|Flag||Coat of Arms|
|Prime minister||Shavkat Mirziyaev|
|Area||172,742 sq mi|
|GDP 2009||$27.918 billion|
|GDP per capita||$1,026|
The Republic of Uzbekistan is a totalitarian dictatorship in Central Asia, a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States, and a former Soviet Socialist Republic. Its capital city is Tashkent. The president is Islam Karimov.
- 1 Geography
- 2 People
- 3 Government and Political Conditions
- 4 Defense
- 5 Economy
- 6 See also
- 7 References
Uzbekistan shares borders with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan. In the north west tip of Uzbekistan lies the Aral Sea. The largest city in this area is Nukus which was described in the Lonely Planet guide as the "saddest place on earth" due to the rapidly shrinking water supply of the Aral Sea, as well as its heavy pollution due to weapons testing. The Ferghana Valley is the most fertile and heavily populated area of Uzbekistan. Prominent cities include the historical city Kokand that was once the capital of the Kokand Dynasty and Ferghana. Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva are famous ancient cities.
- Area: 447,400 sq. km., slightly larger than California.
- Major cities: Capital—Tashkent (pop. 2.5 million); Samarkand (600,000); Bukhara (350,000).
- Terrain: Flat-to-rolling sandy desert with dunes; broad, flat, intensely irrigated river valleys along Amu Darya, Syr Darya; shrinking Aral Sea; semiarid grasslands surrounded by mountainous Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in east.
- Climate: Mid-latitude desert; long, hot summers, mild winters.
Uzbekistan is Central Asia's most populous country. Its 27 million people, concentrated in the south and east of the country, are nearly half the region's total population. Uzbekistan had been one of the poorest republics of the Soviet Union; much of its population was engaged in cotton farming in small rural communities. The population continues to be heavily rural and dependent on farming for its livelihood. Uzbek is the predominant ethnic group. Other ethnic groups include Russian 5.5%, Tajik 5%, Kazakh 3%, Karakalpak 2.5%, and Tatar 1.5%. The nation is 88% Sunni Muslim and 9% Eastern Orthodox. Uzbek is the official state language; however, Russian is the de facto language for interethnic communication, including much day-to-day government and business use.
- Population (July 2008 est.): 27,345,026.
- Ethnic groups (1996 est.): Uzbek 80%, Russian 5.5%, Tajik 5%, Kazakh 3%, Karakalpak 2.5%, Tatar 1.5%, other 2.5%.
- Religions: Muslim 90% (mostly Sunni), Eastern Orthodox 5%, other 3%.
- Languages: Uzbek 74.3%, Russian 14.2%, Tajik 4.4%, other 7.1%.
- Education: Literacy—97% (total population).
- Health (2005 est.): Life expectancy—60.82 years men; 67.73 years women.
- Work force (11.9 million): Agricultural and forestry—44%, industry—20%; services—36%.
The educational system has achieved 97% literacy, and the mean amount of schooling for both men and women is 11 years. However, due to budget constraints and other transitional problems following the collapse of the Soviet Union, texts and other school supplies, teaching methods, curricula, and educational institutions are outdated, inappropriate, and poorly kept. Additionally, the proportion of school-aged persons enrolled has been dropping. Although the government is concerned about this, budgets remain tight. Similarly, in health care, life expectancy is long, but after the breakup of the Soviet Union, health care resources have declined, reducing health care quality, accessibility, and efficiency. It is alleged as well that forced sterilization is taking place to prevent overpopulation and political unrest.
Government and Political Conditions
Constitutionally, the Government of Uzbekistan provides for separation of powers, freedom of speech, and representative government. In reality, the executive holds almost all power. The judiciary lacks independence, and the legislature—which meets only a few days each year—has little power to shape laws. The president selects and replaces provincial governors. Under terms of a December 1995 referendum, President Karimov's first term was extended. Another national referendum was held January 27, 2002 to again extend Karimov's term. The referendum passed, and Karimov's term was extended to December 2007 by the parliament. Most international observers refused to participate in the process and did not recognize the results, dismissing them as not meeting basic standards. The 2002 referendum also included a plan to create a bicameral parliament.
