PRESIDENT OF UZBEKISTAN
Politics & Diplomacy I Foreword
“WE HAVE TAKEN REVOLUTIONARY DECISIONS TO SUPPORT PRIVATE BUSINESS, THE DRIVER OF TODAY'S ECONOMY.”
The world is undergoing major global change today. The global community is facing new challenges and tribulations before it has recovered from the pandemic. There are growing confrontations and conflicts between different forces. In such really difficult circumstances, the role of a close partnership based on mutual trust and respect multiply increases. That is why I believe that today's meeting of the Foreign Investors' Council is of particular importance. As you know, over the last few years we have been implementing large-scale reforms and transformations in Uzbekistan. One of the main goals of the reforms we have defined is the openness of the national economy and the creation of all the necessary conditions for its integration into the global economy. To this end, we have liberalised the foreign exchange market, opened up access for private investors to sectors such as energy, exploration, chemicals and petrochemicals, medicine and education. The fight against corruption has become a top priority of state policy in our country. A separate agency has been created to ensure systematic work in this area.
We have taken revolutionary decisions to support private business, the driver of today's economy. We abolished more than two hundred licences and permits. The total number of taxes has been reduced from 13 to 9, and the rates of some of them have been halved. From next year, the VAT rate will be reduced from 15% to 12%. We are very aware of how important foreign investment is for the development of our economy. In order to provide investors with legal protection and to clearly define their legal status, we have adopted a separate law on investment. We have also introduced the institution of Business Ombudsman under the President of Uzbekistan. These measures we have taken have helped the national economy grow even against the backdrop of global turbulence and crises. Thus, in the midst of the pandemic, and despite the difficult situation in foreign markets, we have maintained positive economic growth. Last year the figure exceeded 7%. This year our economy has also continued its growth (over 5%). I would like to take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to all the business people who have supported our reforms and continue to walk on this path with us.
As a result of the reforms carried out to create a favourable investment climate over the last 5 years, the amount of foreign investment in our economy increased tenfold, reaching about U$40 billion. We have set ourselves the goal of doubling our gross domestic product over the next 10 years. We have both the will and the capacity to do this. To achieve these lofty goals, we expect to increase investment to U$120 billion over the next 5 years, including at least $70 billion of foreign investment. We have already developed specific projects and programmes to channel these investments into modernising and transforming industries and accelerating the development of production, utilities and transport infrastructure. At the same time, the current investment agenda covers the traditionally public spheres of education and health.
We invite foreign investors to develop and jointly implement new mutually beneficial projects. I can assure you that we will create all the conditions for investors in the New Uzbekistan to feel free and work with full confidence in the future. That is why we are creating a new Council with investors who are our closest and most trusted friends.I am confident that together we can raise long-term and mutually beneficial investment cooperation to a qualitatively new level. I want to assure you that we will never diverge from the path of reforms that we have embarked on to build an open and rapidly developing modern state in our country. I am sure that each of you has concrete and constructive suggestions.
I would like to briefly highlight a few areas that, with your support, we intend to develop within the Council.
First, we have identified the rule of law as one of the main priorities of the New Uzbekistan. Unprecedented measures have been taken to ensure the inviolability of private property and to protect the rights of owners. From now on, the property rights of citizens and entrepreneurs will be unconditionally secured and protected through a transparent and fair legal and judicial system. Yesterday, at a meeting on the judiciary, we identified priorities for the next stage of reform in this area. I propose the creation of a permanent Committee under the Council to protect the rights of investors with a view to introducing the best foreign practices and experience in Uzbekistan.
Second, we intend to deepen reforms in the banking and financial sector. It is a question of creating healthy competition in this sphere and actively attracting foreign banks to Uzbekistan and creating an effective stock market. We are very pleased to see in this hall our foreign partners who have invested in the banking sector. We are open to suggestions and initiatives from foreign investors aimed at further improving the banking and financial sector.
