A splash of spring: the Uzbek music, the Uzbek cuisine, and the Uzbek hospitality – this was the reception hosted by Ambassador Akmaljon Kuchkarov of Uzbekistan on 12 March 2021 in Ashgabat to mark the globally recognized spring festival, Navruz.
In his speech the ambassador covered the latest developments in Uzbekistan.
He also praised the services of Ms. Natalya Drozd, the OSCE ambassador in Turkmenistan, whose tenure is nearing its end. He invited here to make comments to the participants.
Here is the text of the speech of Ambassador Akmaljon Kuchkarov:
Dear guests, colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me once again welcome you at the Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan in Turkmenistan and express my sincere appreciation for accepting our invitation.
Our today’s event is dedicated to the celebration of the upcoming Spring holiday “Navruz”, as well as to important political events in the Republic of Uzbekistan in 2021.
As you know, “Navruz” for all of us is the beginning of a new year according to the Eastern calendar, a symbol of good aspirations and hopes for a rich harvest, abundance and prosperity.
The spirit and philosophy of “Navruz” have always contributed to ensuring that people live in harmony with their native land and nature. It calls every person, regardless of his\her nationality and religion, for peace and prosperity, strengthening harmony and unity in society.
It should be noted that thanks to the constructive foreign policy initiatives of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mırzıyoyev, the tradition of “Navruz” are fully reflected in the relations of the Central Asian countries. Over the past five years, regional cooperation has advanced and dramatically intensified in all areas.
In his message to the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan dated December 29, 2020, the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan once again emphasized the priority of the development and deepening of relations of friendship, good-neighborliness and strategic partnership between the countries of the region.
As the Ambassador of Uzbekistan to Turkmenistan, I would like to emphasize that the new regional approach of Uzbekistan is most clearly manifested in the Uzbek-Turkmen relations.
Today, cooperation between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan is based on the principles of strategic partnership. Even in an extremely difficult environment of year 2020, our countries have maintained close contacts in all spheres. As of 2020 the volume of trade between our countries amounted to $ 527 million.
Cooperation was actively developed within the framework of regional and international organizations.
We are grateful to our Turkmen friends for supporting Uzbekistan’s candidacy to the UN HRC for 2021-2023. For its part, Uzbekistan supported the creative initiative of Turkmenistan within the framework of the UN on the announcement of 2021 as “The Year of Peace and Trust”.
In this context, following the visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan, A Kamilov, to Turkmenistan on February 17, 2021, our countries have once again demonstrated their determination to deepen the cooperation comprehensively.
The Turkmen leadership confirmed its readiness to take part in the high-level conference “Central Asia and South Asia: Regional Connectivity, Challenges and Opportunities ”, which will be held in June-July of this year in Tashkent.
Moreover, a decision was announced to build “Tashkent park” in Ashgabat, which, along with the presence of “Ashgabat park” in Tashkent, reflects the nature of Uzbek-Turkmen interactions.
Similar constructive cooperation is observed with our other Central Asian neighbors. We are confident that close and constructive dialogue and constructive cooperation between our countries is the most important condition for ensuring peace, stability and prosperity both in a single country and in the region as a whole.
At the end of this year, presidential elections will be held in Uzbekistan, which will provide the Uzbek people with the opportunity to exercise their constitutional rights and vote for the most appropriate candidate, thereby becoming involved in determining the further course of the country’s development.
Assessing the results of the country’s social – political and socio-economic development over the past five years, it should be recognized that thanks to the inexhaustible energy, dedication and strategic vision of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Miromonovich Mirziyoyev, a truly new Uzbekistan was built in such a short time, which considers the multinational Uzbek people as its main asset, began to live in the interests of this people and create conditions for the realization of the potential of every citizen.
On the basis of a well worked out Strategy of Action in five priority areas of development for 2017-2021, there have been implemented large-scale reforms in Uzbekistan in all spheres of society.
The slogans – “The initiator of reforms is society itself” and “It is not the people who should serve the state bodies, but the state bodies must serve the people” were proclaimed as the main values of structural and institutional transformations.
