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[From the Scene] Uzbekistan unveils policy vision for foreign investors

Uzbek leader stresses the country's efforts to join WTO and build more investment-friendly environment

April 28, 2023 - 18:18 By Sanjay Kumar
Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoev delivers an address during the opening ceremony of the Tashkent Investment Forum held at Tashkent City Congress Hall in Tashkent on Thursday. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald)

By Sanjay Kumar

Korea Herald correspondent

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan -- Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev shared visions, policies, and reforms supportive of foreign investors at the Tashkent International Investment Forum on Thursday.

Started last year under the agenda of enhancing Central Asia’s role in the international investment market, the forum facilitated a solid package of firm contracts and investment agreements worth $7.8 billion. Participating parties reached agreements and implemented projects worth some $3.5 billion, according to organizers.

Presenting transformative steps that led Uzbekistan to emerge as a liberal country with a favorable fiscal system for foreign trade, Mirziyoev announced his country’s efforts to join the World Trade Organization.

WTO membership requirements are fully coherent with the objectives of Uzbek reforms, Mirziyoev said, expressing hopes to attain membership by the end of 2023.

"Negotiations with WTO member states and harmonization of national legislation with its rules are now in full swing," said Mirziyoyev.

President of the Islamic Development Bank, Muhammad Suleiman Al-Jasser, during a speech at the Tashkent Investment Forum held at Tashkent City Congress Hall in Tashkent on Thursday. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald)

The president shared five key points at the forum to make Uzbekistan an investment-friendly country, reaffirming the country’s robust commitment to reducing bureaucracy and eliminating corruption.

The number of ministries in Uzbekistan has been reduced to 28 from 61, with each ministry’s responsibilities and powers clearly defined.

"New Uzbekistan will be a place that will leave a bright mark on your business activities," Mirziyoyev said.

He pointed to the abolishment of 500 functions of the state in business regulation; the transfer of 70 firms to the private sector based on a private-public partnerships model and outsourcing; and the withdrawal of 132 licenses and permits with notification procedures introduced for 33 fims as examples of measures to combat corruption in the country.

Attendees discuss investment agendas at the Tashkent Investment Forum held at Tashkent City Congress Hall in Tashkent on Thursday. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald)

Mirziyoyev said he advocates reforms for reliable protection of investors' rights. He explained the simplified conditions for foreign investors entering and leaving Uzbekistan, buying real estate and receiving residence permits.

"Significant steps are being made in terms of guaranteed judicial protection of investors’ rights," he added.

The president emphasized recent agenda items the country has achieved to boost a diversified economy, noting the creation of 100,000 enterprises with annual investment volume reaching $10 billion.

He also recalled the Uzbek poverty rate, which was 30 percent when reforms started in 2017.

"One million people have been lifted out of poverty, and the poverty rate has dropped from 17 to 14 percent," Mirziyoyev said, hoping the new constitution would continue the reforms.

Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan Akylbek Japarov interacts with guests at the Tashkent Investment Forum held at Tashkent City Congress Hall in Tashkent on Thursday. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald)

Programs worth $14 billion for public-private partnerships in Uzbekistan were developed with the support of international financial institutions, said Mirziyoyev, thanking Islamic Development Bank President Muhammad Sulaiman Al Jasser for trusting and working with Uzbekistan on the public-private projects worth $1.5 billion not including state guarantees.

Al Jasser attended the forum as a speaker at the plenary session.

"Investors want microeconomic monetary policy, fiscal policy and then corporate governance," said Al Jasser, highlighting the active economic development of Uzbekistan to investors looking for long-term benefits.

"An apple a day keeps doctors away; a dose of uncertainty a day keeps investors away," Al Jasser underlined, applauding Mirzayoyev's firm policies and legislative and constitutional reforms for a better business environment.

An investor from Turkmenistan Seyidov Guvanch Huseyinovich(left) interacts with Korea Herald on the second day of Tashkent Investment Forum held at Tashkent City Congress Hall in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Thursday. ( Khusanboev Mukhammadyusuf)

The IDB has financed more than $3.4 billion worth of projects in Uzbekistan’s infrastructure, agriculture and health sectors, according to Al Jasser.

"We expect Uzbekistan to be at the forefront of high-growth countries," the IDB president said.

The forum was attended by 150 speakers and heads of leading international companies, funds, renowned economists and experts. There were a total of 2,500 participants, including the head of the presidential administration; Kyrgyzstan Cabinet of Ministers Chairman Akylbek Japarov; UN Deputy Secretary-General Olga Algayerova, Emirati Minister of Energy and Infrastructure Suhail Mohamed Al Mazroui; and Hungarian Minister of Economic Development Marton Nagy, among others.