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UZBEKISTAN


 

 

In-depth Business Intelligence

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: 288- (01/01/05)

Signs show Uzbek stability buckling under economic stress
Uzbekistan's social order is showing signs of buckling under economic stress. Authorities in Tashkent have consistently insisted that international terrorists are responsible for the spasms of violence that have shaken the country this year. But recent rioting in the Ferghana Valley shows that discontent over the country's sclerotic economy is prompting ordinary Uzbeks to vent their rage. 
In what was the most serious expression of popular discontent in recent memory in Uzbekistan, thousands of Uzbeks staged protests in Ferghana and Kashkadarya provinces on November 1-2. The most serious rioting occurred in the Ferghana Valley city of Kokand, where a crowd estimated at about 6,000-strong burned two police cars and beat three tax inspectors and a police officer. Less violent and smaller protests were reported in other cities in the valley, including in Margilan and Ferghana City. 
The disturbances were sparked by official efforts to crack down on small-time entrepreneurs, mostly traders who operated in open-air bazaars. New legislation requires traders to obtain a government license to sell their goods, while prohibiting them from obtaining goods from intermediary wholesalers. The imposition of these new regulations, heaped on top of an already burdensome tariff policy, is seen by most traders as threatening their ability to operate. Adding to the outrage, tax inspectors, in their attempt to enforce the new rules, reportedly engaged in the widespread and arbitrary confiscation of goods. 
A more serious confrontation in Kokand may have been averted by Mayor Maruf Usmonov's pledge to address the rioters' complaints. However, the region's new governor, Shermat Nurmatov, has taken subsequent steps suggesting a forceful response could meet future expressions of popular discontent. Nurmatov reportedly removed seven district chiefs, installing in their place, in most instances, officials with experience in the state's law-enforcement apparatus. 
The recent rioting undermines repeated assertions by President Islam Karimov's administration that unrest is solely the product of an international terrorist conspiracy. In particular, the government has maintained that a global Islamic radical network was responsible for four days of street fighting in March, and for a series of suicide bombings in late July. In both cases, officials have not produced concrete evidence to substantiate their allegations. Many political analysts contend that the root causes for Uzbek violence are primarily domestic in nature. 
Over the past five years, Uzbek authorities have conducted a campaign to eradicate unsanctioned forms of Islamic religious expression in the country. Human rights groups estimate that at least 7,000 believers have been imprisoned in connection with the crackdown, which has intensified in the wake of the March and July incidents. A particular target of the crackdown is Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an underground group that espouses the non-violent overthrow of Karimov's government. 
Uzbek courts in recent months have sentenced dozens of alleged Hizb members to lengthy prison terms for attempting "to overthrow Uzbekistan's constitutional order." The crackdown, however, does not appear to be an effective in containing the movement. Some political observers suggest that the government's restrictive policies do more to fill the movement's ranks than they do to deplete them. One Hizb representative, a Tashkent resident who identified himself only as Ulugbek, predicted that a popular backlash to the crackdown could eventually consume the government. 
"More and more people join us," Ulugbek said. "They are desperate. They want justice. They have little left to lose and they are starting to lose their fear." 
There is circumstantial evidence suggesting that the country's economic distress is developing into a source of terrorism. Specifically, mostly anecdotal data shows that Uzbekistan is experiencing a significant rise in its suicide rate - a phenomenon that many experts link directly to the country's economic decline. At the same time, suicide bombings featured prominently in the March and July violence. This has prompted some political analysts to speculate that Islamic radical groups - regardless of whether they are home-grown or foreign in origin -- may be trying to harness what is largely economically related despair for political ends. One sociologist, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Uzbekistan now has no shortage of candidates to become suicide bombers. 
During a news conference in September, Karimov himself voiced concern about the phenomenon. Without offering any proof, the Uzbek leader claimed that Islamic radicals were operating "camps [devoted to] training suicide bombers." 
Officials deny that the suicide rate in Uzbekistan is a cause for concern. Feruza Alimova, a top official at the Ministry of Health, fixed the rate at 7.8 per 100,000, according to figures compiled in 1999. By comparison, recent statistics show the suicide rate in neighbouring Kazakhstan approaches 40 per 100,000. Russia's rate is close to that of Kazakhstan's. 
Independent experts believe Uzbek official figures to significantly undercount the number of those taking their own lives. Getting a precise reading on the suicide rate in Uzbekistan is virtually impossible, as the government has deemed such data to be a state secret. However, a review of police reports for the first seven months of 2004 in Angren, a city of roughly 160,000 near Tashkent, found that there were at least 34 deaths ruled suicides during that timeframe. The data indicates that the local suicide rate far exceeds 30 per 100,000. 
Even if Islamic radicals are unable to exploit those with suicidal tendencies to carry out future bombing missions, reports on the sharp increase in the suicide rate should serve as a warning to Uzbek authorities that societal unrest is brewing. Karimov's administration, however, has steadfastly refused to recognize any connection between government policy and expressions of popular discontent. 

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AVIATION

Uzbekistan Khavo Iullari passenger transport up 11%

Uzbekistan Khavo Iullari, the national airline, carried 682,200 passengers in the first nine months the last year, up 10.7 per cent for the same period in the previous year, the state statistics department said recently, Interfax News Agency reported.
Passenger turnover was up 19.1 per cent to 3.412bn passenger-kilometres. Uzbekistan Khavo Ilullari is the airline monopoly in Uzbekistan. Cargo transport shrank 3.5 per cent to 4,500 tonnes and cargo turnover increased 27 per cent to 87.5m tonne-kilometres. Turnover was up due to increased cargo transport on international flights. The commercial load ratio was down 1.4 percentage points to 4.3 per cent. The airline carried 822,200 passengers in 2003, down 3.7 per cent from 2002. Passenger turnover was up 1.1 per cent in 2003 to 3.956bn passenger-kilometres.

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FOREIGN COOPERATION

Karimov, Niyazov sign cooperation treaty

The presidents of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, Islam Karimov and Saparmurat Niyazov respectively, signed a treaty of friendship, cooperation and confidence-building measures, Interfax News Agency reported.
The signing ceremony took place following talks between the two countries' delegations in Bukhara recently.
In addition to the treaty, two inter-government agreements emerged introducing simplified travel regulations for citizens living in border areas and people working at enterprises along the border. Among other issues, the agenda for the negotiations included prospects for Uzbek-Turkmen cooperation, regional security, the fight against international terrorism, and the situation in Central Asia and Afghanistan, the presidents said.
Karimov also presented Niyazov with a car produced by the UZ-Daewoo joint venture. Commenting on trade and business ties between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, Karimov said representatives of the two nations would hold trade talks in the near future.
"We want Uzbek products to be sold in Turkmenistan and Turkmen goods to be available on the Uzbek market," he said. Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan established diplomatic relations in January 1993, the Uzbek Foreign Ministry said. More than 100 bilateral documents have been signed between the two countries. Their commission for bilateral cooperation was set up in 1996. Last year's trade turnover between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan stood at €89.5m. This figure totalled €146.5m in the first nine months of last year. 

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