The swiftness of the reforms and the decisiveness of the Uzbek leadership in carrying them out were so unprecedented that even the most conservative international observers admired them.
In a short period of time, by the resolute decisions of the President of Uzbekistan, a course was taken to build a truly democratic society based on universal human values, respect for human rights, ensuring freedom of speech and encouraging the activities of independent media.
The direct dialogue was established between the authorities and the people through the Public receptions of the president, of the prime minister and other leaders. Ensuing structural reforms in the judicial, legal and law enforcement spheres, the strengthening of the role of parliament and political parties, the practical application of public control mechanisms allowed to radically change the paradigm of relations between the authorities and the people, to ensure the transparency of the activities of state bodies and strengthen their accountability to the general public.
Thanks to the aforementioned mechanisms, people felt their involvement in the life of the state and believed in their ability to change the vector and course of its development.
No less impressive were the results achieved in the field of economic liberalization, modernization and diversification of industrial production, attracting foreign investment and increasing the export volumes.
One of the first strong-willed decisions of President Sh.M. Mirziyoyev in this area was the elimination of the double exchange rate, which for a long time created parallel realities in the economic life of Uzbekistan, hindered the development of healthy competition and the realization of the existing potential.
In accordance with the development strategy of Uzbekistan for a five-year period, large-scale changes were made in the tax system, there were reduced the rates of the single tax payment, property tax, social payment and was introduced a unified scale of taxation of personal income. Some types of taxes and mandatory payments were abolished altogether.
To actively attract foreign capital, tax and customs privileges were adopted, 21 free economic zones (7 pharmaceutical, 12 industrial, 1 agricultural and 1 tourist) were created, the institute of business ombudsman was introduced and the Tashkent International Arbitration Center was established. The procedures for issuing permits for carrying out economic activities were simplified and licensing procedures for more than 100 types of licensing and permits for starting a business were canceled.
Thus, in 2019 Uzbekistan joined the top 20 countries in the world that achieved the greatest results in improving the business environment.
It should be noted, that Uzbekistan was in 166th place in Doing Business 2012, whereas from 2017 to 2020 the country has managed to climb to 69th position among 190 countries.
In addition, the republic was recognized as the country that achieved the best results in protecting minority investors, paying taxes, enforcing contracts, and international trade.
International credit agencies “Moody’s” “Standard & POOR’S”, “FitchRatings” assigned a credit rating to Uzbekistan at the level of “BBB”. Uzbekistan has risen from the 6th to the 5th group according to the classification of the OECD country credit risk.
As a result of measures taken over the past 4 years to radically improve the investment climate and simplify the business environment, there was a sharp increase in the number of enterprises with foreign capital, namely from 5370 in 2017 to 9730 by October 2019 (an increase of 81%).
They began not only to trust Uzbekistan, but also to see it as a country of opportunities. When it first entered the international debt market, Uzbekistan sold over 1 billion Eurobonds. Debt obligations of the country, denominated in the national currency – Uzbek soums, began to be sold on international exchanges.
More than 50 large international companies with direct foreign investments came to the country. Over the past 4 years, the average annual investment growth rate was 22 percent. The total volume of attracted foreign investments reached $ 26.6 billion, including direct investments – $17.5 billion.
Today, 226 large industrial and investment projects worth $23 billion are being implemented throughout the republic.
Despite the height of the pandemic, in January 2021 the Saudi company ACWA Power has launched three new FDI projects in Uzbekistan for the construction of a combined cycle power plant and two wind power plants worth $1.2 billion.
Over the past three years, GDP growth in Uzbekistan has remained at over 5 percent.
In 2020 despite the pandemic, Uzbekistan became one of the few countries that provided a positive trend in GDP growth at the level of 1.5%. According to the estimates of the World Bank, IMF and Asian Development Bank, GDP growth in 2021 will be about 5-5.5%.
As of 2020, the country has sufficient foreign exchange reserves of $ 32 billion to ensure imports within 20 months.
Nominal gross domestic product per capita in Uzbekistan was last recorded at the level of $50 billion and purchasing power parity (PPP) – $250 billion.
