Books on Uzbekistan
Update No: 285- (01/10/04)
The relationship between the U.S and the government of Uzbekistan is an example
of the diplomatic compromises required by an overemphasis on security. Though
acknowledged by the State Department as being undemocratic and a place where
"the police force and the intelligence service use torture as a routine
investigation technique", the regime of Islam Karimov has enjoyed a close
relationship with the United States ever since allowing U.S. forces to use the
country as a base for operations in neighbouring Afghanistan -- even signing a
Declaration of Strategic Partnership in 2002.
As a State Department backgrounder puts it, Karimov's Uzbekistan is "a
stable, moderate force in a turbulent region." Or, as Franklin D. Roosevelt
is alleged to have said of Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza (and as others
later did say of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet), "He may be a son of a
bitch, but at least he's our son of a bitch."
The five ex-Soviet "stans" rushed to sign up to European democracy
clubs like the OSCE after the fall of communism. Since then the same leaders
have won elections and referenda extending their rule in votes that the West has
not judged free and fair.
"Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are among the world's most repressive states.
There is not even a small level of pluralism there," said David Lewis,
Central Asia project director for the International Crisis Group, a
While Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan have fledgling political opposition parties,
some backed by new business elites pushing for change, radical Islamic
opposition has sprung up in Uzbekistan where secular parties have no say.
Suicide bombings and shoot-outs with police in Uzbekistan this year undermined
President Islam Karimov's assertion that his policy of jailing thousands of
dissident Muslims ensured stability in Central Asia's most populous state. Some
7,000 are incarcerated.
"Karimov says he is looking for the cause of terrorism when in fact he
doesn't want to search for the cause - the extreme repression of religious
dissent," said Arkady Dubnov, a Central Asia expert at Russia's Vremya
The Uzbek violence shattered five years of apparent stability in a region often
dubbed "volatile" but usually calm. "This short-term stability
... is in fact feeding instability in the long term by keeping most of the
population out of the decision-making process and not allowing discontent to
surface in a legal and constitutional way," said Lewis.
NGOs under threat
Life has never been easy for foreign NGOs in Central Asia. But lately, it
seems it is getting even harder.
In Uzbekistan, the government has withdrawn the registration of some foreign
NGOs and openly criticized the work of others. It is an attitude that seems to
be contagious across the region.
David Lewis says: "Unfortunately, of course, in several countries in
Central Asia there's considerable pressure on [NGOs], particularly in Uzbekistan
and Turkmenistan. And they often operate under difficult restrictions. There's a
fairly wide spectrum of NGOs and often those subjects have a certain political
element to them inevitably, which is why they often face some problems from the
Ian Bremmer is president of the US-based Eurasia Group. He says the political
nature of NGO work in Central Asia is clear when compared with their role in
Afghanistan. "It [NGO work in Central Asia] is, in a sense, far more
politicised. We are not talking about nearly as much reconstruction, which is
the focus in Afghanistan. In Central Asia we're talking much more about problems
with openness, the media, political reforms, helping to create a civil
society," Bremmer said.
Given the nature of governments in Central Asia, some might wonder why they
allow foreign NGOs to work there at all. Bremmer explains why many foreign NGOs
were originally allowed to operate. "These organizations were allowed to be
formed in the beginning because they were felt to be part of a package that had
to be accepted to gain the interest and the willingness to deal with these
countries of the West. They didn't want to be ostracized like, say, a Belarus or
Turkmenistan," Bremmer said.
Now, however, things appear to be changing. Because of the region's wealth in
hydrocarbon resources and its strategic location, Bremmer says Central Asian
governments no longer feel the need to endure criticism from these NGOs and
their perceived meddling in internal affairs.
He says that these governments now believe that the West will not abandon the
region purely as a protest at the lack of human rights and freedom.
Earlier this week, authorities in Uzbekistan temporarily suspended Internews, an
international media organization. Uzbekistan's Justice Ministry said the
organization had failed to register its logo, inform the ministry about
activities outside the capital, accurate number of board members and a change of
Alex Lupis works for the Committee to Protect Journalists as the senior program
coordinator for Europe and Central Asia.
"Internews works on two fronts. On one front, they're training radio and
television journalists and clearly their work is having an impact by helping the
independent broadcast media be more professional, more effective in Uzbekistan
and that is definitely a threat to the government because they feel like the
media might not be as politically subservient as it had in the past. Secondly,
Internews has also been doing an incredibly wonderful job documenting press
freedom abuses by the government in Uzbekistan," Lupis said.
In another recent case, the New York-based Soros Foundation's Open Society
Institute (OSI) was denied registration in Uzbekistan. The Uzbek Justice
Ministry said the organization was guilty of "crude breaches of the
The Uzbek government has also recently warned other NGOs about their activities.
Ulughbek Ismailov, head of Uzbekistan's State Agency on Media and Information in
the western Khorezm Province, recently voiced his feelings about foreign NGOs
"If they [NGOs] want to open a private television or radio station or a
newspaper they are welcome, but they need to present the documents required by
law. Then they can work freely. But if they want to get involved in government
politics, their newspaper or television station is going to get politicized. I
think they need to stay away from politics and just give interesting
information," Ismailov said.
