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UZBEKISTAN


 

 

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


Update No: 351 - (25/03/10)

Diplomacy to the fore
The Uzbek leadership have a very difficult and tortuous role to play in world politics. Uzbekistan may be the central state of Central Asia; but it lacks the allure of the abundant resources of Kazakhstan.

However, it does have a long border with Afghanistan. That gives it a special geopolitical significance today. Its top priority at first was to remain on good terms with Moscow; that remains important indeed. But its prime goal now is to be on good terms with Washington, a passport to a wider world than Moscow can offer.

Its star diplomat, former Uzbek Ambassador to Russia Ilkhom Nematov, will head Uzbekistan's diplomatic mission to the United States, the Uzbek diplomatic mission in Washington has reported.

Nematov replaced Abdulaziz Kamilov, who was in office from October 2003 to January 2010.

In January 2010, Kamilov was appointed first deputy foreign minister. Previously, Nematov served as first deputy foreign minister. Under Uzbek law, before presenting his credentials to head the diplomatic mission, the individual nominated as the ambassador must be approved by the upper house of the Uzbek parliament.

A house revolution taking place nevertheless
When Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, there were people from the communist left to the free market right who saw him as a stooge of mighty capitalism. Schacht and Krupp were deemed the real rulers of Germany. A cartoon of the time showed finance maestro Schacht sitting in the lap of ultra-capitalist Krupp and Hitler in the lap of Schacht in a vast armchair. This was a cruel illusion, as events in 1934 and henceforward were to show.

Something not altogether dissimilar is going on in Uzbekistan right now. Karimov is no tool of the new Uzbek haute bourgeoisie. He is a ruthless dictator. He has his own interests at heart, not theirs.

Some of the wealthiest people in Uzbekistan have reportedly been arrested or detained over the past several days, or are being hunted down by Uzbek authorities. They include the president of one of Tashkent's premier football clubs, the owner of the country's largest wholesale market, construction magnates and bankers, according to media reports. Others with ties to big business have reportedly fled the country.

The crackdown appears to have its origins in a speech President Islam Karimov gave in December. According to the UzMetronom website, the president said the authorities would not accept material inequality. "There will be no oligarchs in our country. If anyone has yet to understand this, they should bear it in mind," the website quotes Karimov as saying.

Uzbek officials are portraying this campaign as a sort of anti-corruption drive in a country that rarely allows its "dirty laundry" to be aired in public, but some sources believe there is more going on than officials are saying.

The country's media isolation makes it difficult to pinpoint what is happening. Reports refer to financial crimes having been committed, but details are sketchy.

An Uzbek government official, speaking under condition of anonymity, confirmed reports that some leading business people are being investigated and some have been arrested. The official denied that business elites in general are being targeted, just criminals.

'Events are alarming'
Galima Bukharbaeva, a journalist who has covered events in Uzbekistan for many years, tells RFE/RL's Uzbek Service that the reported arrests show that even those among the wealthy who thought they were immune to prosecution are fair game.

"The events are alarming and at the same time closed off [to publicity]," Bukharbaeva says. "Taken together, these rumours and unconfirmed information about a wave of arrests going on among the big businessmen of Uzbekistan show that no one in Uzbekistan is 100% protected."

Independent websites that report about Uzbekistan, including uzmetronom.com, uznews.net, and ferghana.ru, have named names. According to the reports, Dmitry Lim, owner of the Karavan Bazaar, Uzbekistan's largest wholesale market, was detained along with more than 50 high-ranking employees of the market. Alik Nurutdinov, who heads the Bekabad cement factory, has reportedly been detained.

Also said to be detained are Batyr Rakhimov, businessman and president of one of Tashkent's premier football clubs (Pakhtakor). His brother, Bakhtiyor Rakhimov, is also wanted but reportedly fled the country on learning about Batyr's arrest. Also reportedly on the run are Alp Jamol-Bank owner Mukhiddin Asomiddinov and Kyzylkumtsement Works director Rajabbai Jumanazarov. One of the two Uzbek owners of the Swiss-registered company Zeromax, which is involved in Uzbekistan's oil and gas industry, have reportedly also been brought in for questioning.

Media outlets that cover Uzbekistan abound with theories on the reasons behind the crackdown. Aleskei Volosevich of ferghana.ru says it could simply be that the state needs money. "Generally, the people talking about these [arrests] believe that the state coffers are empty, and because the state coffers are empty the authorities are forced to find new means of generating revenue," Volosevich says. "And these means are well known - take over an established and successful business or threaten legal action to get the rich to put huge amounts of money into state coffers."

Deeper investigation?
Sergei Ezhkov of uzmetronom.com says this wave of arrests and detentions could be the start of a deeper investigation targeting people much higher up.

"Those who are wanted for money laundering or avoiding paying taxes or having ties to corruption, they are needed as sources of information to get at those corrupt people at the top." 

 

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