INFORMATION DIGEST OF PRESS OF UZBEKISTAN # 87 May 3, 2016

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Vitamins All Year Round

SOCIETY
Uzbekistan is getting prepared to hold elections to citizens’ self-governing bodies mahalla scheduled for May and June this year

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Vitamins All Year Round

Uzbekistan is setting the stage for a new effective system of procurement, storage and export of fruits and vegetables in coming months. Uzbekistan Today reporters have found out about the key directions of this work.

The introduction of the state order for the purchase of fresh fruits and vegetables, potatoes, grapes and melons, starting with the 2016 harvest, ranks among the most interesting innovations.

The state order should ensure stable provision of processing plants under the O’zbekoziqovqatholding Company with the feedstock, procurement for the winter-spring period to sustainably supply the domestic consumer market, as well as exporting of fresh fruit and vegetable products that enjoy demand in foreign markets.

Local administrations and integrated development departments of regional administrations and districts will be responsible for ensuring the accuracy of accounting of the output of agricultural farming enterprises, and monitoring the implementation of their contracting agreements.

Fresh fruit and vegetables, potatoes, melons and grapes will be purchased by O’zbekoziqovqatholding Company for further industrial processing, procured by O’zbekoziqovqatzahira Association for the winter-spring period, and exported by specialized foreign trade company Uzagroexport. It is important that fresh products will be purchased from farming enterprises on contractual basis and at market prices.

Provision of new customs exemptions for product processing companies is another essential component of this process. In particular, the above-mentioned companies were exempt from customs duties on imports of up-to-date equipment and technologies, regardless of their affiliation.

Moreover, the processing plants under the O’Uzbekoziqovqatholding Company are exempt from income tax, property tax for legal entities, the single tax payment for micro and small enterprises, mandatory contributions to state funds, except for the unified social payment.

The funds released as a result of tax and customs privileges, should be mandatorily invested in technical re-equipment and modernization of production. In case of misuse of the released funds, they are subject to withdrawal to the budget and corresponding state trust funds.

Enhancement of effectiveness of export deliveries is a special part of this process. The President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov approved the resolution on holding the annual International Fruit and Vegetable Fair in Tashkent.

The first fair is scheduled for June 2016. Its main objective comes to signing contracts for the exports of fresh and processed fruit and vegetables, harvested in 2016. In the future, it is planned to hold the annual fair in October. The related ministries and agencies are currently busy with involving foreign companies in the fair to conclude export agreements for the next year. The final parameters of the event will be determined by the government resolution.

It is worth noting that the Uzbek government has lifted the ban for exports of fruit and vegetables by trucks, which was effective in the country from  September 1, 2015. Starting July 1, 2016, legal entities and individuals will be permitted to export fruit and vegetables, potatoes, melons and grapes by vehicles. The only condition for them is to have a license for the international carriage of goods by vehicles.

Thereby, Uzbekistan intends to ensure the growth of exports of fresh and processed fruit and vegetable products more than 2.7 times, including canned food, concentrates and juices 2.5 times by the end of 2020.

(Source: «Uzbekistan Today» newspaper)

Society

Uzbekistan is getting prepared to hold elections to citizens’ self-governing bodies mahalla scheduled for May and June this year

The preparations for the important event in the public and political life of the country are nearing their end.

Before proceeding to the topic of elections, it would be right to brief on the originality and uniqueness of the institution of mahalla, look back into its past, and analyze its present.

The institution of citizens' self-government, or mahalla, has been playing an important role in the preservation and enrichment of national traditions and values, in enhancement of political and legal culture of the population, and intensification of citizens’ involvement in state and society management. It ranks among the major distinctions and unique features of the way of life of Uzbek people. As a form of cohabitation of people in one neighborhood or street, a local community, or Mahalla, has been promoting the ideas of kindness, creation, generosity, compassion, mutual support and solidarity of the Uzbek people from ancient times. Being a unique system of self-government, which can be safely called a prototype of a civil society institution, it has no analogues in the world. Evolving for the centuries, it has absorbed the best national traditions and values.

