Jakarta. Uzbekistan is celebrating its 31 years of independence. Over the past years, major reforms have taken place in Uzbekistan which in turn have expedited the country’s economy. In a recent interview, Ambassador of Uzbekistan to Indonesia Dr. Ulugbek Rozukulov talked about how these reforms had shaped today’s Uzbekistan. The ambassador also spoke of Uzbekistan's bilateral ties with Indonesia.
The following is an excerpt of the interview:
Jakarta Globe: Good morning, Mr.Ambassador, I am glad to see you, thank you for this opportunity. Interest in Uzbekistan in Indonesian society is growing and this time we are meeting with you on the eve of the national holiday - Independence Day of Uzbekistan!
Ambassador: Good morning. First of all, I would like to greet the entire audience of your esteemed publication, sincerely congratulate all of you on the recent Independence Day of Indonesia and express gratitude for the opportunity to tell you about our country - the Republic of Uzbekistan.
Yes, today we celebrate the most important holiday in the life of our country - Independence Day of the Republic of Uzbekistan!
On August 31, 1991, a truly historic event took place, which became a turning point in the life of the nation. Our people, who looked to the future with great hopes, achieved their main goal to gain the state independence, and this year we are celebrating its 31st Anniversary.
During the independence years, very important works were done in building a new state and society. The foundations of modern statehood, the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of power had been formed. In a short time, the Constitution of the country was adopted, the national currency - soum, was introduced, and gold and foreign reserves were formed.
Our ancient history, national identity, rich cultural heritage, and spiritual values have been revived. Today Uzbekistan has a worthy place in the world community.
Jakarta Globe: Over the past few years, there has been a significant intensification of reforms in Uzbekistan. What are the main indicators characterizing today’s Uzbekistan?
Ambassador: After being elected as the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan H.E. Mr. Shavkat Miromonovich Mirziyoyev, a new impulse has been given to the development of our country. A special Action Strategy was adopted in five priority areas for the development of the Republic of Uzbekistan for 2017-2021 years, which covered a fundamental program of reforms in all sectors of the economy and social sphere, public and state construction, initiated and carried out under the leadership of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
As a result of the implementation of the strategy, in the period 2017-2021 years, the country's GDP increased by 24 percent, industrial production increased by 34 percent, the number of newly created operating enterprises increased by more than 3 times, real incomes of the population as a whole increased by 28 percent compared to the year 2016. Due to the liberalization of the economy and the simplification of customs procedures, the foreign trade turnover of Uzbekistan increased by 1.8 times. It is encouraging that the range of goods in exports is growing steadily and the share of industrial products and services in the structure of exports reached 41.4 percent in 2021.
Over the past four years, the tax system has been reformed. The number of taxes has been reduced, turnover taxes have been abolished. The VAT rate has been reduced from 20 to 15 percent. Moreover from January 1, 2023, it will be lowered to 12 percent!
Reflection of the positive results of reforms you can see in various world rankings certainly creates opportunities for the country to enter the international financial markets and strengthen investor confidence in the economy. Particularly, government Eurobonds, corporate bonds of the largest banks, and industrial enterprises of Uzbekistan were sold to foreign investors. In a short period of time, the total volume of investments increased by 2.5 times, including foreign investments by 3.5 times.
Within the framework of structural changes in the electric power, oil and gas industry and the public utility sector, the functions of state and economic management have been separated, and important steps have been taken to create a competitive environment in these industries. New infrastructure facilities have been implemented. Thousands of kilometers of roads, power lines, and gas supply lines have been laid and repaired.
Taking into account the success and effectiveness of the implementation of the reforms program, a new Strategy for the period 2022-2026 years was adopted by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
According to the analysis of the International Monetary Fund and reputable rating agencies, Uzbekistan is among the few countries in the world which in the current difficult conditions manage to ensure financial and economic stability, restore manufacturing industries and increase economic activity.
The same conclusions are given in the published analytical report of the American investment bank J.P. Morgan "Uzbekistan: on the way to the zenith".
In the field of state building, the priority of the strategy of the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Miromonovich Mirziyoyev is the further development of democratic principles and their implementation in state institutions and the development of civil society.
Jakarta Globe: In recent years, Uzbekistan has also been conducting active foreign policy. What are its main elements?
Ambassador: First of all, I would like to note that the foreign policy priorities initiated by the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev are pragmatic and strategically verified. This contributed to strengthening our country as a reliable and stable partner that deserves trust and pursues an active foreign policy.
The main result of this approach was a significant improvement of the political situation in Central Asia, e.g. the evolution of the spirit of good neighborhood in the region, the beginning of joint work between neighboring states to resolve vital regional issues, joint responses to the challenges and threats faced by the region, including the pandemic and its consequences, solving environmental problems, preventing transnational threats of extremism and terrorism, as well as strengthening interethnic harmony, friendly and fraternal ties between the peoples of Central Asia.
It has already become a tradition to hold regular consultations of the Heads of States of Central Asia. As President Shavkat Mirziyoyev noted, “the term “Central Asian spirit” has appeared in the political vocabulary of the world, accurately reflecting the positive political atmosphere of cooperation and mutual understanding created in our region.
Uzbekistan's initiative to strengthen interregional cooperation deserves special attention. On July 11, the UN General Assembly unanimously approved a special resolution on strengthening interconnectedness between Central and South Asia. The adoption of the resolution became the practical implementation of the initiative of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan H.E. Mr. Shavkat Mirziyoyev, put forward during the high-level international conference “Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity. Challenges and Opportunities”, held in July 2021 in Tashkent.