The development of human capital was identified as one of the main priorities in carrying out large-scale transformations. Together with the International Labor Organization Uzbekistan settled all issues related to forced, voluntary and child labor.
In order to increase the competitiveness of Uzbek youth in the labor market, a dozen joint higher educational institutions were created with the participation of leading universities of foreign countries, bringing the total number of universities to 93 local universities and 21 branches of foreign universities.
Higher education coverage of secondary school graduates has increased from 9% in 2017 to 25% in 2020.
A “million programmers” program was launched and is being successfully implemented to support the innovative economy of Uzbekistan.
In foreign policy, Uzbekistan’s opening to the world has created new opportunities for deepening economic cooperation in the region, while Uzbekistan’s constructive foreign policy has made it possible to restart the mechanism of trusting dialogue in Central Asia.
For the first time, on the initiative of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Consultative Meetings of the Heads of State of Central Asia were held. New formats of joint interaction between the states of the region and the leading powers of the world have been launched in “C5 +” format.
Pursuing an open, mutually beneficial and constructive foreign policy, the Head of State initiated the introduction of a visa-free regime for tourist entries from 86 countries of the world.
In this regard, Uzbekistan has become one of the most open countries for tourists in CIS. For comparison, in 2017, citizens of only nine countries had such an opportunity.
Recognition of Uzbekistan’s achievements in building a democratic society is embodied in the election of Uzbekistan to the “UN Human Rights Council” for 2021-2023, the awarding the republic with EU “GSP +” status, the removal of our country from the list of countries of the greatest concern of the US State Department in terms of ensuring religious freedoms, as well as choosing Uzbekistan as a venue for important international forums and conferences on various topics, etc.
The new Uzbekistan was outstanding in the year of coronavirus pandemic in 2020 as well.
The state did not leave its citizens alone with difficulties and helped every person in difficult life circumstances in every possible way.
So, to overcome the consequences of the pandemic, the Anti-Crisis Fund was established with the funds of $1.6 billion. Along with this, 500 thousand business entities, as well as almost 8 million citizens of the country were offered assistance in the form of tax incentives, deferred repayment of loans and direct financial support totaling $ 6.6 billion.
More than 600 thousand compatriots who found themselves in difficult living conditions abroad were returned to their homeland.
Despite the difficult trials of the pandemic, Uzbekistan sets itself an ambitious goal for the future – to form the foundation of the country’s new Renaissance.
In his address to the Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan on December 29, 2020. President Shavkat Mirziyoyev said that the achievement of this goal depends on the active participation of every citizen of the republic in the implementation of the progressive initiatives of the head of state, the development of education, science, innovation, the approval of the concept of a healthy lifestyle and the upbringing of a comprehensively developed and enlightened young generation.
It is for this reason that the current 2021 was proclaimed in Uzbekistan as the Year of Supporting Youth and Strengthening the Health of the Population.
Today, it can be said with confidence that the reform processes in Uzbekistan have become irreversible. Their essence is to build a free and prosperous country today and for all citizens, based on the noble idea “We live in a new Uzbekistan – a free and prosperous country!”
Making a short excursion into the past, it should be emphasized that at the beginning of 2017 few could imagine the fact that in the coming years Uzbekistan will be able to transform so much, become a kind of locomotive of geopolitical and geo-economic processes in the Central Asian region.
However, it happened – and it happened thanks to the unshakable will of one person, his extraordinary energy, faith in himself and his people, the desire to turn his home country into a prosperous land and ensure a happy and prosperous life for every Uzbek citizen.
As Sh.Mirziyoyev says, we have to do a lot to implement the adopted programs and achieve all the designated goals. There are many more issues that await their solution. However, unlike in the past, the authorities today do not ignore the existing problems and do not hide from them. Issues are being comprehensively studied, optimal solutions are being found and problems are being solved, most importantly solved together.
There is no doubt that, approaching the ballot box at the end of this year, every Uzbek citizen will give an objective assessment of what has been done and will approach responsibly to his choice.
Thank you for the attention!
Here are some pictures from the event: