Last update : 15.08.2020



Investment climate in the Republic of Uzbekistan: current status, challenges and solutions

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Investment climate in the Republic of Uzbekistan: current status, challenges and solutions

Nowadays, favorable investment climate is a prerequisite for ensuring a stable high development of the economy, attracting investments in regions and industries, and enhancing entrepreneurial activity. It contributes to the influx of foreign direct investment in important production and social projects, expands the possibilities for innovation, and improves the quality of socio-economic development.


Nowadays, favorable investment climate is a prerequisite for ensuring a stable high development of the economy, attracting investments in regions and industries, and enhancing entrepreneurial activity. It contributes to the influx of foreign direct investment in important production and social projects, expands the possibilities for innovation, and improves the quality of socio-economic development.

Over the years of independence, Uzbekistan has gone through a difficult stage of restructuring the entire economy, accompanied by certain difficulties in terms of developing a suitable concept and mechanisms for its implementation.

Thus, it must be recognized that for a long time specific issues remained unresolved in the field of doing business (for example, currency conversion, free repatriation of profits, attracting international financial institutions, etc.), and this, in turn, seriously affected the investment attractiveness of the country.

However, in recent years, the situation in this regard has begun to change dramatically, and reforms aimed at improving the investment environment have gained a dynamic character.

And already,, in Uzbekistan, one of the drivers of economic growth is attracting foreign capital to the national economy.

The achievement of positive results is facilitated by the implementation of structural reforms aimed at improving the business environment, including next:

-reduction of terms, number of documents and costs associated with business registration (registration takes 30 minutes);

- liberalization of the foreign exchange market, which allowed to remove restrictions on the repatriation of profits;

- simplification of tax and customs administration - introduction of a risk analysis system, reduction of documents and time required for customs clearance;

-strengthening measures for the execution of contracts (introduction of the institution of mediation), protection of minority shareholders, as well as others.

As a result, Uzbekistan ranked 69th among 190 countries in the «DoingBusiness 2020» ranking and entered the top 20 reformer countries in terms of creating the most favorable conditions for doing business. For comparison, we note that in 2012, the country in this rating took only 166 place. Also, during the second half of 2018 and the past period of 2019, Uzbekistan was able to get the first estimates of agencies such as Fitch and Standard & End-Pass. At the same time, such factors as a strong sovereign balance, low level of state debt, as well as a decrease in state participation in the country's economy, positively influenced the rating of Uzbekistan. Visa-free entry granted to citizens of 86 countries. The second country in terms of openness for tourists among the CIS countries.

Uzbekistan has also resumed active negotiations on accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Joining the WTO will provide an opportunity for Uzbek entrepreneurs to increase prospects for increasing scientific and technological progress in the sectors through the acquisition and purchase of efficient and reliable imported equipment. In addition, upon entry into the WTO, domestic exporters will gain easier access to foreign markets.

The potential of Uzbekistan is based on strong macroeconomic fundamentals - it is a country with a strong domestic market, relatively young and cheap labor, rich natural resources, a relatively diversified economy and a rapidly developing infrastructure.

In general, Uzbekistan has the advantage of macroeconomic stability, which, combined with ongoing reforms, opens up opportunities in various sectors of the economy, be it financial services, construction or tourism.

Intensified work on further deep integration into the international stock market. So, in February 2019, Uzbekistan placed the first 5-year and 10-year Eurobonds totaling $ 1 billion. The United States has re-subscribed four times, eventually orders were distributed among more than 150 investors from England, Europe, America and Asia.

It is also noteworthy that in November 2019, for the first time in the history of Uzbekistan, corporate Eurobonds were issued. In particular, «Uzpromstroybank» issued five-year international bonds worth $ 300 million on the London Stock Exchange. Value of purchase orders reached $ 1.2 billion with 4x coverage.

Successful placement of bonds also testifies to a positive assessment of international investors of reforms carried out in Uzbekistan.

NECESSARY INSTITUTIONS FORMED IN ORDER TO DEVELOP AND PROTECT ENTREPRENEURSHIP

In order to effectively ensure the rights and legitimate interests of business entities, the country has created appropriate structures, including consolidating efforts in the field of entrepreneurship development.

Particularly

-The Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade is the state body of the Republic of Uzbekistan, dealing with export issues, attracting foreign investment and other aspects of the economy and international trade;

-Reception-offices of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Uzbekistan to consider appeals of entrepreneurs - ensure the quality and efficiency of the organization of work with appeals of entrepreneurs;

-Foreign Investment Promotion Agency under the Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade - participation in the implementation of the state investment policy to attract foreign investors and creating favorable conditions for the work of foreign businessmen who want to invest in Uzbekistan.

