Speech by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev at the opening ceremony of the first Tashkent International Investment Forum on 24 March, 2022
Dear heads of delegations!
Ladies and Gentlemen!
I sincerely welcome all of you, dear participants of the first Tashkent International Investment Forum, to the hospitable land of Uzbekistan. It gives me great pleasure to see today at this forum the heads of international organizations, financial institutions and leading global companies, as well as high representatives of countries – our main partners.
Welcome to Uzbekistan!
Dear participants of the forum!
For many centuries, the land of Uzbekistan has attracted merchants and entrepreneurs, business people from different countries and regions of the world.
Our land, located in the center of the Great Silk Road, has been known since ancient times for the fact that caravan routes converged here, connecting different parts of the world – Asia, Europe and Africa. It was on the territory of ancient Maverannahr, where modern Uzbekistan is located, that the mutual enrichment of civilizations and cultures took place, formed in China, India, Iran, Byzantium, and Egypt. As a result, our country with more than 3,000 years of history of statehood has long been one of the world’s highly developed centers of trade, economy, science, culture and art.
Great scientists and thinkers, outstanding representatives of secular and religious sciences, who grew up on this ancient land, left the world with their unique discoveries and invaluable works, which still serve humanity. For example, it is well known from history that the concept of “quarantine”, which is still relevant today, was first introduced a thousand years ago by the great healer Abu Ali ibn Sino – or Avicenna, as he is called in Europe.
Of course, you know that the term algorithm, which underlies modern innovations and blockchain technologies, artificial intelligence, is associated with the name of another of our great ancestor – Muhammad Khorezmi.
Mirzo Ulugbek, an outstanding statesman and great astronomer, built an observatory in Samarkand in the 15th century, determined the exact coordinates of more than a thousand stars and made a huge contribution to the development of science.
It is especially noteworthy that the scientific discoveries made in the past by dozens of our compatriots in physics, geodesy, chemistry, philosophy and history, architecture, fine arts, theology and other fields have not lost their significance and value today.
Ladies and gentlemen!
Our country is located in the very heart of the Central Asian region, which, due to its geographical position, connects North and South, West and East with main transit corridors.
We in Uzbekistan are actively continuing our economic and social development based on the principle “From the great past to the great future”.
Five years ago, when adopting the Action Strategy, we chose the path of large-scale democratic reforms. This reform program covers all areas of the life of the state and society, including such important areas as ensuring the rule of law, developing competition, and fighting against corruption.
First of all, we set about creating favorable conditions for entrepreneurship, removing all the obstacles that previously prevented investors from entering the Uzbek market and freely conducting their activities.
Firstly, in 2017 we introduced free conversion of the national currency – soum and removed all restrictions on the repatriation of foreign investors’ profits.
Our banks and large enterprises for the first time received international ratings and entered the world financial markets. International bonds in our national currency were also issued on world markets.
At the same time, we are well aware of the need to continue systemic reforms in the banking and financial sector.
Secondly, in order to ensure a policy of openness, we have introduced a visa-free regime for citizens of 90 foreign countries. And citizens of about 60 states are given the opportunity to obtain a visa in a simplified manner.
Today, it is no secret to anyone that Uzbekistan, according to these indicators, has the status of the most open state in the region.
Thirdly, the fight against corruption has become the most important priority of state policy in Uzbekistan. To carry out our efforts in this direction, a separate Agency was created.
We continue the work we have begun in this area, ensuring even greater transparency in the economy, and are waging a resolute fight against corruption.
Fourth, we have identified the provision and full protection of the rights and freedoms of every person in our country as one of the highest priority tasks.
Two years ago, Uzbekistan adopted the National Human Rights Strategy and for the first time in history was elected a member of the UN Human Rights Council.
One of our highest goals is the transformation of Uzbekistan into a democratic country, where the rule of law and justice is implemented in practice, an independent and strong judicial and legal system is being formed.
Fifth, an important direction of reforms in the country is the implementation of the necessary measures to develop civil society and ensure freedom of speech, and create a democratic media space.
We are achieving significant results in transforming the media into the “fourth estate” and strengthening the accountability of state bodies to society. Our most important achievement in this regard is that we are getting rid of the closed society and building the foundation of New Uzbekistan precisely on the principles of freedom and justice.
Sixth, forced labor, including child labor, has been completely eradicated in Uzbekistan, due to which our country has been included in various “black lists” for many years. In recognition of these measures, the Cotton Campaign, an international coalition of non-governmental non-profit organizations and world-famous brands, recently lifted an earlier boycott of Uzbek cotton and textile products.
Seventh, from the first days of the reforms, we have been paying special attention to the development of education and human capital.
Over the past 5 years, more than 21 thousand new preschool educational institutions have been created in the country, the coverage of children with preschool education has increased from 27 to 67 percent.