The Constitution of Uzbekistan has empowered citizens with the right to participate in society and state management, both directly and through their representatives. Such participation is also carried out through self-government. The regulation was settled in the laws ‘On citizens' self-government bodies’ and ‘On elections of chairpersons (elders) of citizens’ assembly and his advisors’, the new editions of which were approved in 2013.

At the last year’s international forum on the role of the institution of mahalla in upbringing of comprehensively advanced generation in Urgench, foreign experts estimated the development of the mahalla-related legislation, the introduction of a mechanism of social control, empowerment of mahalla in the development of small business and private entrepreneurship as important steps towards strengthening democracy and intensification of participation of this social institution in the socio-political life of the country. They positioned the local communities as the pivotal electoral democratic institution. Regular elections of chairpersons of citizens' assemblies and their advisors have turned into a true school of democracy, enhancement of the legal consciousness and political and legal culture of citizens.

“From my point of view, the Uzbek mahalla is a truly democratic institution, as it is really governed by people in view of the interests of society. Its main mission is to bring up the younger generation, and strengthen families. The people of Uzbekistan may be proud of their local communities. This practice should be well explored and widely promoted. By the example of Mahalla, we can see how the value of human rights and freedoms has rooted in the thinking and life of the Uzbek people. Uzbekistan pursues a wise social policy, thereby fully implementing human rights with mahalla as the core of social initiatives,” said Parviz Morewedge, a professor at the State University of New York.

Past and present

The mahalla is a historically established self-governing institution. It is an ancient structure that incorporates the traditional values of the Uzbek people, providing spiritual and social support for its residents. According to historical data, local communities emerged yet in ancient times, in the 2nd millennium BC. The first of them were built as fortresses around the hills with a chapel or palace in the center. The community dwelling was situated in fortresses and at the bottom of the hill as shelter and protection. Over time, they grew into cities. Those fortresses were the first mahallas of historical cities.

The evolution of the Great Silk Road led to the fact that the agricultural elite in suburbs was forced out by merchants. For example, in the Middle Ages, Bukhara authorities allocated the central part of the city for suburban representatives of caravan trade. Streets for vendors and artisans later turned into communities, where blacksmiths, bakers, weavers, shoemakers, gunsmiths, musicians and others lived and worked. Some communities of craftsmen still function in Uzbek cities. For instance, Rishton is a historically small community, which has evolved into a unique city in the Ferghana Valley, and which is a kind of museum of high-quality ceramic products today.

The written sources of that time witness of the occupation of inhabitants of the Temirchi (blacksmith) community, for example, Sovungar (soap boiler), Taqachi (horseshoe maker) and others. At the same time, they fulfilled certain public and local government functions. Therefore, they can be called the origins of civil society institutions.

They were also a prototype of trade unions, protecting the interests of representatives of a particular profession. For instance, the community collectively discussed the issues of pricing, cost of raw materials, training of apprentices, or students. They also provided assistance to the needy, elected a chairman from among the most deserving, organized joint cleaning and beautification campaigns.

Since ancient times, mahalla was, primarily, the community of neighbors. Guzar was historically a center of community, incorporating a tea-house, markets and other venues of public events. At the same time they were the venue of cultural meetings of people, contributing in building tolerance and stability in the society. In the distant past and nowadays, local communites unite people, regardless of their social or ethnic background. They had an atmosphere of human solidarity, which considered a primary need for the community. The determinant values have been tested for centuries.

What is it about today? Today, all the Uzbeks are residents of mahallas. This is where we always feel a friendly shoulder of the people around us in moments of joy or difficulty. The noble qualities like mutual respect, unity, peace and patriotism, concern for the close ones are cultivated primarily in the citizens' assemblies. There is a reason behind the saying that Motherland begins with mahalla, and an Uzbek proverb compares it with a mother and a father.

In the years of independence, mahalla has been built as a full-fledged civil society institution. This concept was introduced into the Constitution for the first time in the history of our statehood, defining its role and status in society. Today, this structure carries out a large-scale work as a self-government body, the true school of democracy.

