FREE GEOPOLITICAL NEWSLETTER

uzbekistan  

For current reports go to EASY FINDER

UZBEKISTAN


 

 

In-depth Business Intelligence

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 9,949 9,713 11,300 91
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 420 450 550 173
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (date from the World Bank)

Books on Uzbekistan

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km) 
447,400 

Population 
26,410,416

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: 292- (26/04/05)

The Kyrgyz trauma
Events in Kyrgyzstan are having a profound impact in Uzbekistan. Uzbek leaders are worried about the fallout from the political upheaval in Georgia and Ukraine, where mass protests pushed incumbent authorities from power; but the fall-out from the revolution situation in Kyrgyzstan next door is what really has them scared now. A massive breach has been made in Central Asian tyranny, while Afghanistan, however turbulent, is moving in the democratic direction too, with elections earlier this year. 
The Kyrgyz tumult has potentially profound ramifications for Uzbekistan, given that the twin centres of revolutionary ferment in Kyrgyzstan - Osh and Jalal-Abad provinces - border restive Uzbek regions in the Ferghana Valley. Southern Kyrgyzstan is also the home to a substantial ethnic Uzbek minority.

The GUUAM factor
Uzbekistan is a member of a very salient body called GUUAM, whose members are Georgia, Uzbekistan, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova. Its most recent meeting was on April 22nd in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. 
It must have been in the minds of all the participants that since last year's meeting Ukraine has been added to Georgia as a member that has had a democratic revolution. Moldova has recently re-elected its communist party to government in reasonably fair elections. Only Azerbaijan in October 2003 and Uzbekistan just recently have indulged in patently rigged elections, the former to the presidency, the latter to parliament. Are they the next in line for democratic upheaval?
Both the Georgian and Ukrainian media have been speculating that GUUAM should be given a direction towards spreading democracy. Saakashvili, the Georgian president, even talked about the organisation having 'one more country' in its sights, by which he most probably meant Belarus under its notorious dictator Lukashenka. But this sort of talk must be alarming for the Azeri and Uzbek regimes, not exactly renowned for their liberalism and democracy.

Offical clampdown
The Uzbek regime is battening down the hatches. There will be no let up at all in its highly repressive course. It has certainly concluded that Akayev's mistake was to be too liberal. The Kyrgz president was indeed wooed by the West, with some success. US NGOs, such as Freedom House and the Soros Foundation played a vital role in the revolution. Tashkent is not going to put up with that sort of activity in Uzbekistan. Woe to its dissidents should they try anything on - prison and torture await them for sure.
Uzbek authorities introduced measures designed to discourage the ability of people to congregate in public places, and to increase the ability of officials to monitor the movements of citizens. In late 2004, reacting to burdensome government regulations, merchants rallied in several large and heated protests in provincial bazaars. To help prevent such unrest in Tashkent, law-enforcement officers have kept the open-air section of the Chorsu Bazaar closed since November. Authorities attribute the closure to the construction of a bridge located several hundred meters away from the bazaar. The bazaar was the scene of suicide bombings during the late March 2004 Islamic radical uprising. Its anniversary in March this year was the occasion for a particularly tight security operation.
The security measures have created new opportunities for corrupt practices. In the case of the Chorsu Bazaar, what was once a bustling social centre for peddlers and shoppers has since been reduced to a fenced lot containing a handful of merchants who can afford to pay bribes to the police. 
Throughout Tashkent, police have intensified enforcement of the propiska (residency permit) regime. The system, implemented by Joseph Stalin during the Soviet era, limits freedom of movement by imposing a residency requirement on those seeking to work legally and gain access to social services in a particular town or city.
In July 2004, following a series of suicide bombings outside the Prosecutor General's office and the US and Israeli embassies, police and mahalla committees swept the city and expelled those not officially registered as residents of Tashkent. A similar security sweep was carried out in Tashkent as Navruz approached. 
Possibly in response to the major role played by student activists in the recent revolutions in Georgia and Ukraine, the Karimov administration seems keen to keep students from gathering in public in the capital. Usually packed with buses of students from around the country, the parking lots and streets surrounding the Alisher Navoi Garden were nearly empty during this year's preparations for Navruz. The Navruz Pavilion, in the centre of the Garden, was active with preparations for the official concert and dancing celebration, but groundskeepers and event staff said that in comparison with previous years, this year's event would be much smaller. 
Even for foreign diplomats and dignitaries, invitations from the Tashkent city government were few and far between. Only a few Americans diplomats received invitations, not, it may be noted, British ones, after a significant diplomatic rumpus between London and Tashkent.