In addition, about 200 new schools have been built, over 3,000 operating schools have been reconstructed and fully equipped.
In a short period, 82 new universities and institutes were created, including 23 foreign universities, as a result, their total number reached 159. The enrollment rate of school graduates in higher education increased from 9 to 28 percent, and our active work in this direction continues.
Important reforms, as in all areas, are being consistently implemented in the healthcare system. Over the past period, the amount of funds allocated by the state to provide hospitals and ambulance stations with medicines and necessary medical products has increased 12 times.
Eighth, the tax policy pursued in the country also stimulates the development of entrepreneurship.
In recent years, we have reduced the total number of taxes from 13 to 9. The rates of property tax, personal income tax and social tax have been halved. At the same time, about 6,000 import duty rates have been reduced. Also, over the past 5 years, about 200 licenses and permits have been canceled or simplified.
On a systematic basis, measures are being taken to further reduce the tax burden on business entities and improve tax administration.
Ninth, on the basis of the “one window” principle, a completely new system of working with foreign investors in Uzbekistan has been introduced, the activities of the Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade have been established, which provides comprehensive assistance to investors, covering all regions and industries. The annual volume of foreign investments in our economy has increased 3.5 times, and over the past 5 years, their total volume has reached $25 billion. The implementation of 59 thousand investment projects due to this made a worthy contribution to the creation of more than 2.5 million new jobs.
We also managed to raise the processing of raw materials to a qualitatively new level in the textile, leather and footwear, pharmaceutical, electrical, chemical and petrochemical industries, the production of building materials and many other industries and increase the volume of annual exports to almost 20 billion dollars.
Tenth, two years ago, for the first time in the history of the country, we set the task of eradicating poverty as one of the main goals of government policy.
In this direction, a special Strategy was adopted and the Ministry of Economic Development and Poverty Reduction was created. As a result, in a short time, we managed to remove more than half a million families from the category of those in need.
In general, our work over the past 5 years has yielded positive results. It is confirmed by the fact that even in the first years of reforms, the average annual growth of the economy was 5 percent, and industry – 8 percent. Our gold and foreign exchange reserves have grown from $27 billion to $35 billion.
Even in 2020, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, GDP growth continued to be positive, and in 2021, GDP growth exceeded 7 percent, which testifies to the correctness of the reform path we have chosen. And it inspires us to reach new frontiers.
Dear participants of the forum!
The reforms in Uzbekistan have in fact become irreversible, and this can be called with full confidence the most important achievement of reforms in our country over the past five years.
We recently adopted the New Uzbekistan Development Strategy for the next 5 years. It was developed on the basis of the principle “Human Interests Above All” and is aimed at solving such important tasks as the development of a free civil society and human capital, further stimulation of entrepreneurial activity, protection of the rights of investors, ensuring the inviolability of private property and gender equality.
The ultimate goal of our strategy is the implementation of the fundamental idea “In the name of the honor and dignity of people” in all spheres and directions of the life of our state and society.
These directions are as follows.
The first direction is the consistent continuation of measures to ensure economic and political stability in the country.
In particular, it is planned to create the most favorable conditions for business through the implementation of large-scale administrative reforms and digitalization, the creation of a compact and highly efficient government system that will support business and entrepreneurs by improving the effectiveness of the state management system.
The second direction is a drastic reduction of the participation and share of the state in the economy.
The privatization of state assets with the support of international financial institutions and foreign consulting companies will make it possible by 2026 to eliminate the monopoly in more than 25 types of activities by abolishing exclusive rights and privatizing state enterprises, the process of transforming banks into commercial banks will continue, and the private sector’s share in banking assets will rise to 60 percent, the number of state-owned enterprises will be reduced by at least 3 times.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to tell you, dear investors and entrepreneurs, that we will create all the conditions for your broad participation in the privatization processes on the principles of openness, transparency and competition.
The third direction is the continuation of the intensive development of infrastructure in the country.
Based on the introduction of public-private partnership mechanisms, it is planned to implement more than 200 projects in Uzbekistan with a total amount of $15 billion in the fields of energy, transport, healthcare, education, infrastructure development and road construction together with foreign investors. We invite all of you to actively participate in these processes and implement mutually beneficial projects.
The fourth direction is to stimulate the production of products with high added value through the deep processing of our rich raw materials as part of the industrialization of the economy.
As you know, Uzbekistan is one of the 20 countries in the world with huge reserves of many minerals. In particular, our country ranks 2nd in the world in terms of the resource of gold, 7th in terms of copper reserves, 8th in tungsten, 9th in silver, 12th in uranium and 16th in natural gas production.
Concrete projects have been developed for the deep processing of these raw materials, allowing in the next 5 years to attract $120 billion in investments in such areas as chemistry and gas chemistry, copper processing, electronics, pharmaceuticals, textiles and many other industries.
