A Country Report and Profile
Alfiya G. Mirzagalamova firstname.lastname@example.org
Jason C. Holman jholman@indinanaedu
Dmitri Maslitchenko email@example.com
The concept of transition of the Republic of Uzbekistan to the market economy consists of five principles formulated by its President Islam Karimov:
1. Economy should have priority over politics. Economic reforms should not follow the lead of political processes.
2. The State is the main reformer. The representatives of legally elected authorities have to determine priorities and pursue balanced policy of no social shocks.
3. Along with economic reforms it is necessary to create a system of social protection of the Republic population especially of most vulnerable groups.
4. Superiority of Law and Constitution.
5. Stage by stage movement to the market economy. The transition to next stage only after the current stage targets have been met..
I. Political and Economic Background
To understand the politics of Uzbekistan it is important to delve into it=s most recent history. The leader from 1959-1983 was Sharaf Rashidov, who ruled in a quasi-feudal fashion, much like the newly elected leader. Rashidov kept the USSR content through a combination of patronage, corruption, and repressive behavior. Once Mikhail Gorbachev was elected, Rashidov was the prime target for his drive to eliminate corruption. Although there was an upsurge of national identity among the Uzbeks and a feeling of victimization by the thousands of corrupt officials who where soon imprisoned, incredibly through more repression the elections for new leaders would go unopposed. The Republic of Uzbekistan declared its independence from the former Soviet Union on August 31, 1991. Although it was not recognized by the United States until December 25, 1992. Uzbekistan is a member of the United Nations and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Although Glasnost led to many open media discussions of the environment and ethnic issues, the elections held in 1990 were one-sided. The main opposition party was not allowed to stand, therefore leaving many communist candidates to be elected. Islam Karimov was first elected President in 1990 by the Supreme Soviet and later was reelected by a popular vote in 1991.
In 1995 Karimov held a national referendum which would extend his term into the year 2000. He had 99% of the electorate=s support. Karimov proclaims he is a supporter of AEastern Democracy.@ He stresses the importance of stability of eastern democracy over it=s western counterpart. The stability that Karimov suggests many believe is just a ploy for Karimov to use his dictatorship power to cling to the old world status. Karimov is one of the strongest supporters of continued cooperation among the Soviet Republics. Karimov supported the new Union Treaty in spring of 1991 and did not oppose the August 1991 coup in Moscow. Once the coup collapsed Uzbekistan declared independence. Karimov proclaims Uzbekistan is a multiparty system, yet the Erk (Freedom) Democratic Party, the Birlik (Unity) People=s Movement (BPM) and the Islamic rebirth Party (IRP) have been banned.
Policy makers still remain suspicious of unregulated market mechanisms, although Karimov officially commits to a market-oriented reform. Prices were slowly liberalized and the new trade policies are less harmful toward exports. The import tariffs proposed in 1993 are preferential toward CIS communities and extra low tariffs toward Central Asian countries. It is going to be very difficult for him to explain why many of the neighboring Central Asian countries are becoming richer through liberalization and privatization while Uzbekistan continues to stay stable, but poorer then the other nations. Karimov stresses stability as a reason why Uzbekistan has not seen the high inflation rates characteristic to other CIS communities in transition.
2Karimov gives little mention to human rights. He believes that economic stability is necessary for socio-political stability. In his new book, Along the Road of Deepening Economic Reform, Karimov states, Apreparation, discussion and adoption of fundamental laws regulating and providing guarantees of human rights and freedoms, rights and freedoms of public organizations and freedom of conscience and religion have been something principally new in practical law making in this country.@ He also briefly mentions the women=s rights and acknowledges their special role as Awomen-mothers@ and presses for better child care provisions.
3At independence, the economy was dominated by cotton production. Uzbekistan hoped to benefit from this by selling the cotton on the international market, but the early 1990s were a time of depressed prices on world cotton markets. This created a dispute with Russia, which responded by seeking to purchase cotton on the world market. Uzbekistan lost a considerable amount of revenue due to this conflict with Russia. Eventually the two countries reached an agreement to barter Uzbek cotton for Russian petroleum products.
Other important agricultural products include grain, fruit, vegetables and natural silk from cocoons. The main problem of Uzbekistan is that about three-fifths of the country is desert or semi-arid desert: almost all cultivated land must be irrigated. This has resulted in the gradual drying up of the Aral Sea. By the 90's the available water supply had been exhausted to the point that there was no possibility of increasing the amount of land used for agricultural purposes. Grain production only covers a quarter of Uzbekistan=s total consumption. Therefore Uzbekistan relies heavily on imports from countries such as the United States to support their supply of grain. Uzbekistan complains that the USSR destroyed it=s grain-growing capacity in order to create the cotton monoculture. This has remained a very difficult obstacle for Uzbekistan and grain continues to be a major import.
4Uzbekistan=s other primary product exports include gas and minerals. Uzbekistan has few energy sources besides gas and untapped hydro power. Although a major oil field was recently discovered in the Fergana Valley in 1992. Uzbekistan is the largest importer of oil by all the CARs. The most accessible mineral export is gold, of which Uzbekistan was the USSR=s second-largest producer. Joint ventures are bringing foreign technology to exploit Uzbekistan gold mines. Other mineral deposits include silver, lead, copper, zinc, and tungsten. Uzbekistan=s minerals have a low ore content, which suggests that it would not be as valuable on the world market.
5After World War II, Soviet resources were concentrated on rebuilding industrial enterprises in European areas. With less investment the growth rate of Uzbekistans industry declined. There was a long trend of falling industrial growth rates. Manufacturing industry in Uzbekistan was originally developed in close relation to its primary product base which of course was cotton and fruits and vegetables. Machinery for the cotton sector was a major output and food processing industries were also important. These are the only two substantial forms of manufacturing in Uzbekistan. This is somewhat disturbing considering the large amounts of resources that are available.
6The general problem was of lack technical ability and low standards of quality. The main approach to correct this problem was to encourage joint ventures. Many joint venture agreements were signed in 1992 and 1993, but there was little actual foreign investment. There was also a problem with Uzbekistan=s communication capabilities. In 1993 a joint venture was formed with the Turkish company, Teletas, to install seventy thousand lines.
Uzbekistan also would like to become the hub of Central Asia. When the Aeroflot fleet was shared out after the dismemberment of the USSR, Uzbekistan utilized its share of the planes productively to earn vast amounts of hard currency. It created an international network in the spring of 1993 with the goal of making Tashkent a hub for budget and travel between Europe and Asia. Flights would be established to Karachi, Delhi, Kuala, Lumpur, Bangkok, Beijing, Frankfort, and London. Israel provided training assistance to Uzbekistan Airways, and the airline raised its credibility by purchasing several Airbuses.
Economic reform in Uzbekistan has been very slow. Until 1994 Mr. Karimov opposed reform. Since then he has had to start some reforms to obtain IMF backing for his stabilization program and to get World Bank financing. Uzbekistan has been officially committed to economic reform since independence. The government has favored gradual change, and the pace has become increasingly slower as the years have went on. Labor market and enterprise reform have been limited, and indeed the ultimate reason behind Uzbekistans slow price liberalization has been to maintain the value of real wages and subsidies. The government has promised to keep wage and benefit increases ahead of future price rises.
7Privatization in Uzbekistan has progressed extremely slow. Karimov dominates economic policy; he has issued a raft of decrees that are on occasion contradictory, but aim to convince the multilateral institutions that reform is taking place. The first form of privatization took place in 1994. The process lacked transparency, was corrupt and resulted in Mr Karimov=s allies owning the viable firms. Other obstacles are that land liberalization ahe