INFORMATION DIGEST - PRESS OF UZBEKISTAN - March 9, 2016

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ECONOMY
“Made in Uzbekistan” – a worthy choice in the world marketplace

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
Uzbek-Finnish agreement is signed

SOCIETY
Employment and Social Security. Who Will Address These Issues?


ECONOMY
“Made in Uzbekistan” – a worthy choice in the world marketplace
Thanks to the ongoing economic reforms, a broad range of goods are now turned out in Uzbekistan, including modern automobiles, telecommunication and computing equipment, consumer electronics, fabrics, textile, clothes etc. All of them are in popular demand in the world marketplace to date.
Notwithstanding the smoldering global financial-economic crisis, the Republic of Uzbekistan is one of a few countries in the world that has been boasting an average 8 per cent rise of GDP over the past 11 years. Addressing an enlarged session of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan, which dealt with the results of the nation’s socio-economic development in 2015 and priority directions of an economic program for 2016, the Uzbek leader emphasized in particular that, despite a significant deceleration of growth rates in the field of global trade, a decline in foreign demand and a reduction of world prices for the most essential exports, Uzbekistan has succeeded in reaching a positive balance in its foreign trade turnover. 
Indeed, the indigenous produce bearing a “Made in Uzbekistan” label has already won its way on the international arena. Today, domestic enterprises export almost all types of goods they manufacture, such as foodstuffs, clothes, building materials, motor vehicles, cars, up-to-date equipment and many others. Made in full compliance with stringent international standards, virtually all of them are generally sought after by overseas consumers.
According to data released by the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations, Investment and Trade of the Republic of Uzbekistan, in 2015 services accounted for 24.5 per cent of the country’s total exports volume, foodstuffs – 10.2 per cent, ferrous and non-ferrous metals – 6.4 per cent, cotton fiber – 5.7 per cent and chemical produce – 4.8 per cent. 
Owing to the reforms designed to diversify the national farming and supply the population with quality eatables, Uzbekistan is currently exporting over US $5 billion worth of foodstuffs, fruit and vegetables annually. In the past three years, the volume of exported farm produce increased threefold. The Republic delivers more than 180 sorts of fresh and processed fruit and vegetables to 80-plus countries throughout the globe.
Uzbekistan is one of the world’s top ten leading suppliers of grapes, nuts, fruit and vegetables in volume terms. Last year the country was one of the 14 states decorated with awards for the achievement of the Millennium Development Targets to ensure the food security among the UN Food and Agriculture Program member states. 
Year after year, the nation’s light industry has been increasing its exports volumes. According to data provided by the Joint-Stock Company Uzbekengilsanoat, it incorporates over 300 enterprises, of which more than 250 ones export their produce these days. The output of Uzbekistan’s light industry is exported to Europe, America, Asia and Africa. In particular, in 2015 the total volume of its exports exceeded US $1 billion.
Kristof Briolin, president of the leading French company Exuinoxe, observed that “Uzbekistan abounds in possibilities of developing the sphere of fashion and design, such as the economic and social stability, the availability of intellectual ideas and a stupendous potential in the national cotton and textile industry. All of which suggests that the Republic is well-placed and prepared to present a full suite of textile produce and to play a meaningful role in the international market for light-industry goods.” Exuinoxe has been cooperating with OOO Ideal, one of the local firms, within a year. Situated in Namangan province, this firm specializes in the production of men’s outer clothing as well as in design of a host of new models.
Any enterprise’s competitiveness depends, above all, on the quality of its output. That’s why much attention is paid in Uzbekistan to the introduction of quality management systems that meet all international standards, for the purpose of improving the quality of goods turned out by indigenous manufacturers, expanding their export potentialities, strengthening the competitiveness of Uzbekistan-made produce and services in the world market.
The car is a means conveyance that significantly improves the quality and comfort of life. In former times, it was next to impossible to imagine that Uzbekistan would be in a position not only to make automobiles, but also to export them abroad. For the time being, each second family in the Republic owns a car of domestic manufacture. 
The Uzbek cars are exported to over 10 countries. More than 250 dealers, representing the national automobile industry, are now operating abroad. Notable for their modern design and high technical characteristics, the cars made in Uzbekistan has already won consumers’ confidence, thus graphically demonstrating the nation’s huge economic potential to the world. 
The macroeconomic stability and an auspicious business environment created in the Republic lure hordes of foreign investors. Testifying to this fact is  a growing number of joint venture enterprises that are set up in Uzbekistan to date. The majority of them export their quality competitive produce to different countries throughout the globe. Among them are the following joint ventures: East Butterfly, Novopharma Plus, Global Komsco Daewoo, Uztex-Tashkent, Los Gigantes Textiles, Agromir, O’zelectroapparat Electroshield, Infinity Electronics, Éclair Cosmetic, Istiqlol Textile Design and Bahor Plastics. 
The Presidential Resolution, “On additional measures to support the export activity of small businesses and private entrepreneurs” dated 8th August 2013 serves as a reliable guide to action in this direction.
