Abstract. The author of this article analyzes the results of reform in the economic, legal and social areas in Uzbekistan during the period of its independence. The steps taken by the government of the country have laid the foundation for the sustainable development of the foreign and domestic policy of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
From the first years of its independence, Uzbekistan has set itself a long-term goal: to join the family of modern, developed democratic states; and to form a socially-oriented market economy which is aimed at creating decent living conditions for the citizens of the country.
According to the World Bank, our country ranks high in terms of socio-economic development throughout the post-Soviet era. Uzbekistan’s growth in GDP over the past decade has averaged more than 6%.
By the beginning of 2018, the national economy was attracting more than $190 billion in the form of investments, more than $65 billion of which were foreign investments. As a result, industries such as car manufacturing, oil and gas, chemical, textiles and food have been created and are developing in the country. The production of modern consumer electronics, building materials, pharmaceuticals and other types of high-value-added product lines has been launched. In this context, it should be noted that, since the early 1990s, industry’s share of GDP has increased from 14% to 33%.
Currently, in the automotive industry alone, with active cooperation with large companies in the USA, Russia, Germany, Japan and France, Uzbekistan produces 27 different models of cars, trucks and buses.
Special attention is being paid to the promotion of small business and private entrepreneurship. Thus, their share in the GDP structure of the country since 2000 has increased from 31% to 56%; and in terms of industrial production from 12% to 31%.
As of June 1 this year, the country's gross foreign exchange reserves amounted to $28.1 billion, and foreign debt today does not exceed 18% of GDP.
Given the above factors, Moodies, Standard & Poor's and Fitch Ratings have all rated the country's banking system as “stable” over the past few years.
At the same time, Uzbekistan has the strategic goal of joining the number of upper-middle-income countries by 2030. According to the forecasts of the world's leading financial institutions, Uzbekistan has all of the necessary means to achieve this goal.
At the same time, a comprehensive analysis of the country's stage of development has shown the presence of pressing problems in the areas of government, economics, health care, education, utilities, and ecology, all of which hamper the further sustainable and advanced development of the country.
In this regard, in February 2017, on the initiative of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Sh. Mirziyoyev, the Action Strategy for the five priority areas of development of the Republic of Uzbekistan for 2017-2021 was adopted. It aims to modernize all areas of the life of the country. According to the head of Uzbekistan, “The present rapidly changing time, when competition is intensifying on the world stage, requires all of us to think differently, to enhance efficiency.”
In this regard, I would like to point out several specific aspects of this document.
First, the adoption of the Strategy has become a recognition of the existence of serious problems in modern Uzbek society.
Second, this was the first time such a comprehensive program had been adopted through broad public discussion with the active use of the media and the internet. Thanks to this, people got a real chance to participate in the process of making important decisions.
Third, the Strategy is not just a declaration: it is a concrete plan of practical actions regarding the internal and external development of the country. In particular, the first stage of reforms, launched in 2017, was reflected in the state program as “The Year of Dialogue with the People and Human Interests”. In the current year, the next stage has begun in the shape of the program entitled “The Year of Support to Active Entrepreneurship, Innovative Ideas and Technologies”.
The following priorities have been identified within the Strategy: 1) Improving state and public construction; 2) Ensuring the rule of law and further reform of the judicial system; 3) Development and liberalization of the economy; 4) Development of the social sphere; 5) Ensuring security, inter-ethnic harmony and religious tolerance; and implementing a balanced, mutually beneficial and constructive foreign policy.
In the context of the agenda of today's conference, let me enlarge upon some of the priority areas of the Development Strategy of Uzbekistan:
First, as part of improving the system of state and public construction:
- the role of Parliament in the system of state authority was increased; and its powers to exercise parliamentary control over the implementation of important tasks in the country's foreign and domestic policy were further expanded;
- the Concept of Administrative Reform in the Republic of Uzbekistan was approved, which identified six main areas of radical reform of the public administration system.