The Tashkent conference brought together an unprecedented number of delegates - about 600 representatives from 50 countries of the world. UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who attended the event at the time, said that “connectivity plays a key role in trade, economic growth, and sustainable development” and “can help build long-term peace, stability, and prosperity in Central and South Asia.”
Closer cooperation with South Asia, the creation of new transport corridors, of course, will play a positive role in expanding mutual trade and economic cooperation with the countries of Central Asia and with the countries of Southeast Asia, including Indonesia.
Generally, Uzbekistan has balanced relations with the leading states of the world, the countries of the region, and international organizations, maintaining the geopolitical balance and ensuring the diversification of trade and economic ties.
Today we have equal relations with foreign countries and maintain mutually beneficial trade and economic relations.
Jakarta Globe: How are bilateral and multilateral relations between Uzbekistan and Indonesia developing today? In what areas and sectors do you think have the greatest potential for growth in mutual cooperation?
Ambassador: This year we are celebrating an important anniversary, the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Republic of Indonesia. Over the years, significant results of mutual cooperation have been achieved, political dialogue is developing, the parties are providing mutual support within the framework of international organizations, and mutually beneficial economic, cultural, and humanitarian ties have been established and strengthened.
If we talk about the potential for further cooperation, in my opinion, first of all, economic cooperation has a great prospectus for growth. Uzbekistan and Indonesia have a number of complementary sectors of the economy and types of products which have high demand in our markets.
Uzbekistan is interested in further increasing the volume of mutual trade, including the supply of chemical fertilizers, textile products (cotton yarn and fabrics), silk, agricultural products (legumes - mung beans, beans, dried peppers, garlic), fresh fruits (pomegranates, stone fruits - cherries, cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines, plums, etc.) dried fruits, nuts and vegetables that are in demand on the Indonesian market.
At the same time, Uzbekistan is ready to buy from Indonesia goods which have demand in our domestic and Central Asian markets - tea and coffee, various tropical fruits (bananas, pineapples, and dragon fruit), seafood, paper, rubber products, etc.
According to statistics, for the period of January-July of this year, exports from Indonesia to Uzbekistan increased by 1.4 times, and foreign trade turnover between our countries increased by 1.6 times and exceeded this figure for the whole of 2021. In general, we managed to overcome the drop in trade caused by the pandemic. In foreign trade, we can achieve much greater results, therefore, work is on to intensify cooperation between the Chambers of Commerce and Industry and the relevant agencies of Uzbekistan and Indonesia.
Certainly, another promising direction of cooperation is tourism. Uzbekistan is one of the centers of Islamic civilization and the birthplace of Imam Al Bukhari, Bahouddin Nakshbandi, Ibn Sina, and other great scientists of not only Islamic but also world civilization.
I would like to note that the development of tourism is one of the elements of Uzbekistan's strategy. Today, a visa-free regime has been granted for tourists from more than 90 countries, and Indonesia was one of the first to be granted these preferences. Even during the most acute phase of the COVID-19 quarantine, entry for Indonesian tourists to Uzbekistan remained as visa-free.
In 2019, before the start of the pandemic, the number of tourists from Indonesia exceeded 3.5 thousand people. This is a small number, but the growth rate is 1.7 times compared to 2018 was impressive. In December 2019 Uzbekistan presented the Umrah+ program with the allocation of passenger seats for Indonesian pilgrims on the Tashkent-Jeddah-Tashkent flights.
As a result, in the 1st quarter of 2020, the number of Indonesian tourists visiting Uzbekistan increased two times. In the 1st quarter of 2020 Indonesian tourists came out on top among the citizens of the Southeast Asian countries who visited Uzbekistan as part of the “ziyarah tourism”.
At the same time, I would like to note the excellent opportunities of our country for winter tourism. In recent years, ski resort infrastructures have been developed in Uzbekistan at high international standards.
In turn, visiting the island of Bali and other resorts and historical centers of Indonesia is also becoming popular in Uzbekistan, and as a person who is directly familiar with the high level of tourist services in Indonesia, I consider it a very promising and high potential to expand the inbound tourist flow from Uzbekistan to Indonesia.
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic has made serious adjustments, we have lost significant volumes of mutual passengers’ number, and direct flights have been suspended. But, today in Uzbekistan and Indonesia the main quarantine restrictions have already been softened or completely canceled. In this regard, we are very optimistic about the prospects for the resumption of mutual tourist flow.
Of course, the list of promising areas of cooperation between our countries is not limited to the above-mentioned, we have a very wide range of interaction. It is worthy to note the successes in the development of ties in the field of science and education, including the exchange of representatives of academic circles.
Until today 16 agreements were signed between the universities of the two countries on the creation of training courses for specialists in the field of “halal” tourism, modern hotel services, teachers of the Indonesian language, etc.
In September 2019 a joint master's program was launched between Bukhara State University and Gunadarma University to train ICT specialists in the tourism sector.
Our country remembers with deep respect the visit of the First President of the Republic of Indonesia, H.E. Mr. Sukarno, to the former Soviet Union in September 1956. Despite religious restrictions in the USSR at that time, Mr. Sukarno's decision to travel to Uzbekistan to visit the tomb of Imam al-Bukhari was an example of true respect for the prominent son of Uzbekistan. Since then, it has been a unique event and one of the sources of friendly relations between Uzbekistan and Indonesia.
Even if we are far from each other from a geographical point of view, our nations are close by hearts and enjoy mutual respect for traditions which creates a solid opportunity for long-lasting comprehensive cooperation.
Jakarta Globe: Mr. Ambassador. Thank you very much for the interview.