It is appropriate to mention here the Foundation of Export Activity Support for Small Business and Private Entrepreneurship established at the National Bank for Foreign Economic Activity of Uzbekistan. This organization is making a significant contribution to the improvement of production practices of small enterprises and private entrepreneurs, encouraging indigenous enterprises to embark on the road of export activity and promoting their goods and services in the international markets. The Foundation’s close business ties with more than 80 overseas commercial organizations facilitate the arrangement by small businesses and private entrepreneurs of export deliveries of their produce. 
With the Foundation’s assistance, the domestic manufacturers also take active part in big exhibitions and fairs held abroad, which provide them with ample opportunities to conclude new contracts and thereby expand their exports geography. 
The Foundation of Export Activity Support for Small Business and Private Entrepreneurship, its affiliated societies and regional sub-divisions are granted exemption, till January 1st, 2019, from unified social payment, all types of taxes, duties and deductions to the state targeted funds. Small businesses and private entrepreneurs are eligible for exporting their goods and services payable in foreign currency without the need to execute their pre-payment or to open a letter of credit.  These significant preferences clear the way for forging long-term trade links between Uzbek manufacturers and their foreign partners.
 According to the Presidential Resolution as of 29th December 2014, a number of domestic companies and organizations participated in the World Exhibition, Expo Milano – 2015 held in the city of Milano (Italy) in May-October last year. Their visit was aimed at unlocking their export potential. The Uzbek exposition featured the whole spectrum of the country’s potentialities and achievements in fields such as investment, export/import, consultancy and transport services, as well as in the light and chemical industries, agriculture, production of building materials, machinery construction, metallurgy, textile, pharmaceutics, production of foodstuffs, consumer goods and furniture etc.
“All sorts of goods are made in Uzbekistan, from fragile produce to articles that undergo sophisticated technological processes”, says Jeong Min Son, manager of DY Panel (Republic of Korea). – “The introduction at domestic enterprises of up-and-coming technologies is bearing fruit.”  Much attention is devoted in Uzbekistan to eliminating whatever obstacles and restrictions that impede the development of private entrepreneurship as well as to ensuring full freedom of action in a given sphere. All this can be regarded as a practical outcome of reforms carried out in the country with a view to building a developed democratic state based on a market economy. Our company plans to arrange, together with Uzbek partners, the production of building materials, in particular, panels.”
The World Economic Forum held in Switzerland last year announced a rating of countries with the most rapidly developing economies, in which the Republic of Uzbekistan was the obvious choice for No 5. The event’s report positively assessed the Republic’s stage-by-stage transition to a modern market economy. It was also accentuated in the document that Uzbekistan is one of the world’s top exporters of cotton fiber, oil and gas and chemicals.               
(Source: «Business partner.uz» newspaper)
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION 
Uzbek-Finnish agreement is signed
On March 8, 2016, in Helsinki, during the visit of the Uzbek delegation to Finland it was held a ceremony of signing the Protocol amending the Agreement between the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Republic of Finland for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income dated April 9, 1998.
The document was signed by the Chairman of the State Tax Committee of the Republic of Uzbekistan Botir Parpiyev and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Finland Timo Soini.
The protocol introduces new regulations that meet the international standards of tax transparency.
(Source: Press Service of the MFA of the Republic of Uzbekistan)
SOCIETY
Employment and Social Security. Who Will Address These Issues?
With the announcement of the presidential decree “On measures to further improve the system of social support and medical and social assistance to vulnerable groups”, Uzbekistan’s three ministries – of labor and social security of the population, healthcare and finance – have undergone transformation. What are the benefits that the ordinary citizen, a potential consumer of public services, can hope for that may be provided by these bodies? Sardorbek Abdukunduzov, chief information officer of the Ministry of Labor, has helped an Uzbekistan Today correspondent to have an understanding of these and other issues.
“Single window”
From now on, public services for medical and social assistance to the disabled, war veterans, lonely elderly and other vulnerable groups of population, for the organization of vocational training of persons with disabilities and the development of inclusive professional training will be provided on the principle of ‘single window’.
This has become possible after the transformation of the Ministry of Labor and Social Security of the Population to the Ministry of Labor and the transfer of part of its functions to the Ministry of Health. All the organizations involved in social services have passed to the latter agency.
To date, approximately 16,800 single elderly, pensioners and disabled people have been taken on record and receive assistance. Of these, about 15 thousand lonely persons use the assistance of social workers. This package of services includes accompaniment to the store, pharmacy, market, polyclinic, wet cleaning of the apartment and other help around the house. 4.2 thousand lonely people are provided with free food baskets on a monthly basis. 670 single elderly, pensioners and disabled people live in nursing homes “Sahovat” (Generosity), and more than 6.8 thousand people with disabilities, including children with disabilities, live in boarding homes “Muruvvat” (Compassion). These citizens have the opportunity to recreate in sanatoria and rest homes of the social protection system. In 2015, this right was exercised by 1,569 lonely people.
