Uzbekistan, Pakistan relations growing at a fast speed: Furqat Sidiqov
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Uzbekistan
Talks to Centreline and Diplomatic News Agency (DNA)
Ansar Mahmood Bhatti
Q: Would you please tell us about successes of Uzbekistan during the years of Independence?
A: After gaining Independence Uzbekistan was able to achieve rapid development of its industrial sector in short period of time. The Government of Uzbekistan has paid special attention to the development of oil and gas, chemical, automobile and electrical industries as well as other most important sectors of economy.
Nowadays Uzbekistan is holding leading positions in the world by the speed of development of its industrial sector. To achieve these results the Government of Uzbekistan has created all necessary economic, legal and investment conditions for attracting foreign investors to the real sectors of economy.
Today as a result of well-thought-out economic policy, Uzbekistan has achieved high and sustained rates of economic development. The country has achieved dramatic changes in dynamics and structure of economy, development of production and export capacity, social sphere, level and quality of life.
Despite global financial downturn, annual GDP growth of Uzbekistan exceeds 8% over the last 10 years, which is one of the highest rates in the world. Over the past decade, the economy of Uzbekistan has doubled.
Uzbekistan is among the top ten countries in gold reserves, natural gas, uranium, silver, copper, molybdenum and other rare metals and is a net exporter of these natural materials. In Uzbekistan more than 100 types of mineral resources, more than 3000 deposits and prospective shows of minerals are exposed.
The total energy reserves of Uzbekistan are sufficient for the coverage of the needs of the economy at least for 100 years. Generated electricity capacities fully cover domestic needs, but also allow export of electricity to other countries.
In 2016 State budget expenditure had been allocated for social sphere, including for education – 33.7%, for healthcare – 14%. At the same time the costs of current maintenance and development of education sector increased against the previous year by 16.3%, healthcare – at 16%.
For example Government of Uzbekistan is paying important attention to education. We are spending more than 7% of GDP to education. Uzbekistan has one of the highest literacy rate of range in the world (98%).
In Uzbekistan we have 26 Universities and 43 Institutes, 63 colleges. 22.000 Teachers, among them 7000 PHD and 2500 professors. For 10 students -1 teacher in Uzbekistan. 42% of teachers are women and 57 man.
Uzbekistan created a number of branches of leading European, Asian and Russian universities, in particular the British Westminster University and Singapore Institute of Management and Development, Turin Polytechnic University, Moscow State University and others.
Q: Please tell us also about political and economic reforms undertaken by the government of Uzbekistan?
In 2017 in Uzbekistan was adopted action strategy on priority areas of the country’s development for 2017-2021, initiated by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan H.E.Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
The action strategy includes five priority areas, and the first one envisages improvement of state and social construction, strengthening the role of the Uzbek parliament in modernization of the country, development of the institutional framework of the state administration, reduction of state regulation of the economy, strengthening the role of civil society institutions and the media.
The strategy also envisages reformation of the Uzbek judicial system, it is proposed to strengthen the genuine independence of the judicial power and the guarantee of protection of the rights and freedoms of the country’s citizens, development and liberalization of the Uzbek economy, development of the social sphere.
Ensuring security, inter-ethnic harmony and religious tolerance, implementation of balanced, mutually beneficial and constructive foreign policy aimed at strengthening the independence and sovereignty of the state, creation of a security belt around Uzbekistan, stability and good neighborly relations, promotion of a positive image of the country abroad is also the most important direction of the strategy.
Therewith, Uzbekistan’s economy has entered the phase of maximum liberalization of the legislation and improvement of the business climate, primarily for small businesses and private enterprises.
The country has triggered a whole range of different measures aimed at further promotion of the ‘small economy’, which as much as provides jobs for most of the employed population today.
Meanwhile, the leader of the country has set a priority to continue the reforms on the further strengthening of protection of private property, elimination of barriers and obstacles to the development of entrepreneurship, ensuring the inevitability of responsibility of public officials for obstruction and illegal interference in business activities. This policy will undoubtedly be continued in the long term.
A package of new laws, including the law ‘On combating corruption’, ‘On public procurement’, ‘On public and private partnership’, as well as more than 30 legal acts on the further development of small business and entrepreneurship is currently being developed and prepared for approval.
Also established an Institution of the Commissioner (Business Ombudsman) under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan for the protection of the rights and legal interests of business entities. The main tasks and activity directions of the Business Ombudsman are to participate in the formation and implementation of Uzbek state policy in the field of entrepreneurship development, protect the rights and interests of entrepreneurs, implement control over observance of their rights and interests by state bodies, including law enforcement and controlling bodies, according to the decree.
The business ombudsman will also render legal support to entrepreneurs while auditing their activity, as well as evaluate the impact of the adopted normative legal acts on entrepreneurial activity and prepare proposals for improving legislation.