Third, reducing the state's share of the economy and deepening privatisation remains one of our main objectives.In recent years, 1,200 state enterprises have been privatised in Uzbekistan. Next year, we intend to privatise about a thousand more companies and properties. At the same time, we are actively introducing public-private partnerships in all sectors of the economy. In a very short period, we have been able to achieve considerable success in this area. In the energy sector alone, Uzbekistan has attracted more than U$8 billion in foreign direct investment through PPP mechanisms. I am also pleased to see our partners at the event today who are investing to these projects. Members are welcome to actively participate in privatisation and public-private partnership programmes.
Fourth, we see enormous potential in the development of Uzbekistan's rich natural resources. As you know, our country has the world's 2nd largest gold reserves, 7th largest copper and 8th largest tungsten, 9th silver, 12th uranium reserves. In order to attract more investment to the development of mineral deposits, we have declared open geological data. We reduced tax rates on the development of more than 10 types of strategic minerals, abolished land tax and exempted imported exploration equipment from customs duties. We have prepared specific projects for the deep processing of raw materials. Let me give you one example. Every year, 150,000 tonnes of copper are mined in Uzbekistan, but only 70,000 are processed. In the next few years, we will increase our copper output to 500,000 tonnes.In this regard, we have embarked on the creation of a copper cluster.It has launched projects to produce copper foil, electric motors, solar panels, cable and wire products and other high value-added products.In addition, we intend to establish an electric car industry. We invite you, our esteemed investors, to establish practical cooperation in this area.
Fifthly, Uzbekistan pays special attention to attracting investment to digitalisation. We have approved the Digital Uzbekistan 2030 Strategy. This document envisages the digitalisation of all important sectors.We are setting up IT parks in all regions of the country. Residents of these parks are exempt from all taxes and mandatory contributions. We understand that the full development of this sphere is impossible without the active participation of foreign investors and technology. We therefore look forward to effective cooperation with Council members in implementing joint projects in this area.
Sixth, Uzbekistan is actively involved in the development of green economy processes. In accordance with the Strategy we have adopted, we plan to increase the share of energy from alternative sources in total generation to 25% by 2026. We also intend to develop scientific and technical potential, create conditions for applied research, and train specialists in renewable energy sources. Together with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the World Bank, we have started to develop a strategy for the deep decarbonisation of the national economy until 2050. We are interested in further attracting foreign investment in green projects and would welcome the participation of Council members in these projects.
Unfortunately, the time available will not be enough to discuss all the promising areas of our cooperation. In this regard, I consider it necessary to organise work with foreign investors as follows. A working group on investor support will be set up under the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Trade to implement each of these priorities.This Working Group will operate under the Foreign Investors Council and deal with comprehensive and systematic support for foreign investors. In particular, it will provide all services from meeting the investor at the airport to issuing the necessary permits and business licences on a one-stop-shop basis.
The new Working Group will be coordinated by First Deputy Minister of Investment and Foreign Trade, Laziz Kudratov. He will be relieved of all other affairs and will focus only on working with investors. Deputy Prime Ministers J. Khojaev, D. Kuchkarov, J. Mirzamakhmudov will ensure that appeals received in their areas are resolved positively. The Working Group together with the Council Secretariat should develop a roadmap based on proposals from foreign investors, with specific projects, legislative improvements for implementation, deadlines and responsible actors.
First and foremost, I express my sincere thanks for all your valuable ideas and suggestions. We highly appreciate your attention and intention to develop constructive and long-term cooperation with Uzbekistan. I will repeat: We will take all measures to ensure that your business in Uzbekistan is successful and that you feel confident, free and comfortable in our country.
The proposals you have voiced will be included in separate roadmaps. Once again, I give my appreciation to H.E. Odile Renauld-Basso for the European Bank's unwavering support to reforms and transformations in Uzbekistan as well as for the implementation of joint programmes and initiatives. I wish everyone good health, prosperity and great success. Thank you for your attention!
Address by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev at the First Plenary Session of the Foreign Investors Council under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan on 16/12/2022.