Measures in this area include the introduction of clear criteria and procedures for the creation and abolition of executive bodies, the optimization of executive bodies with the rational use of human and material resources; increasing the independence of the executive bodies; and improving the mechanisms by which they interact with the Cabinet of Ministers, etc.
- the e-Government system has been improved and the quality of public services has been improved. The launch of the automated system of state registration of business entities from April 1, 2017, which allows reducing registration procedures to a timescale of thirty minutes, contributed to improving the position of Uzbekistan in terms of “Starting a Business” in the global Doing Business 2018 ranking from 24 to 11 places.
To move the national system of rendering state services to a qualitatively new level, the Agency of State Services was created with territorial subdivisions, providing state services in one place to both individuals and legal entities on the principle of a “single window”. The number of types of electronic public services has increased to 40.
- the system of public administration has been improved; effective mechanisms of dialogue with the people have been introduced; the role and effectiveness of the activities of the institute of self-government of citizens - makhalla - have been increased.
It should be noted that the principle of “it is not for the people to serve the state authorities, but the state authorities should serve the people” is defined as one of the key directions in the implementation of the Action Strategy. The President of Uzbekistan, Sh. Mirziyoyev, in his speech to Parliament in December 2017, emphasized that, from now on, every civil servant must prove on a daily basis that he/she deserves the position he/she holds.
On the initiative of the head of Uzbekistan, Sh. Mirziyoyev, the Virtual and People's Receptions of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan were created. From September 2016 to today, the Virtual Reception has received more than 1.6 million appeals. At the same time, 95% of the appeals were considered and positively resolved; and the remaining 5% are at the processing stage in the relevant ministries and departments.
As an advanced mechanism of democracy, the electronic platform ‘Mening Fikrim’ (my opinion) was created, which for the first time provided the Uzbeks with a means of sending their collective appeals to the Parliament and Kengashes (Councils) of people's deputies in the form of online petitions.
Second, there has been further reform of the judicial system. An important reform in this area was the implementation of comprehensive measures to ensure the genuine independence of the courts through the formation of a democratic and transparent mechanism for the selection of judicial personnel. The creation of local administrative and economic courts has contributed to improving access to justice.
In criminal cases, it is strictly forbidden to use any data obtained by illegal means, especially audio and video materials, as material evidence. This has now been reflected in the Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
For the first time in the country's history, the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan adopted the Act of Oblivion in relation to 2,700 convicts, including releasing 956 persons who have committed crimes due to various circumstances, sincerely repented of their deed and have shown themselves to be firmly set on the path of correction.
The result of an even greater liberalization of the judicial-legal system of Uzbekistan was the exclusion of 18 thousand people from the “blacklists” of the law enforcement agencies. These were individuals who were previously considered adherents to radical ideas.
As a result of the reforms carried out in 2017, acquittal sentences were issued against 215 persons. In just five months of this year, more than 200 acquittals were made, while in the whole of 2016, only 7 cases were handed down.
It should be noted that today the international community highly appreciates the efforts and achievements of Uzbekistan in the field of human rights, as evidenced by the visits to Tashkent of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein; the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief Ahmed Shaheed and a delegation from the international human-rights organizations Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
Third, there has been development and liberalization of the economy. From September 5, 2017, free conversion of the national currency has been introduced. The rates of customs duties have been halved. Moreover, import duties for 3500 items and excise taxes for 1100 products were zero-rated.
As a result of the liberalization of the economy and the creation of favorable conditions for foreign investors, Uzbekistan signed more than 200 international treaties in 2017, as well as contracts and agreements worth about $60 billion.
In addition, by the end of 2017, the trade turnover of Uzbekistan with the countries of Central Asia had grown by an average of 20%; and with individual states by almost 70%. In particular, the trade turnover between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan reached $3 billion. At the same time, this indicator is expected to grow to $5 billion in the near future.
Along with this, the following favorable conditions have been created for the development of entrepreneurship in the country:
- unscheduled inspections have been canceled; and the use of deprivation of rights to engage in entrepreneurial activities as a punishment has also been prohibited;
- the activity of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan has been completely reformed; and an institution has been established to protect the rights and legitimate interests of business entities (a Business Ombudsman);
- the practice of transferring state-owned property to businesses at “zero” value has been expanded.