Q: What is the existing trade level between Uzbekistan and Pakistan? As both the Countries are historically very close how the trade level and cooperation can be increased?
In May, 2017 Uzbekistan and Pakistan celebrated 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations and the leaders of both countries congratulated each other on this occasion.
Development of relations with Pakistan is one of the important directions of Uzbekistan’s cooperation with the South Asian countries. In turn, Pakistan is in favor of expanding the mutually beneficial cooperation with our country.
The Republic of Uzbekistan and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan reaffirmed their interest in expanding and further strengthening long-term, mutually beneficial bilateral cooperation through sustained dialogue and engagement at all levels in areas such as, security and counter-terrorism, trade and investment, education, science and cultural relations.
Uzbekistan and Pakistan acknowledged the further development of mutually beneficial trade and economic cooperation as one of the key priorities in the bilateral relations. They highlighted the importance of taking joint measures to increase and diversify the range and quantum of mutual trade. The prospects of the agricultural-machinery market in Uzbekistan are very promising, with the possibilities of exporting the output to contiguous countries expanding from year to year.
Today the legal base between the two countries includes 46 interstate, intergovernmental and interdepartmental documents.
Coming to the level of development of trade relations between the two countries, it is pertinent to emphasize the dynamics of trade turnover between Uzbekistan and Pakistan for the last 3-4 years. Each year, the trade turnover between Uzbekistan and Pakistan is increasing at a steady pace.
Recently during the visits of Uzbek delegations in Pakistan and Pakistan business delegation to Uzbekistan, only between private sector, where signed more than 10 trade agreements in the amount of 150 million US dollars. As a result, volume of trade between our countries is doubled in 2016 and increased tourist flow from Pakistan to Uzbekistan by 20 times.
In Uzbekistan 57 enterprises are operating with participation of Pakistani capital, which produce textile outputs, paper, leather products, food and render transportation and travel services.
Pakistani company “KASB Group” and Uzbek Export Corporation signed agreement to establish Pak-Uzbek Trade House which is meant to introduce the new technologies in the field of agriculture in Pakistan.
Moreover, during the recent years business circles of both countries are actively holding business forums and meetings aimed at developing mutually beneficial trade-economic and investment cooperation between Uzbekistan and Pakistan.
I would like to point out that one of the major challenge between Pakistan and Uzbekistan was the direct link, which was resolved when the direct flights were resumed their operations from Tashkent to Lahore in April this year. After the resumption of the flights, to everyone’s surprise and astonishment, at the very first month, there were more than 2500 visitors from both the countries. This number is growing continuously as there has been strong urge from both sides to enhance partnerships in various fields.
Q: As we know Uzbekistan especially produces high-tech agriculture machinery. If you could share some more details about such machinery and how Pakistan, being an agricultural county, can benefit from this machinery?
A: Uzbekistan and Pakistan acknowledged the further development of mutually beneficial trade and economic cooperation as one of the key priorities in the bilateral relations. They highlighted the importance of taking joint measures to increase and diversify the range and quantum of mutual trade.
The prospects of the agricultural-machinery market in Uzbekistan are very promising, with the possibilities of exporting the output to contiguous countries expanding from year to year.
Pakistani farmers should explore possibilities of importing manufactured in Uzbekistan high quality tractors, agriculture machinery, heavy duty trucks and buses that would help in improving agriculture productivity and transportation facilities in Pakistan.
Today Joint venture «Uz CLAAS Agro», which produces combine harvesters Dominator 130, Tucano 430, arable tractor under brands Axos 340, Arion 630S, Axion 850, forage harvester Jaguar 850, balers Markant 55 was established at “Tashkent Tractor Plant” OJSC (“TTP” OJSC) together with «CLAAS» and «CLAAS Central Asia Investment GmbH» Company (Germany) in February 2010.
– «LEMKEN Chirchiq» JV was established at «Chirchiqqishloqmash» OJSC together with «LEMKEN GmbH & Co. KG» (Germany) in December 2011 to produce tillage machinery and other LEMKEN agricultural machinery.
In 2017 established “Pak-Uzbek Trade House” in Islamabad, which brought more 10 Uzbek agricultural machineries, including cotton pick up tractors are in testing process in Central Cotton Research Institute of Multan.
This year, Federal Minister of Food security and Research Mr.Sikandar Bosan, and delegation of Punjab headed by Minister of agriculture of Punjab Muhammad Naeem Akhtar visited Uzbekistan.
As a result, a package of documents was signed in the field of agriculture and agricultural engineering/. Particularly:
-Memorandum of understanding between Tashkent State University of Agriculture and South Punjab Agricultural University on cooperation in agriculture, personnel training in particular in the area of biological plant protection.