Fifth direction, investing in human capital.
In the next 5 years, in the field of preschool education, the enrollment level will be increased from the current 67 to 80 percent through the creation of more than 7,000 new kindergartens. Taking into account advanced foreign experience, curricula and textbooks for the school system will be completely revised, new schools with the capacity of 1.2 million students will be built. The level of enrollment in higher education will reach 50 percent.
As a priority task in this direction, we have identified the improvement of the system of vocational education based on advanced international standards, as well as specialization in accordance with modern requirements of highly qualified personnel in the field of information technology and engineering for the needs of the economy.
An example of our practical work in this direction is the “1 million Programmers” project implemented jointly with the government of the United Arab Emirates. Our goal is to fully provide highly qualified specialists to the industries that drive the national economy.
It should be especially noted that today Uzbekistan, in addition to economic resources, has great human potential, a new formation of personnel with modern knowledge and knowledge of foreign languages. This is our greatest wealth.
The sixth direction is the further liberalization of the country’s foreign trade, the creation of additional favorable conditions for export-import activities.
Uzbekistan is taking concrete steps to become a full member of the World Trade Organization in the coming years. Already today, national producers have access to regional markets with 280 million consumers in the free trade regime.
In addition, more than 6,000 types of goods from Uzbekistan can be exported to European markets on preferential terms within the framework of the expanded system of preferences of the European Union “GSP +”.
Along with this, in order to create additional opportunities for our exporters, negotiations are underway to sign Preferential and Free Trade Agreements with India, Turkey, the Republic of Korea and other countries.
Also, in order to diversify existing transport corridors, practical efforts are being made to create opportunities for the supply of products manufactured in Uzbekistan to South Asia via the Trans-Afghan railway, to the Asia-Pacific region via the Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan-China railway, to European countries via multimodal transport corridors through the South Caucasus.
The seventh direction is to increase the investment attractiveness of the country and further improve the business environment.
In order to develop practical proposals for the development of this sector, regular meetings of the Council of Foreign Investors under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan will be held from 2022.
We will continue the practice of direct dialogue with investors and entrepreneurs in all industries and regions, using the crowdsourcing platform and modern digital solutions.
August 20 is Entrepreneur’s Day in our country. Traditionally on this day, a direct dialogue between the President and entrepreneurs will take place every year. I am pleased to invite all investors and entrepreneurs participating in today’s forum to take part in the upcoming dialogue with their questions and suggestions.
In general, it is envisaged that due to the implementation of reforms in the next 5 years, GDP will increase to 100 billion dollars, the volume of annual exports will double – up to 30 billion dollars. The share of the private sector in GDP will reach 80 percent.
We have set ourselves a clear goal of becoming one of the world’s upper middle-income countries by 2030.
The challenges caused by the pandemic, the current economic difficulties and other problems that the whole world has faced in recent years teach us to make innovative decisions, work in new conditions and achieve concrete results.
Even in today’s difficult situation in the world – Uzbekistan is a peaceful and safe place to live and work.
We will further intensify our efforts to create comfortable and attractive conditions for investors. The most difficult task in the course of reforms is not only to change legislation or develop strategies, which is also important, but the main thing is to change the attitude and minds of people. I think all the reformers in the world will agree with this.
Today in this venue there is also a team of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan – ministers, heads of departments and local authorities. All of them are highly qualified specialists with a modern worldview, representatives of New Uzbekistan. In the course of preparation for this forum, I gave them specific instructions. These leaders are ready to work continuously to establish practical and mutually beneficial cooperation with you, dear guests, participants, to support new mutually beneficial partnership projects, and most importantly, to create a comprehensively favorable environment for investors and entrepreneurs.
The forum is also attended by heads of leading industry associations, private companies and enterprises of Uzbekistan, who are ready to expand cooperation with our foreign partners.
More than 30 events will also take place within the framework of the forum. Over 200 attractive project proposals, extensive information on current conditions and new prospects for successful business in Uzbekistan will be presented to your attention.
Ladies and Gentlemen!
It is known that today the entire world economy is moving towards digitalization. Green technologies and innovations are a priority in any industry and business. In such circumstances, when great opportunities are opening up for business and entrepreneurship, expanding international economic ties, I would like to invite you to practical cooperation with New Uzbekistan, a country that is the cradle of ancient civilization and culture and today is confidently moving along the path of renewal and reform.
The President and the Government of Uzbekistan will provide guarantees for your successful activities in our country.
I call on all of you to take active practical steps to implement common large-scale tasks, to bring our mutually beneficial partnership relations to a new, even higher level.
I wish all forum participants effective work and achievement of new agreements within its framework, as well as success in your future endeavors.
Thanks for your attention!