Another important aspect was the health improvement measures among veterans of war and labor front of 1941-1945, creation of favorable conditions for the promotion of health by increasing the level and quality of medical and health-improving services. In 2015, about 12,000 veterans made use of free vouchers.
In the center of attention is also the assistance to the disabled. In 2015, more than 19,200 people were served in rehabilitation centers. In addition, 7,115 persons were provided with technical means of rehabilitation – wheelchairs, hearing aids, crutches, canes, while 2.3 thousand people benefited from the services of 124 rental stations of technical means of rehabilitation.
Social allowances
Before transformation, the Ministry of Labor and Social Security of the Population was responsible for monitoring the appointment and payment of social benefits and material assistance to needy families and individuals. Now, these functions are the responsibility of the Ministry of Finance, as the latter, strictly speaking, funds all payments.
Last year, 6 thousand low-income families were receiving benefits for child care, and 600 thousand families were granted single benefits for child birth.
In line with old habit, complaints concerning the accrual and payment of pensions were being directed at the Ministry of Labor and Social Security. On this occasion, the experts of the Ministry reminded that these issues are in the competence of the extra-budgetary Pension Fund, which has been under the Ministry of Finance since 2010.
Employment issues 
After all the changes, the Ministry of Labor will fully concentrate on addressing employment issues.
It is worth noting that earlier, the Ministry of Labor and Social Security used to cope with the solution of these issues. Thus, for example, more than 990.4 thousand jobs were created last year in the country instead of the planned 987.5 thousand. In the framework of targeted programs, more than 265 thousand jobs were created. Particular attention was paid to the employment of graduates of professional colleges. In all regions of Uzbekistan, open days were organized in order for the graduates to start their own businesses. To date, over 95% graduates of the academic year 2014/2015 have been employed. Improvement touched the health and safety, compliance with safety rules and other regulations. No less important an area that the Ministry was active was to ensure the legal employment of citizens abroad.
However, there were many issues to be addressed, which after the changes, according to experts, will be addressed more successfully. Several tasks have been set before the Ministry. It will work out proposals on the improvement of legislation in the field of labor and employment, on the preparation and implementation of effective measures for the development and regulation of the labor market and provision for employment. The body will monitor compliance with the requirements of legislation in the field of legal protection for workers’ occupational safety and expertise, as well as to implement measures to perk up labor relations and financial incentive mechanisms. In the provinces, the Ministry will be represented by regional departments and district employment centers.
To ensure high-quality performance of tasks, several departments have been set up in the structure of the central apparatus of the Ministry.
The Department for Labor Market Analysis, Formation and Monitoring of Employment Programs is tasked to introduce progressive forms of employment, taking into account demographic factors, prospects for economic development. At the same time, in a systematic manner, it will analyze the level of employment by region, taking into account gender and age citizens. This will allow for a more detailed study of the needs in the workplace. The Department also will coordinate the elaboration of annual programs to create new jobs, followed by monitoring of their implementation.
The Department for the Organization of Employment and Retraining of Unemployed Population is tasked to arrange an effective system of vocational training and retraining, assistance in employment for the unemployed, especially youth, women and persons with disabilities.
Enhanced are the competences of the Department for Wage Methodology for control functions through the creation, on its base, of labor standards management, methodology of salary payment. The Department for the Protection and Examination of Working Conditions has remained intact.
Given the growing cooperation of the Ministry of Labor with international organizations, as well as the need for further implementation of the ratified conventions of the International Labor Organization (ILO), a sector has been set up to work with the ILO and international organizations. This will raise the quality of work with foreign partners to a higher level. The activities of this sector’s experts in connection with the forthcoming staff reduction are particularly significant.
The changes are going to touch also the functions and logistics of district (municipal) employment promotion centers. In particular, the range of services provided by inspectors of district offices in the field of employment (they are now 489 units, used to be 1,327) will be expanded through the provision of specific services for employment with citizens’ self- government bodies assigned to them. If earlier one inspector served 8-9 mahallas, now the employment officer will work with an average of 20 local authorities. To achieve these goals, the new functional block diagram of the district (municipal) employment promotion centers involves the transition to modern principles of work with the population, including through building individual employment plans and the professionalization of persons in need of it.
(Source: NA «Uzbekistan Today»)


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