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uzbekistan

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UZBEKISTAN


 

Key Economic Data 
 
  2002 2001 2000 Ranking(2002)
GDP
Millions of US $ 9,713 11,300 13,800 86
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 450 550 620 164
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (date from the World Bank)

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REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km) 
447,400 

Population 
25,981,647

Principal 
ethnic groups 
Uzbeks 71.4%
Russians 8.3%
Tajiks 4.7%
Kazaks 4.1%

Capital 
Tashkent 

Currency 
Uzbek Sum

President 
Islam Karimov

  

Update No: 285- (01/10/04)

US ally
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 Brussels-based think-tank. 
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 Novostei newspaper. 
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 authorities."
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 address. 
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 law." 
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. 

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ENERGY

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 for drilling. 
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 million tonnes.

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 reported. 
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 materials. 
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%. 

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FOREIGN LOANS

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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