Play of Murray's story to open on the London stage
Uzbekistan is a grim Central Asian dictatorship, the convolutions of which are often difficult to fathom. There is one Westerner who claimed to have done so, the former UK ambassador to Tashkent, Craig Murray.
The experiences of Britain's former ambassador to Uzbekistan, who was ousted after false allegations that he offered visas for sex, drove an embassy car down a flight of steps and drank to excess, are to be turned into a play by a leading theatre producer in the west. 
He was recalled last autumn, but is opposing his former boss, Jack Straw, in his Blackburn constituency on May 5th, standing as an independent in the British general election. His chances are slim; but the hustings will give him the chance to clear his name and show up his opponent as, indeed, a Man of Straw.
Max Stafford-Clark is planning a dramatic reconstruction of Craig Murray's treatment by the Foreign Office for the London stage. The play, Talking to Terrorists, a co-production between Stafford-Clark's London-based company Out of Joint and the Royal Court Theatre, is expected to open in 2005. It is hoped that Jack Straw and prime minister, Tony Blair, will be invited to the First Night.
Edinburgh-born Murray was suspended from his post in Tashkent after publicly condemning human rights abuses by the Uzbek government. He was recalled to Britain last year and charged with 18 disciplinary offences. Although subsequently cleared of all allegations, he is still facing misconduct charges for speaking publicly about the dispute. 
"Craig has talked publicly about violence by the state against people, so it would be fascinating to have him talk about that," said Stafford-Clark, former artistic director of the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh and London's Royal Court. "We hope to meet him to discuss his experiences - what he says could be used as a text in the play, possibly with an actor playing him." 
Murray is suing the Foreign Office, claiming that he was falsely accused of trading visas for sex in an attempt to force him to resign. He has hired Gareth Peirce, the human rights lawyer, who will work alongside lawyers from Matrix Chambers, Cherie Booth's legal firm, on a no-win, no-fee basis.
He plans to force Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, to appear in court to explain his involvement in the case and to establish whether the American government put pressure on Downing Street to get rid of him. "I am more than happy to speak to Mr Stafford-Clark and give him some real life incidents he might want to put into his play, although there's something scary about the idea of someone playing me," he said. 
The diplomat, who spent his childhood in South Queensferry, has suffered a nervous breakdown and a pulmonary embolism in his lung, which has resulted in a serious heart condition. 
He was recalled to Britain last year and charged with 18 disciplinary offences. Although subsequently cleared of all allegations, he is still facing misconduct charges for speaking publicly about the dispute. The diplomat intends to sue the Foreign Office for bringing the "vexatious" disciplinary charges as part of a smear campaign to make him resign. 
He admitted to having an affair with Nadira Alieva, a 22-year-old Uzbek hairdresser. Fiona, his wife of 20 years, left him and returned to Britain with their children, Jamie, 15, and Emily, 9. 
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: "Craig will know our rules about outside employment and it would be normal for him to contact us about things that he does outside the office. This is the first we have heard about this. Once we have full details we can look into it."
For all his nervous disposition, Murray is clearly a fighter. Having embarrassed the Uzbek government, he intends to embarrass the British government, especially Straw and the Foreign Office.