-The President's Commissioner for the protection of the rights and legitimate interests of business entities - provides guarantees for the protection of the rights and legitimate interests of business entities;

Agency for the Development of Small Business and Entrepreneurship - implements a unified state policy aimed at the development of entrepreneurship.

The Council of Foreign Investors under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan - the main task of the Council of Foreign Investors is to directly participate in creating a favorable investment climate and effective mechanisms to stimulate domestic and foreign entrepreneurs to invest in priority sectors of the economy, as well as regions of the country, with the aim of organizing technological production to produce a competitive export-oriented products.

By doing this, the Ministry of Justice is also conducting consistent work in this direction.

In particular, according to the results of the analysis of law enforcement practice, relevant proposals are developed to eliminate systemic problems that hamper the development of entrepreneurship, as well as aimed at improving the business environment.

For instance, it is expected to introduce a system for assessing the level of entrepreneurship development in the regions of the republic, which will allow timely identification and elimination of problems that impede the development of entrepreneurship and attracting local investments.

Efforts are being made to radically improve the licensing system and licensing procedures (proposals will be made to remove bureaucratic barriers in obtaining licenses and permits, reduce the number of licenses and permits, and also reduce the terms for their execution).

CHALLENGES ON THE EFFECTIVE ATTRACTING OF INVESTMENTS AND THEIR SOLUTION

Along with the achieved results, there are also areas requiring appropriate adjustments.

As you know, in leading foreign countries (USA, England, etc.) the bulk of the financing of the economy comes from equity funds, bonds, and only the smaller one consists of a form of bank financing.

In Uzbekistan, banking sector assets are 130 times higher than shares in free float.

These are very modest figures, which, on the other hand, show huge growth potential.

Assuming this, in order to develop this direction, in early 2019, the Agency for the Development of the Capital Market was formed

Equally crucial is the course taken to reduce state participation in the economy and the privatization of state assets. In 2020, the Management and Privatization Strategy of state-owned enterprises will be adopted, which provides for the criteria for maintaining state ownership of enterprises and their transformation into efficient enterprises that can compete in the domestic and foreign markets. By 2023, Uzbekistan plans to privatize at least 20 large state-owned companies.

At the same time, one of the main conditions for attracting investments is the provision of guarantees of property rights.

However, recently there have been some problematic issues related to ensuring guarantees of property rights.

In particular, cases of violation of the rights of owners during the seizure and demolition of real estate.

Recently, the country has been actively working to improve the architectural appearance of cities, improve the living conditions of the population and implement investment projects. These works in some cases were accompanied by the seizure and demolition of real estate, often dilapidated, in disrepair, and also not meeting the requirements of urban planning.

Unfortunately, this process was not always carried out by local authorities in accordance with the requirements of the law, which required the adoption of urgent measures to unconditionally ensure the rights of owners.

Along with this, until very recently, there were still bureaucratic barriers and red tape in the allocation of land.

In addition, there were cases of initiation of issues of revision and cancellation of the results of privatization, which negatively affected the confidence of entrepreneurs in ensuring ownership.

The course taken on the policy of openness, direct dialogue with the public, including with entrepreneurs and investors, allowed us to identify problematic issues in a timely manner, as well as take effective measures to eliminate them. In particular, in order to address the above issues, relevant decisions were taken by the President and the Government of the Republic of Uzbekistan.

Thus, in recent years, intensive reforms have been carried out under the leadership of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Sh. Mirziyoyev, including those aimed at ensuring a favorable investment climate.

At the same time, meetings held with entrepreneurs and investors showed a lack of local awareness of the performers on the nature and content of the reforms.

CONCLUSION

Therefore, despite the positive results achieved, it seems necessary to continue focused work to improve the investment climate in the country.

First of all, such issues as ensuring reliable protection of the rights and legitimate interests of entrepreneurs, including foreign investors, further strengthening the protection of private property, stimulating the development of competition in the investment market, developing the capital market, improving law enforcement practice, etc. need to be further developed.

The solution of these issues will undoubtedly open up new opportunities for the wide promotion of the investment potential and the republic’s opportunities abroad, as well as positively affect the positions of the Republic of Uzbekistan in such international ratings as the Index of Economic Freedom, the Rule of Law Index, the Corruption Perception Index. So far these results remain modest now.