Uzbekistan Ambassador Said Rustamov says modernising Uzbekistan is the key to deepening relations with the UK
THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC has radically changed the lives of people, has had a significant impact on socio-political and economic processes, and is changing the course of how nations develop.
Like other countries, Uzbekistan has also felt the negative impacts of the pandemic. The country’s rate of economic growth has noticeably slowed down, there have been disruptions in supply chains and interruptions in foreign trade operations. The economic wellbeing of the population has been affected too.
There are still challenges ahead, but as a result of comprehensive measures adopted in a timely manner, Uzbekistan has been able to quickly minimise the negative impacts and adapt to the new reality. State support for entrepreneurship, an employment programme and targeted work to find new markets for export products have contributed to the employment of the population and the flow of necessary funds. Although economic growth slowed, it remained positive for 2020, a rarity around the world. The World Bank recently improved its forecasts for Uzbekistan, with GDP set to grow 4.8 per cent in 2021 and 5.5 per cent in 2022.
Success, however, inspires hope and confidence. Uzbekistan remains committed to the large-scale and rapid reforms that have been underway since 2017, for which The Economist magazine named it Country of the Year 2019. These transformations are supported by the population and have become irreversible.
In its development strategy, today’s Uzbekistan adheres to a number of priorities.
First, it pursues a responsible regional policy aimed at strengthening long-term development and the
prosperity of the Central Asian region, and active participation in solving common human problems and challenges worldwide, such as pandemics and environmental issues. Uzbekistan strongly promotes regional security and stability, is a leading supporter of the process aimed at a peaceful settlement in
Afghanistan, and is actively participating in the reconstruction of the country. The regional water shortage and food security challenges relating to the Aral Sea disaster, have meant that Uzbekistan is increasingly embracing the climate change agenda.
Secondly, promoting open trade and fair business conditions is particularly important for Uzbekistan. The country is preparing to join the WTO. It continues to take important steps in the field of economic liberalisation, creating a favourable business climate and a reliable investment protection system. The wide introduction of advanced technologies and innovations is a key to Uzbekistan’s long-term economic development.
Thirdly, another of Uzbekistan’s important priorities is the promotion of democratisation, and ensuring human rights and freedoms. Work in this direction is carried out not only within the country, but also in the international arena, through international structures, including the UN Human Rights Council, to which Uzbekistan was elected in 2020.
All these priorities are aligned with those of the United Kingdom. This has opened up additional opportunities for expanding and deepening bilateral cooperation in many spheres.
Since diplomatic relations were established between Uzbekistan and the UK in 1992, the two countries have accumulated a solid base of cooperation and today are actively interacting in a number of areas – from political dialogue to culture. There is active support and assistance from the UK in further deepening reforms in Uzbekistan through capacity building in areas such as the rule of law, human rights, education, finance and economic development.
Uzbekistan attaches particular importance to its relations with the UK. In his address to the Parliament of Uzbekistan in December 2020, President Mirziyoyev listed Britain as one of our main partners, with whom Uzbekistan hopes to further expand multifaceted and mutually beneficial relations. Among Central Asian states, Uzbekistan has become the first country with which the United Kingdom has signed a bilateral political and cooperation deal – Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA). The document, that has already come into force, provides the foundation for future broadening of multifaceted cooperation.
For Uzbekistan, the UK is regarded as an important source of standards in education, law, fintech, capital markets, etc. And while the country is purposefully moving toward a digital and green economy, and low-carbon development based on the widespread introduction of renewables, British advanced technologies and experience in these spheres could play a decisive role.
Post-Brexit Global Britain and Modernising Uzbekistan have big potential to build synergies complementary opportunities. The gradual post COVID-19 recovery will bring new opportunities for further developing the partnership between our two countries, based on fruitful cooperation and common aspirations.