Elections for the new bicameral parliament took place on December 26, 2004, but no truly independent opposition candidates or parties were able to take part. Independent political parties were allowed to organize, recruit members, and hold conventions and press conferences, but were denied registration under restrictive registration procedures. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) limited observation mission concluded that the elections fell significantly short of OSCE commitments and other international standards for democratic elections.
Terrorist bombings were carried out March 28-April 1, 2004 in Tashkent and Bukhara. It is not clear who committed the attacks, but Karimov assigned blame to Islamic extremists. In May 2005, violence erupted in the eastern city of Andijon following armed attacks against a prison, the local government headquarters, and other government facilities. These incidents, combined with mass demonstrations against the jailing of local men on charges of "Islamic extremism" escalated into violence when Uzbek troops responded to the protestors with gunfire. The civilian death toll from the violence has been estimated to be in the hundreds, though Uzbek authorities officially confirmed only 187 casualties. President Karimov identified the protestors as Islamic militants and fundamentalists who provoked the government's violent response. Karimov's opponents believed the conflict was a product of the President's ongoing policy to suppress all forms of dissent in Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan is not a democracy and does not have a free press. Several political parties have been formed with government approval but have yet to show interest in advocating alternatives to government policy. No independent political parties have been registered, although in 2002-2003 they were able for the first time in several years to conduct grass-roots activities and to convene organizing congresses. Although multiple media outlets (radio, TV, newspaper) have been established, these either remain under government control or rarely broach political topics.
Several prominent opponents of the government have fled, and others have been arrested. The government severely represses those it suspects of Islamic extremism, particularly those it suspects of membership in the banned Party of Islamic Liberation (Hizb ut-Tahrir). Some 5,300 to 5,800 suspected extremists are incarcerated. This number fluctuates, as hundreds are amnestied periodically. Prison conditions remain very poor, particularly for those convicted of extremist activities, and a number of such prisoners are believed to have died over the past several years from prison disease and abuse. The police force and the intelligence service use torture as a routine investigation technique. Following the visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, the Government of Uzbekistan in May 2003 drafted an action plan to implement the Special Rapporteur's recommendations. The government began to enact a number of its provisions, but its violent actions in May 2005 in Andijon have been widely condemned by other nations and human rights groups. It continues to reject calls by the international community to allow an international, independent inquiry of the turbulent events.
Principal Government Officials
- President and Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers—Islam Karimov
- Prime Minister—Shavkat Mirziyaev
Deputy Prime Ministers
- Economics and Trade/Consumer Market Complex—Rustam Azimov
- Communications/Informatization—Abdulla Aripov
- Energy—Ergash Shaismatov
- Social Issues—Rustam Kosimov
- Transportation and Construction—Nodir Hanov
- Women's Issues—Svetlana Imanova
- Defense—Ruslan Mirzayev
- Foreign Affairs—Vladimir Norov
- Internal Affairs—Bahodir Matlubov
- Justice—Foriljon Otakhonov
- Public Education—Torobjon Jorayev
- Emergency Situations—Kobil Berdiev
- Finance—Rustam Azimov
- Culture—Rustam Kurbonov
- Health—Feruz Nazirov
- Foreign Economic Relations—Elyor Ganiev
- Labor and Social Protection—Aktam Haitov (Acting)
Uzbekistan joined the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in December 1991. However, it is opposed to reintegration and withdrew from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in 1999. In November 2005, Uzbekistan signed an alliance treaty with Russia, stating that an attack against one will be considered an act of aggression against both. It re-joined the CSTO in 2006.
