February 8, 2013 9:43 am
After the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union, the newly independent Central Asian nation Uzbekistan has made a lot of progress. However, its achievements are somewhat overshadowed by its shortcomings.
As a native of Uzbekistan who has lived through the Soviet regime and early independence years, along with almost a decade in North America and Europe, I found that some important facts are not considered by its critics. For example, much of the criticism toward Uzbekistan is from the legacy of the Soviet Union.
With independence in 1991, Uzbekistan became doubly landlocked. Meaning that to get to the international waters in any direction, it needs to cross at least two countries. It is hard to measure the impact of this disadvantage, however there is no doubt that it is immense.
Uzbekistan inherited artificial hot spots for national tensions which could have destabilized all of Central Asia. During the Soviet era, cotton became Tashkent’s main industry and employees of organizations and agencies, subsidized by the government, were required to participate in cotton harvest.
In addition, Uzbekistan does not get as much support as other developing countries. For example, neighboring Turkmenistan, with almost five times less the population and Russia, with so much inherited advantages, receive substantially more foreign aid.
Despite facing many challenges, Uzbekistan has shown solid and consistent gains in almost all aspects of life.Tourists today are enjoying Uzbek hospitality, delicious cuisine and magnificent ancient and historical sites. Investors are taking advantage of recent developments in legislation and taxation designed to attract and protect foreign capital, especially in natural resources and manufacturing industries.
Investors are also attracted by potentially significant reserves of natural resources such as gas and precious metals, as well as by a young, educated, and, English-speaking labor force.
Uzbekistan needs a brand marketing to attract more investors and to let the world know that it has dealt with most issues of the past. It maintained stability and peace in the region. It is a safe country for travel and for business investments. Its economy is consistently growing and it has built an infrastructure to become a new emerging market.
Many emerging markets today are lagging behind. Therefore savvy investors interested in high returns and stability are looking beyond issues of the past and choosing to explore all options lucrative Uzbekistan has to offer.
(Sheerzod Juraboyev is a co-founder of the Canadian-Uzbek Association, an organization, based in Toronto that aims to build cultural and business ties between Canada and Uzbekistan)