The new Uzbekistan: a model for reforms in Central Asia

Analysis of the reforms undertaken in Uzbekistan by Shavkat Mirziyoyev five years ago shows that a new model of society and relations with the state and the market is being forged. Aiming at a model that ensures the well-being of the population, they are based on the involvement of everyone in the development of the country. This model is intended to constitute a solid base for the mobilization of the strong potential and resources of the company. If the path chosen by Uzbekistan is complex, it seems to date that it is effective.

In-depth economic reforms

The first important step of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev was to abandon the system of governance in place for 25 years and to put in place a reform program, called “strategy of action”.

The reform process, which started in 2016-2017, aimed to activate new factors of economic growth – improving the investment climate, expanding export potential, intensifying foreign trade and strengthening macroeconomic stability. The important steps in this direction have been the liberalization of the foreign exchange market, the simplification of visas, the transition to a fixed income tax scale of 12%. But also the reduction of a number of administrative costs linked to business. With the participation of foreign experts, in 2017 alone, 18 free economic zones and 77 small industrial zones, as well as 10 technoparks were created in the country, which contributed to the accelerated development of the regions of the republic.

The liberalization of the economy, proclaimed as the priority of the new leadership of the country, proved impossible without a profound modernization of the economic system. In this regard, the National Project Management Agency was created to increase the level of consistency in the process of economic reforms and to introduce modern information management systems. In accordance with the presidential decree of 2019, the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Trade, responsible for the implementation of a unified investment policy of the State, coordinates the attraction of foreign investments and cooperation with institutions international financial institutions.

A change of mind

Among the changes observed in the socio-political life of Uzbekistan in recent years, special attention has been paid to promoting an active role of citizens in public life. In this regard, it can be noted that freedom of expression is developing. Indeed, citizens are beginning to speak openly about their problems with government agencies, which tends to reduce the distance that has separated for many years administrators and civil servants.

It is in this spirit that the best possible representation of the government is aimed at through a model of civil servants in line with the grievances of all levels of Uzbek society.

Significantly, there have been dramatic changes in the minds of the Uzbeks. The citizens who had been living under internal censorship for several years, therefore warmly welcomed the transparency put forward by the President and expressed their desire for change. Moreover, thanks to these reforms, citizens are moving from the traditional role of spectators to that of active participants in changes in society. It is undeniable that a critical spirit has emerged in Uzbek society.

Another marker, in a country where more than 60% of the population is made up of young people, only the new generations can meet various challenges and create a new society, moreover in a rapidly developing world. This approach is also based on strategic objectives such as betting on the intelligence and potential of young people. Recently, the level of tertiary education coverage in the country has almost tripled to 25%, where four years ago the figure was only 9%. This objective was achieved through the opening of new universities – including branches of major foreign universities – and the organization of part-time and evening teaching. Another important decision in the higher education system of Uzbekistan is the granting this year of academic freedom to thirty major universities in the country.

A foreign policy in the process of normalization

In another area, there have been major changes in the field of external migration in recent years. This is directly linked to the management and liberalization of migration processes. We know that Uzbekistan is a country with a large workforce because of the youth of its population. Until recently, however, the country had not established cooperation on the safe and orderly organization of migration processes with recipient countries. During the past period, twelve normative and legal acts directly or indirectly regulating the industry have been adopted.

In this regard, it can be said that the priority of Tashkent’s foreign policy is to establish equality-oriented relations with foreign countries and directly ensure the interests of its people. This results in the creation of favorable conditions for investors or the provision of assistance to Uzbek citizens in difficult circumstances in foreign countries.

It is a fact that relations with neighbors have improved and foreign trade with many countries has intensified, favored by the liberalization of the foreign exchange market and the reduction of barriers to foreign trade. These changes increased exports from $ 12.1 billion in 2016 to $ 17.4 billion in 2019.

At the same time, arguably one of the most important achievements of the country’s foreign policy over the past period is the creation of an atmosphere of dialogue, cooperation and good neighborly relations. In this way, Tashkent created a common pole of attraction in Central Asia. It must be said that Uzbekistan does not claim leadership individual, but seeks the harmonious development of the whole region. Such an approach of the Uzbek leader towards his neighbors can be seen as a model aimed at mutual benefit and common success.

Finally, in the search for a new model of development, the republic has come a long way in a short period of time, having made significant inroads in various areas of reform and liberalization of the economy since 2017. Over the past three years, the position of the republic in international indices such as the Doing Business index, the world innovation index, the economic freedom index, the global competitiveness index, the corruption perception index has significantly progressed.

Unlike the vast majority of countries around the world during the difficult period of the pandemic crisis, Uzbekistan has managed to maintain a positive dynamic of economic growth and to prevent an increase in unemployment on a large scale. These multiple developments invite to closely follow the Uzbek model.