Uzbekistan participated in the CIS peacekeeping force in Tajikistan and in UN-organized groups to help resolve the Tajik and Afghan conflicts, both of which it viewed as posing threats to its own stability. Uzbekistan was an active supporter of U.S. efforts against worldwide terrorism and joined the coalition combating terrorism in Afghanistan. It continues to support coalition anti-terrorist operations in Afghanistan by granting access to Germany to an air base in southern Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan is a member of the United Nations, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, NATO's Partnership for Peace, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). It belongs to the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Economic Cooperation Organization—comprised of the five Central Asian countries, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. In 1999, Uzbekistan joined the GUAM alliance (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, and Moldova), which was formed in 1997 (making it GUUAM), but formally withdrew in 2005. Uzbekistan is also a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and hosts the SCO's Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) in Tashkent.
The country is a founding member of and remains involved in the Central Asian Union, formed with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, joined in March 1998 by Tajikistan. In 2002, Uzbekistan joined the Central Asian Cooperation Organization (CACO), which also includes Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. In 2006, Uzbekistan joined the Eurasian Economic Community (EurASEC), comprising Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan possesses the largest and most competent military forces in the Central Asian region, having around 65,000 people in uniform. Its structure is inherited from the Soviet armed forces, although it is moving rapidly toward a fully restructured organization, which will eventually be built around light and Special Forces. The Uzbek Armed Forces' equipment is not modern, and training, while improving, is neither uniform nor adequate yet for its new mission of territorial security. The government has accepted the arms control obligations of the former Soviet Union, acceded to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (as a non-nuclear state), and has supported an active program by the U.S. Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to demilitarize and clean up former weapons of mass destruction-related facilities in western Uzbekistan (Nukus and Vozrozhdeniye Island), as well as to guard against the proliferation of radiological materials across its borders. The Government of Uzbekistan spends about 3.7% of GDP on the military.
Beginning in the late 1990s until 2004, the government received U.S. Foreign Military Financing (FMF), International Military Education and Training (IMET), and other security assistance funds. Beginning in 2004, new FMF and IMET assistance to Uzbekistan was stopped, as the Secretary of State, implementing U.S. Government legislation, was unable to certify that the Government of Uzbekistan was making progress in meeting its commitments, including respect for human rights and economic reform, under the U.S.-Uzbekistan Strategic Framework Agreement. Uzbekistan approved U.S. Central Command's request for access to a vital military air base in southern Uzbekistan following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S., but asked the U.S. to leave in July 2005. All U.S. forces had departed this facility by November 2005.
The economy is based primarily on agriculture and agricultural processing. Uzbekistan is a major producer and exporter of cotton. It also is a major producer of gold, with the largest open-pit gold mine in the world, and has substantial deposits of copper, uranium, strategic minerals, gas, and oil. Since independence, the government has stated that it is committed to a gradual transition to a free market economy but has been extremely cautious in moving to a market-based economy.
Although it is difficult to make an accurate estimate of economic growth in Uzbekistan—because of the unreliable nature of government statistics, which often serve political rather than economic ends—economic growth is far below potential due to:
- The country's poor investment climate;
- Failure to attract foreign investment;
- An extremely restrictive trade regime, implemented in order to meet a strategy of limiting imports of consumer goods;
- Failure to reform the agricultural sector of the economy, potentially the engine of economic growth for this largely rural economy; and
- The price system in Uzbekistan, which is not functioning properly due to government intervention in markets.
The government runs a strict import subsidies regime to control foreign trade and prevent capital outflow. Substantial structural reform is needed, particularly in the area of improving the investment climate for foreign investors and in freeing the agricultural sector from smothering state control. Although the government has committed itself in theory to the provisions of the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) Article VIII regarding currency convertibility for current account operations, in practice firms can wait up to three months for conversion. Convertibility restrictions and other government measures to control economic activity, (e.g., harassment of foreign-owned companies, import and export restrictions, and intermittent border closings) have constrained economic growth and led international lending organizations to suspend or scale back credits. The government has made progress in reducing the budget deficit, due in part to import substitution policies and high excise taxes. However, government statistics understate the budget deficit, while overstating economic growth. GDP and Employment The Uzbek Government claims that the GDP rose 7.2% in 2006; however, the U.S Government assesses GDP growth in 2006 as close to zero. Unemployment and underemployment are very high, but reliable figures are difficult to obtain, as no recent credible surveying has been done. Unofficially, unemployment is estimated around 10% and underemployment around 20%. Underemployment in the agricultural sector is particularly high—which is important given the fact that 60% of the population is rural-based. Many observers believe that employment growth and real wage growth have been stagnant, given virtually no growth in output.
