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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
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

Update No: 326 - (28/02/08)

Karimov the dominatrix
President Islam Karimov won Uzbekistan's December 23 presidential poll in a landslide, gaining 88% of the votes, according the Uzbek election commission. This was very much an official decision. Karimov, who is 69, has headed the former Soviet republic since 1989, and became the president of independent Uzbekistan in 1991. 

He had his powers extended for five more years by a referendum in 1995, and he was re-elected for yet another five-year term in 2000. In 2002, another referendum extended the presidential term in office to seven years. 

In 2007, the Uzbek election commission ruled that Karimov still had a right to become a presidential candidate, because he was seeking a seven-year term for the first time since the country's constitution was amended in 2002. One has to take one's hat off to brazenness of his sophistry and that of his sycophants. But they are unquestionably in charge, criticism is not tolerated, real, as opposed to the theatrics of opposition, is to invite ruin even death.

The centre of Central Asia
Uzbekistan has an unpleasant regime, run by the said dictator -about as bad as they get . But everybody has to do business with it. It is at the heart of Central Asia.

It is a most turbulent region, Afghanistan in turmoil, Pakistan on the brink, Kyrgyzstan an unknown entity. But there at the centre of it all is the Tashkent regime. Its very viciousness is of course the obverse of its stability.

When dissent reared its head in May 2005 in the Ferghana Valley, the regime showed no mercy. Hundreds were massacred and thousands fled. A regime of terror was immediately reinforced in the valley. That is why it is respected in Beijing, Astana and Moscow. 

Russia pays court
President Islam Karimov is due in Moscow. Russia and Uzbekistan are umbilical twins in running Central Asian affairs. Neither is going to start complaining about each other's human rights record. The debate will be strictly business-like.

Putin wants Karimov on his side in facing US encroachment in Central Asia, notably Afghanistan. If Karzhai is the US stooge in Kabul, Karimov is the Russian talisman in Tashkent. 

As Karimov was formally inaugurated for another term as the country's leader on January 16th, Putin lost little time in extending his congratulations. "Your authority, energy, and determination will guarantee the further social and economic development of Uzbekistan," Putin wrote to Karimov, according to the Kremlin press service. "Relations of strategic partnership and alliance between Russia and Uzbekistan continue to develop," Putin stated, adding that a "trustworthy dialogue" between the two leaders helps them to agree on many international issues.

In the wake of Tashkent's recent foreign policy shift in Moscow's favour, economic ties between Russia and Uzbekistan have been growing fast. Trade between Russia and Uzbekistan reached $4.2 billion in 2007, up 40% over 2006, Russia's ambassador to Uzbekistan, Farit Mukhametshin, said on January 23. Russia's major companies, notably Gazprom and Lukoil, continue working in Uzbekistan, Mukhametshin noted.

Bilateral trade turnover reached some $3 billion in 2006, and Russia has become Uzbekistan's top foreign trade partner, with nearly a quarter of Uzbekistan's total foreign trade turnover. In 2005, bilateral trade exceeded $2 billion, up from $1.6 billion in 2004. There are 527 joint ventures set up in Uzbekistan with Russian investments, and 139 representative offices of Russian companies, while Uzbek citizens have set up 293 companies in Russia.

Gas Deals
Last year, Russia's gas monopoly Gazprom imported about 13 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas from Uzbekistan, up nearly 33% year-on-year. In 2006, Uzbekistan exported some 9 bcm of gas to Russia, an increase from 8.15 bcm in 2005 and 7 bcm in 2004.

In the past several years, Moscow has moved to build stronger economic relations with Karimov's administration. In June 2004 Putin and Karimov met in Tashkent and signed a partnership agreement. Simultaneously, both sides concluded a 35-year production-sharing agreeing (PSA), allowing top Russian oil producer Lukoil to develop gas fields in the south of Uzbekistan, estimated to have 280 bcm of reserves. Lukoil has a 90% share in the project, with Uzbekneftegaz holding the remaining 10%.

In 2007 Lukoil reportedly invested $300 million to develop the Kandym-Khauzak-Shady-Kungrad PSA project, raising total investments to about $500 million. However, the projected cost of that endeavour is now expected to reach $2 billion - double the original estimate.

In April 2006 Uzbekneftegaz and Gazprom started a $1 billion venture to explore and develop oil and gas deposits in the Ustyurt plains in Qoraqalpogiston (Karakalpakiya) region. In December 2006, Gazprom was granted licenses to develop sizable acreage in Qoraqalpogiston totaling 38,000 square kilometers with estimated reserves of one trillion cubic meters of gas. The new deposits are expected to yield up to 5 bcm of gas annually, but Uzbek officials have criticized the slow pace of Gazprom's investments.

Bilateral economic relations have been also adversely affected by Uzbek debt to Russia, which dates to the early 1990s. Russian officials estimated the bill to be about $700 million. Russian Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Storchak previously helped negotiate the controversial debt issue, which Uzbekistan had not serviced since 1998. However, in late 2007 Storchak was arrested by Russian authorities on embezzlement charges, further weakening hopes to solve the Uzbek debt issue. 

U.S. Commander Has Meeting With Karimov
The commander of U.S. forces in Central Asia met with Karimov earlier this year, the first visit by a high-level U.S. military officer since the authoritarian leader evicted U.S. troops amid Western criticism of a bloody government crackdown. 

The visit by Admiral William J. Fallon, commander of U.S. Central Command, came more than two years after the U.S. military flew its last plane out of the air base in southern Uzbekistan, one of two U.S. bases set up in former Soviet Central Asia to support military operations in neighbouring Afghanistan. "We see your visit as ... a meaningful event in relations between the U.S. and Uzbekistan," the state-controlled news agency quoted Karimov as saying on its web site. 

Karimov called the visit a chance to discuss "issues of common interest, first of all in the military and arms sphere." Given the precariousness of the US presence in Afghanistan, it is clear that Uzbekistan is too central to ignore.

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