The development of the draft Concept of Tax Reform in Uzbekistan for 2018-2020 was a landmark event in the economic life of the country. A general discussion has now begun in relation to this.
At the same time, a lot is being done to develop the digital economy in the country and introduce “innovative” technologies. The President of Uzbekistan has approved a program of measures to implement the “Safe City” project, which until 2023 will cover the whole of Uzbekistan. The Republic also plans to implement the “Smart City” program. The first “smart city” in the country will be the new city of Nuraf- shon - the administrative center of the Tashkent region.
To this end, the Ministry of Innovation Development was created, which embarked on a unified state policy in the field of innovation and scientific and technological development.
With the aim of further development of the tourism potential of Uzbekistan, from February 10, 2018, a visa-free regime has been introduced for a period of 30 days for the citizens of seven states: Israel, Indonesia, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Turkey and Japan.
In addition, the procedure for obtaining tourist visas was simplified for citizens of 39 countries, including the United States, China, India, Australia and others.
From May 1, 2018, Uzbekistan began issuing a three-day entry visa for an introductory tourist tour for transit passengers.
Fourth, there is the development of the social sphere. Based on the principle of “all for the good of the people”, several priority directions were identified for improving the quality of life of the population in the social sphere. To this end, the implementation of the program “An Improved Village” has begun, within the framework of which a list of 368 villages has been developed and approved, which will be improved in the current year.
In cities and regions, special attention is paid to housing construction and the expansion of appropriate infrastructure networks for vulnerable groups within the population. Within the framework of the program, 1100 multi-storey buildings are being built. The total number of apartments will be 50200. It is also planned to build 75000 social houses in rural areas.
From April 1 of this year, in order to support people with disabilities, it has been made mandatory for businesses to reserve up to 10% of their jobs for people with disabilities and single persons. The government of Uzbekistan has approved a procedure by which a 2% admissions quota will apply in the case of people with disabilities who enter higher-education institutions from the start of the 2018/2019 academic year .
From August 1, 2018, a single social-payment rate of 4.7 percent has been applied to the pay of all disabled employees of public organisations which have 50% of staff with disabilities. The unified social payment is distributed through the established procedure.
In the health sector, work is underway to further improve the system of medical care and improve the quality of medical services. About 800 family polyclinics have been created, as well as more than 400 medical centres based on rural medical centres. Ambulance services took delivery of 1,260 special vehicles. It is planned to create and open two thousand social pharmacies that will provide the population with high- quality medicines at affordable prices.
In the field of education, radical changes have also been made. On the initiative of the Head of Uzbekistan, the Ministry of Preschool Education was established, the main tasks of which are to gradually ensure full pre-school education provision for children through the creation of a network of state and non-state pre-school institutions competing with each other, as well as to introduce alternative forms of pre-school education and childcare.
To improve the quality of higher education, Uzbekistan also actively cooperates with foreign countries. Today in the country, branches of leading foreign universities are open and actively conduct their educational activities. These include Westminster International University; M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University; Turin Polytechnic University; Inha University; Singapore Management Development Institute; and several others. In these institutions, training is conducted through innovative and modern technologies.
In addition, it is planned soon to open branches of Webster University (USA), the Moscow Institute of Steel and Alloys, and the technical university of South Korea - Yeoju Institute of Technology.
The meeting of the President of the country with young people on June 30, 2017, marked the beginning of a new era in the country in terms of enhancing the effectiveness of youth policy. The most important aspect of this activity was the formation of a public movement - the Union of Youth of Uzbekistan. As part of the activities of the Union, a program is being implemented to work with compatriots abroad.
The reforms initiated in Uzbekistan have a positive effect not only on the development of the country, but also on the entire region of Central Asia. In the Development Strategy, the countries of Central Asia are identified as the main priority of Uzbekistan’s foreign policy. For us, the creation of a belt of security, stability and sustainable development around Uzbekistan is vital.