- GDP: The Uzbek Government states the real GDP growth in 2006 was 7.2%; the U.S. Government believes actual real GDP growth was close to flat.
- Inflation: Although reliable figures are scarce, international institutions estimate inflation reached 25-30% in 2005 and 2006.
- Per capita GDP: U.S. Government analysts believe that per capita GDP in 2009 was about $1,026 (purchasing power parity).
- Natural resources: Natural gas, petroleum, gold, coal, uranium, silver, copper, lead, zinc, tungsten, molybdenum. Natural gas production in 2006 was 62.5 billion cubic meters (bcm). In 2006, the U.S. Government estimates 48.4 bcm of natural gas was consumed in Uzbekistan and 12.5 bcm was exported. Oil production in 2006 was 3,450,000 tons.
- Agriculture: Products—cotton, fourth-largest producer worldwide; vegetables, fruits, grain, livestock.
- Industry: Types—textiles, food processing, machine building, metallurgy, natural gas. The industrial production growth rate was estimated at 10.8% in 2006; electricity production was 49 billion kilowatt hours (estimate).
- Budget (2006 estimates): Revenues--$3.22 billion; expenditures--$3.4 billion.
- Trade: Total exports--(2006 est. $5.51 billion f.o.b.): largest contribution from cotton, gold, natural gas, mineral fertilizers, ferrous metals, textiles, food products, automobiles. Major export markets (IMF 2005)--Russia 25.2%, EU 18.6%, China 12.6%, Turkey 6.7%, Ukraine 5.7%. Total imports--(2006 est. $3.99 billion f.o.b.): machinery and equipment, chemicals, metals, foodstuffs. Primary import partners (IMF 2005)--Russia 26.9%, EU 21.9%, South Korea 15.4%, China 7.2%, Kazakhstan 6.5%.
- External debt (2006 est.): $4.713 billion.
Note: Due to the unreliable nature of government statistics, it is difficult to make an accurate estimate of economic growth in Uzbekistan.
Literacy in Uzbekistan is almost universal, and workers are generally well-educated and well-trained. However, worsening corruption in the country's education system in the past few years has begun to erode Uzbekistan's advantage in terms of its human capital, as grades and degrees are routinely purchased. Most local technical and managerial training does not meet international business standards, but foreign companies engaged in production report that locally hired workers learn quickly and work effectively. Foreign firms generally find that younger workers, untainted by the Soviet system, work well at all levels. The government has significantly curbed a long-time program emphasizing foreign education, which in past years annually sent about 50 students to the United States, Europe, and Japan for university degrees, after which they have a commitment to work for the government for 5 years. Reportedly, about 60% of the students who studied abroad found employment with foreign companies upon their return, despite their 5-year commitment to work in the government. In addition, Uzbekistan subsidizes studies for students at Westminster University—the only Western-style institution in Uzbekistan. In 2003, Westminster admitted about 360 students, and the government funded about half of the students' education. Education at Westminster costs $4,800 per academic year.
With the closure or downsizing of many foreign firms, it is relatively easy to find qualified, well-trained employees, and salaries are very low by Western standards. The government has implemented salary caps in an attempt to prevent firms from circumventing restrictions on the withdrawal of cash from banks. Some firms had tried in the past to evade these limits on withdrawals by inflating salaries of employees, allowing firms to withdraw more money. These salary caps prevent many foreign firms from paying their workers as much as they would like. Labor market regulations in Uzbekistan are similar to those once used in the Soviet Union, with all rights guaranteed but some rights unobserved. Unemployment is a growing problem, and the number of people looking for jobs in Russia, Kazakhstan, and Southeast Asia is increasing each year. Business analysts estimate that a high number of Uzbek citizens are working abroad. Estimates range from lows of 3 million to highs of 5 million Uzbek citizens of working age living outside Uzbekistan, most in neighboring countries or Russia. However, the government does not acknowledge these unofficial reports.
