On 1 September 2014 the Republic of Uzbekistan celebrated the 23rd anniversary of its State Independence. Recalling the entire depth of this momentous event we once again realise that for the Uzbek people it is not just a holiday but an epochal milestone that began the national revival of our country.
The energy of the independent development of Uzbekistan under the leadership of President Islam Karimov is based on the glorious history and noble goals that we set for ourselves in order to stand equal with other countries whose citizens have reached a high degree of well-being.
Looking back over the past 23 years, we see that our achievements are the results of correctly defined goals, comprehensively thought-out and designed for a long-term policy of socio-economic reform, including liberalisation and modernisation of the country in all spheres.
The political system’s ability to respond flexibly to contemporary needs, to modify and redistribute powers and create effective mechanisms for filling the three branches of power with young professionals is one of the main indicators of successful development in any country. This approach was implemented in Uzbekistan by creating a balance between the experienced and the youth.
Although we were challenged by the necessity of fundamental changes in all areas of life in Uzbekistan in the early 1990s, we refused so-called ‘shock therapy’ that could have brought short-term rewards but would lead to inevitable impoverishment of the population. We have chosen a different path: a step-by-step policy, avoiding abrupt jumps and perturbations, gradually implementing the strategic development programme with the focus not only on GDP and industrial production rates, but on the people and their immediate needs.
As a result, Uzbekistan ranks among the CIS leaders in terms of growth, social stability and well-being of its population. Since 1991 the economy has grown 4.1 times, and the real incomes of the population have multiplied by 8.2. GDP has grown by at least 8 per cent over recent years.
Young people are an essential part of Uzbekistan’s population. This is not just a huge advantage, but a responsibility, as we must provide our boys and girls with a qualitative education and a decent job. The National Programme for Training Specialists and the National Programme for School Education Development have made huge contributions to raising the national education system to international standards. Hundreds of educational institutions – schools, colleges and lyceums – are built and reconstructed every year throughout the country. 28 new vocational colleges, 55 music and art schools, 112 sports facilities and four swimming pools were built last year alone.
The majority of the 983,600 jobs being provided in 2014 are intended for the younger generation. The whole country, along with individual districts, cities and regions, has launched special job programmes linked with programmes on area and industry development, modernisation and technological extension of enterprises, production localisation, deep processing of agricultural products, along with advancement of transport and communication infrastructures.
2014 was declared the ‘Year of Healthy Child’ in Uzbekistan. A special state programme was adopted and became a logical continuation of the socially oriented policy: the Year of the Mother and Child, the Year of Youth, the Year of the Harmoniously Developed Generation and the Year of Family, which have already taken place in previous years. These objectives are in line with the Uzbek people’s cherished dream to raise happy children with a prosperous future.
It is also worth noting a transformation in our people’s mentality in a historically short period of time. More and more Uzbek citizens exercise their civil rights, thus improving the system of governance. Using the internet they express their views and discuss a wide range of issues. The Government has welcomed this by launching an e-government system, which is designed to be a unique technological tool for society to address emerging social problems. The Single Interactive State Services Portal (https://my.gov.uz) has recently marked its first anniversary. The project has won the trust of citizens by holding a large-scale information rally. The resource merges more than 500 government and economic management bodies and local state authorities, and provides about 200 different services.
Pursuing the policy ‘from a strong state to a strong civil society,’ Uzbekistan has made significant steps to strengthen the three branches of power to give the people and their representatives more instruments to control state authorities over the recent years. In April 2014, a landmark law amending and supplementing several articles of the Constitution was approved in Uzbekistan.
The law should further improve the domestic political landscape as it strengthens the role of the Oliy Majlis (parliament) chambers by expanding their rights and powers. This includes the introduction of stronger parliamentary control, the government’s obligation to submit an annual report to parliament, as well as a regulation obliging a candidate for the post of Prime Minister to submit a programme of action of the government while his/her candidacy is considered by the Oliy Majlis.
Parliamentary elections due to be held on 21 December 2014 in Uzbekistan are particularly important in the above context. Political parties representing the interests of the whole spectrum of society are getting prepared for the election rally through saturating programme platforms with new tasks. Their representatives hold meetings with voters to identify the current problems and challenges facing the population. Observers expect the most serious competition in the upcoming elections in the history of independent Uzbekistan.
Accordingly, the significance of victory in the elections has significantly increased. From now on, a prime ministerial candidate is nominated by the party with the largest number of seats won in the elections. The upcoming elections should also enrich the parties with young and motivated members who are ready to address challenges and contribute to Uzbekistan’s development as a democratic state with a market economy and strong civil society.