which have been carried out on the basis of the 'Human interests come first' principle over the past three years. For example, Mirziyoyev proposes to reduce poverty not by issuing social benefits, but by stimulating entrepreneurial activity, mobilizing the population's abilities and potential and creating jobs. "The population and entrepreneurs will be given wide access to microfinance services and financial resources, to public procurement," the Uzbek leader suggested. Those who do not have entrepreneurial ability will be offered professional retraining. The government will allocate $700 million for these purposes.

"Over the past three years, Uzbekistan has undergone a large-scale transformation in all spheres of life, both political and economic. But the most important thing was mentioned by the president: "The fear has gone." The deputies were afraid to say anything, therefore all proposed laws were adopted unanimously, without discussion. Nut now they can express their opinions, criticize certain actions of the government. In a short time, from a closed country, Uzbekistan has turned into one of the advanced states in the post-Soviet space, which was recently reported by The Economist, a British magazine. Its positions in many rankings are growing at a fast pace, doctor of economic sciences, professor and corresponding member of the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan, Chief Researcher of the Institute of Market Problems of Russian Academy of Sciences Nabi Ziyadullayev told Vestnik Kavkaza.

Another important point that was voiced in the address concerns citizenship, Nabi Zayadullaev said. Those who have been living in Uzbekistan since 1995 will automatically receive citizenship. There are 50 thousand such people in the republic. "I think this position should be extended to compatriots from Uzbekistan living abroad - in Russia, the U.S., Germany, Turkey. Since compatriots, wherever they are, think about the republic, work for the republic and help promote its authority," the expert noted.

Education is one of the address' main directions. "2020 was declared the year of science, education, the digital economy. Science didn't receive any attention for 20 years. The Academy of Sciences in Uzbekistan was dying. Now it has not only revived, but also increased support from the state, the communication with world science has renewed. Now they plan to raise the level of cooperation with foreign universities. Entering the international arena is very important. Over the past year, dozens of branches of foreign universities, including Russian ones, have been opened in Uzbekistan. Even MGIMO has its branch in Tashkent," Nabi Ziyadullaev stressed. Uzbekistan is among the CIS countries, which put forward digitalization, the transition to information technology as one of the main tasks.

The place of Uzbekistan in the international arena was also defined in the address. Close relations with neighbors will continue, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said. "We should further strengthen friendship, good neighborliness and strategic partnership with the countries of Central Asia in all areas," the head of Uzbekistan emphasized.

Political, trade, economic, investment, transport, communication and cultural ties with Russia, China, the U.S., Japan, South Korea, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the EU and Asia, with all authoritative international organizations will develop. "The chairmanship of Uzbekistan in the CIS in 2020 is of historical importance for us. We will use every opportunity to expand economic cooperation in the Commonwealth, increase the effectiveness of the decisions adopted by the organization and further strengthen humanitarian ties between the participating countries," the president promised. "Already in the next decade, Uzbekistan will become the second country in the CIS in terms of population. As of now, 33 million people live in the country. At a time when there is a decline everywhere, even Russian President Vladimir Putin recently said that Russia will face a demographic pitfall, a decrease in the birth rate, Uzbekistan is growing. Its role is growing both in Central Asia and within the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization," Ziyadullaev believes.

As for the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), Mirziyoyev noted that the decision to join the association will be made taking into account national interests after a thorough study of this issue by experts and specialists, as well as after receiving the opinion of the Legislative Chamber deputies.

According to the Russian scientist, the issue of Uzbekistan’s entry into the EEU is being carefully studied. There are pros and cons. Tashkent did not like the statement of Russia's Valentina Matvienko on Uzbekistan's entry into the EEU, as about the resolved issue. "The phased interaction of Uzbekistan with the EEU would be right. First, they should discuss strengthening bilateral ties, removing customs barriers and other problems. The Republic is watching how things are in the EEU. There are issues between Russia and Belarus. Uzbekistan should not rush to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, when the republic joined the Eurasian organization, but then quit. This issue requires in-depth examination, and I have no doubt that the leadership of the republic will make the right decision. In any case, it will be in the interests of the people of Uzbekistan," Nabi Ziyadullaev said.