Prices and Monetary and Fiscal Policy
Inflation was approximately 25% in 2005. In order to combat inflation, the government has exercised strict currency controls, and severe shortages of cash exist in the country. Despite currency convertibility, a freely determined black market rate continues to exist for the soum. As of March 2007, the difference between the official and black market exchange rates was approximately 200 soum in exchange for U.S. dollars. Liberalization of its trade regime is a prerequisite for Uzbekistan to proceed to an IMF-financed program.
Outstanding external debt reached $4.7 billion in 2006. Tax collection rates remained high, due to the use of the banking system by the government as a collection agency. Technical assistance from the World Bank and from the UN Development Program (UNDP) is being provided to reform the Central Bank and Ministry of Finance into institutions that conduct market-oriented fiscal and monetary policy. Lack of reform in the banking system constrains banks' profits and limits their role as financial intermediaries, thus inhibiting the ability of citizens or private companies to obtain credit and other banking services.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
Agriculture and the agro-industrial sector contribute more than 40% to Uzbekistan's GDP. Cotton is Uzbekistan's dominant crop, accounting for roughly 20% of the country's exports in 2005. Uzbekistan also produces significant amounts of silk, fruit, and vegetables. Virtually all agriculture involves heavy irrigation. Farmers and agricultural workers have very low incomes because the government uses the difference between the world prices of cotton and wheat and what it pays the farmers to subsidize highly inefficient capital-intensive industrial concerns, such as factories producing automobiles, airplanes, and tractors.
Consequently, agricultural productivity is low, with many farmers focusing on producing fruits and vegetables—for which supply and demand determine the price—on small plots of land, as well as smuggling cotton and wheat across the border with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in order to obtain higher prices.
Minerals and mining also are important to Uzbekistan's economy. Gold is Uzbekistan's second most important foreign exchange earner, unofficially estimated at around 20%. Uzbekistan is the world's seventh-largest producer, mining about 80 tons per year, and holds the fourth-largest reserves in the world. Uzbekistan has an abundance of natural gas, used both for domestic consumption and export; oil almost sufficient for domestic needs; and significant reserves of copper, lead, zinc, tungsten, and uranium. Inefficiency in energy use is extremely high, given the failure to use realistic price signals to cause consumers to conserve energy.
Trade and Investment
Uzbekistan's export/import policy is based on import substitution. The highly over-regulated trade regime has led to both import and export declines since 1996, although imports have declined more than exports, as the government squeezed imports to maintain hard currency reserves. Draconian tariffs and sporadic border closures and crossing "fees" decrease imports of both consumer products and capital equipment. Uzbekistan's traditional "trade" partners are from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), notably Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. Non-CIS partners have been increasing in importance in recent years, with the European Union, South Korea, Germany, Japan, and Turkey being the most active.
Uzbekistan is a member of the IMF, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. It has observer status at the World Trade Organization (WTO) and has publicly stated its intention to accede to the WTO. It is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization and is a signatory to the Convention on Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States, the Paris Convention on Industrial Property, the Madrid Agreement on Trademarks Protection, and the Patent Cooperation Treaty. In 2006, Uzbekistan was again placed on the special "301" Watch List for lack of intellectual copyright protection.
Since Uzbekistan's independence, U.S. firms have invested roughly U.S. $500 million in Uzbekistan. 2006 was one of the worst years for foreign investment, especially U.S. Due to declining investor confidence, currency convertibility problems, and changes to Uzbek legislation, numerous international investors have left the country or are considering leaving. The Government of Uzbekistan declared bankrupt the Newmont Mining joint venture, the largest U.S. investor. Caterpillar Tractors pulled out in late 2006. Chevron-Texaco set up operations in 1992 and is focusing on producing lubricants for the Uzbek market. Coca Cola, one of the largest U.S. franchises, weathered problems in previous years. No large, new investments have been made by U.S. firms in the last 5 years.
|License:||This work is in the Public Domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States Federal Government under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the U.S. Code|
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