Analysts say governments are growing impatient with foreign NGOs that help
opposition parties and the media to publicize the shortcomings of officials.
Although Uzbekistan has parliamentary elections in late December, the Justice
Ministry has yet to register any genuine opposition parties.
Eriell starts drilling at Uzbek fields
The Czech company Eriell Corporation has started to implement an exploration
drilling project at the Buzakhor and East Buzakhor gas condensate fields in
Kashkadarya region in Uzbekistan, Bakhtier Fazylov, head of the company's office
in Uzbekistan, said, Interfax News Agency reported.
He said that under a contract signed with the national holding company
Uzbekneftegaz in July 2004, Eriell should drill 28 wells and prepare the fields
for turnkey development within three and a half years.
Fazylov refused to disclose the value of the contract for reasons of commercial
secrecy, but he said that the company would drill the wells at below world
prices. He said that at world prices, the cost of one exploration well amounts
to about US$3.5 million.
Under the conditions of the contract, the Czech side should supply part of the
drilling equipment and materials, and also use new technological developments
Fazylov said that most of the drilling equipment and materials will be bought in
Russia, and an agreement has been reached with OAO Uralmash to buy six sets of
drilling equipment. In the near future the company plans to sign a contract with
ZAO Pipe Metallurgy Company to supply drilling pipes.
Uzbekneftegaz will supply some of the drilling equipment and will finance about
70% of the project using its own funds and the rest with credits from Czech
banks under guarantees from the holding company.
The company plans to export natural gas produced at the Buzahor and East
Buzakhor gas condensate fields. These fields have been explored, but have not
been developed to date and information on reserves and on proposed production
volumes has not been disclosed.
Uzbekneftegaz is taking steps to increase exploration and operational drilling
work. The company plans to increase drilling work at oil and gas fields in
Uzbekistan by 33% year-on-year to 220,000 meters in 2004.
Operational and exploration drilling by structures in the holding company in
January-August 2004 increased 4.9% to 128,000 metres. This increase is mainly
due to modernization and upgrading of drilling equipment.
Inviting a foreign service company to drill exploration wells is one of the ways
of implementing this program.
Uzbekneftegaz, the country's oil and gas monopoly, was formed in 1998 and
includes eight companies. It is currently being restructured to attract a
foreign investor to its
privatisation. Uzbekneftegaz gas production slipped 0.3% last year to 57.481
billion cubic meters. Production of oil and gas condensate dropped 0.9% to 7.134
Uzbek-U.S. JV launches aluminum products plant in Tashkent
The Uzbek-US joint venture Roison Electronics has launched operations of a
US$1.2 million plant for the making of composite aluminium panels in Tashkent,
the plant's general director, Doniyar Rakhmatullayev, said, Interfax News Agency
Annual output will be 800,000 square metres of 'Alubond' panels designed for use
in construction under licensing from Alumax Industrial Co. of the United States.
A significant percentage is destined for export, Rakhmatullayev said.
Low-density polyethylene (300 tonnes per month) produced at the Shurtan Gas
Chemical Complex and aluminium alloys from Tajikistan will be used as raw
Roison Building Technology, wholly owned by the joint venture, has been set up
to run the plant. The Uzbek bank Pakhtabank has provided a project loan of
US$1.2 million under a credit line from Asian Development Bank, and the joint
venture's own funds have also been used.
Roison Electronics was set up in 2003 to make household electronics. Its
founders are Ridal Company of the United States with a 51% stake and private
investors in Uzbekistan who hold the other 49%.
World Bank to give Uzbekistan US$40m for healthcare
The board of directors of the World Bank have approved a loan for Uzbekistan of
US$40m to implement a healthcare project in the republic, a source in the World
Bank in Tashkent, said, Interfax News Agency reported.
The project, going by the name of Health-II is included in the program for
financial cooperation between the World Bank and Uzbekistan in 2002-2004. The
aim of this program is to develop primary healthcare in cities, and to improve
financing and management systems.
The loan will be paid out from the resources of the International Development
Association, part of the World Bank group, as an interest-free loan for 35 years
with a 10-year grace period.
The Health-I project, started in 1998 with World Bank participation, will be
completed by the end of this year. The aim of the project was to improve the
work of ambulance services, strengthen financial structures and manage
healthcare systems in rural areas in Navoii, Syrdarya, Khorezm and Fergan
regions and Karakalpak autonomous republic.
The World Bank paid out US$30m for this US$69.7m project and the Uzbek
government provided US$39.7m. The World Bank loan was provided for 20 years with
a five year grace period, at the standard interest rate of about 7%.
ABD allocates US$30m to support reforms in Uzbekistan
The Asian Bank of Development (ABD) has allocated a stabilisation loan of US$30m
to Uzbekistan, which will be used to realise the programme of development and
reform the republic's school education, Itar-Tass News Agency reported recently.
The bank plans to allocate for these purposes US$40m more in 2005-2006. There
are about 10,000 schools in Uzbekistan and a tenth of them will get grants of up
to US$3,000. The money is allocated to purchase school equipment and furniture,
as well as to support pupils from low-income families.
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