-Memorandum of understanding on cooperation between Uzbekistan’s National Research Institute of breeding, seedage, and cotton-plant agricultural engineering and Muhammad Nawaz Sharif University of Agriculture in Multan.
-Protocol of cooperation between “Uzagro industry holding” and Ministry of agriculture of Punjab for supplying and servicing agricultural machinery to Pakistan.
Q: Please tell us something about the tourism potential of Uzbekistan and facilities offered to tourists including issuance of visas?
A: Our country represents a rich world for tourists. A unique location at the crossroads of the Silk Road is an important factor in the dynamic development of this sector in Uzbekistan, as well as the fact that the country has more than 7,000 monuments of different epochs and civilizations, many of which are included in UNESCO World Heritage List.
Only in one of Samarkand – the capital of the great state of Amir Temur – focused a lot of attractions, which are famous today around the world. Architectural ensemble Registan, Ulugbek observatory, famous mausoleum of Amir Temur, Bibi Khanum Mosque have become city’s decoration. This mausoleum was built by the order of Amir Temur, who is considered one of the finest examples of medieval architecture of the East.
Sacred Bukhara is not inferior to Samarkand’s abundance and importance of historical monuments and places of worship.
Majestic minarets, mosques and madrassas, bazaars and shopping domes, havuz-pools and areas are witnessing 2500 year history of Bukhara. Along with it Khiva, Shakhrisabz, Termez with equally rich centuries-old history and unique architectural masterpieces, has roused the admiration of ancestors and contemporaries.
Since independence Uzbekistan has developed radically new principles of state policy in the sphere of tourism. Thus, July 27, 1992 according to Resolution of the President Islam Karimov, National Company “Uzbektourism” has been created. This company was entrusted with the task of implementing state policy in this direction, formation of a national model of tourism development.
In the country many new luxury hotels have been built, including nation-wide network of type B&B, which can provide high level of service for foreign guests. Along with major hotels, providing services under the world-renowned brands such as Radisson, Lotte, Ramada, Wyndham, in the capital and regions of Uzbekistan created a network of private institutions for small groups and family tourists.
In 2011 between Tashkent and Samarkand started to run high-speed train Afrosiyob produced by Spanish company PATENTES TALGO S.L. In 2015 Afrosiyob started going to Karshi – administrative center of Kashkadarya region. Convenience and comfort of this train is noted both by foreign guests and local passengers.
Uzbekistan has created favorable conditions for businesses involved in the provision of tourism services. According to 2015 data, there are 1279 tourist organizations in the country, in particular, 548 hotels, hostels and campgrounds, 731 travel companies.
Q: Science and heritage is yet another field where both Pakistan and Uzbekistan can cooperate. Can you share some details?
A: People of Uzbekistan and Pakistan have deep-rooted relations built on common ancestors from the great Temurids Emperors at the head of Zukhuriddin Babur. Our people share a common culture, traditions, history and religion
Among the Pakistanis there are many relating themselves to Temurids, Boburids and with the names as “Barlos”, “Chigatay”, “Mirzo” and “Bukhari”. This emphasizes ties, which existed between our states since the most ancient times as well as necessity of the new steps in its development.
Evolving relations in cultural and humanitarian sphere are of great significance in strengthening of Uzbek-Pakistani cooperation. “Uzbekistan-Pakistan” Community has been successfully acting since 1991.
Centers for the study of Urdu and Uzbek languages are running both in Uzbekistan and Pakistan. In 2003 the first “Urdu-Uzbek Dictionary” compiled by the Tashkent State Institute of Oriental Studies was published in Pakistan. In 2009 “The Cabinet of Urdu language and literature” was opened in this Institute.
In 2016 Pak-Uzbek Forum was established in Pakistan by group of prominent people in Pakistan, including business, academic and artistic communities with the support Uzbekistan and Pakistan relations..
Representatives of science, culture and art of the two countries regularly participate in scientific conferences, festivals and other events. In particular, the Pakistani artists are traditional participants of the International Music Festival “Sharq taronalari” in Samarkand.
The priceless cultural heritage of the great Uzbek scholars and thinkers as Abu Ali ibn Sino, Alisher Navoi and Zahiriddin Muhammad Babur are a well-known and revered in Pakistan. Works of the outstanding Pakistani poet and philosopher Muhammad Iqbal are also esteemed in our country.
Summarizing the aforesaid, I would like to emphasize that in the past 25 years between our countries has been established widespread and dynamically developing relations, and with our common efforts these relations, based on equality and brotherhood, will further strengthen.
Availing myself of this opportunity I would like to wish to the brotherly People of Pakistan peace and continuous prosperity.
Pak Uzbek dosti Zindabad!!!
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