Cotton and the child labour scandal
That Craig is right that appalling things are going on in Uzbekistan is shown by a harrowing story that has recently come to light.
When Fazliddin Akhrorov was ordered by officials in the Central Asian republic of Uzbekistan to give up his studies and pick cotton for three months, he at first refused. Threatened with expulsion from his institute, he was taken away. Within three weeks the healthy 16-year-old was dead. 
The authorities claimed Akhrorov, an agricultural student, had suffered a liver disease, but when his body was returned to his family it had bruises on the face and shoulders. Two years later his mother, Ugoloy Igamkula, still does not know what happened. She received no apology and no compensation. 
In the past two years several children and university students forced to work in the country's vast cotton fields have died in mysterious circumstances. "My son died at the hands of the state," said Igamkula. "He was either beaten to death or died because he was made to handle pesticides without proper protection. At first the authorities sought to cover up his death. I was told he was in hospital. I cooked him a meal and rushed to his bedside only to find out that he had already died." 
A damning report, issued by International Crisis Group, a Brussels-based think tank, claims that every year thousands of schoolchildren, some as young as seven, are forced into the fields of the former Soviet central Asian republics to pick cotton later sold to big western traders. 
The practice is most widespread in Uzbekistan, the world's fifth largest cotton exporter and one of the world's most repressive regimes. Illegal child labour is also present in Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. "All three countries outlaw child labour, and occasionally they issue declarations denying it exists," the report, The Curse of Cotton, claims. "Yet, during any given harvest, the cotton fields will be full of children, some very young."
Often the children are forced to spray dangerous chemicals with no protection and left to drink contaminated water. In many cases they are not paid. Those who are receive less than £50 for the entire season. Anyone refusing to take part can face fines, expulsion from school and beatings. 
A spokesman for Cargill, a US company with offices in London and Liverpool that buys cotton from Central Asia, said that to its knowledge children who picked cotton did so to help their parents during the harvest. Thomas Reinhart, who runs a Swiss family-owned company that is one of the biggest traders in Central Asian cotton, said he had never heard of the use of child labour in the region. "We buy our cotton from government agencies and don't know what happens out in the fields," he said. 
Ignorance is bliss.

« Top

ENERGY

China and Uzbekistan forge hydro power plant agreement


The China National Electric Equipment Corporation (CNEEC) is to supply equipment for the construction of three small hydroelectric power plants in Uzbekistan, Interfax News Agency reported.
The terms of the supply of the equipment to the Tupolang, Andizhan and Akhangaran hydro plants are currently being negotiated. It is expected that the contract will be signed in the second half of 2005. Uzbekistan will seek loans totalling US$39.9m from China for the construction of the three plants, including US$25m for the Tupolang plant, US$8.5m for the Andizhan plant and US$6.4m for the Akhangaran plant.

Zeromax to build 2 trunk gas pipes in Uzbekistan

US company, Zeromax LLC, is to build the Gazli-Sarymai and Gazli-Kagan trunk gas pipelines in Uzbekistan at a total cost of about 120m Euro, a source in Uzbekneftegaz said, Interfax News Agency reported.
According to the source, the new gas pipelines will connect the Bukhara-Khivinsky gas region with the northwest of the republic. The aim of the project is to increase exports of Uzbek gas to the north, particularly to Russia.
The Gazli-Sarymai pipeline will be 159km and cost about 100m Euro. Construction should begin this year and be completed in two years. The Gazli-Kagan pipe will be 48km and cost about 23m Euro. Construction began in April and should be completed by the end of this year. The source said the Uzbekneftegaz signed a contract with Zeromax LLC for this project at the end of last year. The project will be financed using Uzbekneftegaz funds. The total length of the trunk pipeline system in the republic amounts to about 13,000km.

« Top

MINERALS & METALS

Uzbekistan to offer 22% of steel mill to investors

Uzbekistan's State Property Committee has decided that only 22% of Uzmetkombinat, the country's only steel mill, will be offered to foreign investors instead of an originally planned 33%, a committee source said recently, Interfax News Agency reported.
Uzbekistan offered the 33% at a tender in March last year for 51.28m Euro, but the tender was called off towards the end of 2004 because no competitive bids had been received. The source said further attempts would be made to sell a stake in it to a foreign investor this year. According to the source, the government would retain a controlling 51% of what it believes to be a strategic enterprise instead of 40%. An international consortium led by Austria's CA Investmentbank AG has been advising the government on the Uzmetkombinat sale. Uzmetkombinat, which smelts scrap metal, has the capacity to produce 750,000 tonnes of steel per year. It smelted 602,160 tonnes of steel in 2004, up 24% from 2003.


« Top

 

« Back

 


 
Published by 
Newnations (a not-for-profit company)
PO Box 12 Monmouth 
United Kingdom NP25 3UW 
Fax: UK +44 (0)1600 890774
enquiries@newnations.com