The institution of mahalla has been enriched with new content in recent years. It has strengthened its role in addressing not just spiritual, but also economic and social issues. Today, mahallas perform more than 30 functions that were previously in competence of local authorities. A citizens’ assembly addresses the issues of local importance, linking people with the state.

About 10,000 citizens' self-government bodies are currently operating across the country. These institutions play an important role not only in representing the interests of various segments of the population, but also in improving their social and political activity.

They are engaged in targeted social support of the population, support for small business and private entrepreneurship, with the focus on family business, home-based work and handicrafts, in the implementation of public control over the activities of government.

Their competence also covers the development of social infrastructure for improving the well-being and quality of life of the population, municipal improvement and landscaping, maintaining the neighborhoods in appropriate sanitary condition, environmental protection, the construction of public leisure venues. Citizens’ assemblies maintain public control over the implementation of laws and other legislative acts on the respective territory, including the quality of provision of public services, compliance with construction regulations, maintenance of yards and adjacent territories, land use and protection, and advise on the conduct of weddings and other family events.

Mahallas address the issues of provision of financial assistance to needy families and allocation of allowances to needy families with minor children, unemployed mothers and mothers employed by budgetary organizations and persons substituting them, with children under two years. They ensure the targeted and effective use of funds that are centrally allocated as the state social support for families.

These powers cover all segments of the population, each person living in a certain community. The unique state system is inherent to the Uzbek mentality, leaving no person unattended.

Mahalla Helps Mahalla

Established in 1992, the Mahalla Republican Charity Foundation has been playing a central role in streamlining the system of citizens' self-government bodies.

Based on the principles of legality, transparency, social justice, and humanity, the Foundation has been working in all regions of the country to expand the best practices of the exemplary citizens’ assemblies, development of the institution of mahalla by promoting the further expansion of public control over the public administration, as well as the social support of the population, and transformation of mahallas in the development center of private entrepreneurship and family business.

Last year alone, parent universities under citizens' assemblies organized about 33,000 advocacy actions to advance the legal, moral, spiritual and medical knowledge of parents, which is important for family strengthening.

More than 36,000 events and meetings with parents have been held in the framework of the ‘Family - Mahalla - Educational Institution’ initiative in order to improve quality of education in educational instituions and increase student interest in the study.

Advisors at citizens’ assemblies studied the spiritual and moral atmosphere in more than 7.8 million families, consulted them on how to keep a family strong, prevented conflict situations. Mahallas assisted in obtaining financial support to more than 66,000 families, health care services – to 82,000 families, employment - more than 65,000 citizens.

450 low-income families, veterans of war and labor front, lonely elderly and people with disabilities were provided 200 million soums (currency rates of CB RU from 3.05.2016, 1$= 2904.68 soums) of financial assistance.

How Will It Go?

To date, the role of chairpersons of citizens' assemblies has remarkably increased. Along with addressing domestic and institutional issues under the mahalla competence, the chairperson monitors the moral and ethical atmosphere in the citizens’ assembly, including family relationships. Meanwhile, any action of chairman, citizens' assembly or its advisors in respect of a single person or family has a solely spiritual and educational purpose, that is, it implies the recovery of intra-community relations.

All this proves the importance of the forthcoming elections of chairpersons of citizens' assemblies and their advisors. They will be held in drastically new socio-economic and socio-political conditions, enhanced reformation processes, democratization of society, and modernization of the country. Most importantly, the election will be held in the conditions of heightened public turnout.

9,764 chairpersons of citizens' assemblies and more than 99,000 their advisors will be elected at the forthcoming election. As stipulated by the Basic Law, they are elected for two and half years. This political process is an integral part of the democratic election system in Uzbekistan for citizens to express their will.

Implementation of the priorities on streamlining the activity of self-government bodies, as defined in the ‘Concept of enhancing democratic reforms and building the civil society in the country’, plays an important role in further strengthening the authority of the local community in society. Its legal foundations were streamlined by the new edition of the Law ‘On citizens 'self-government bodies’, and the range of powers of citizens' assemblies was expanded.

According to the law, candidates for chairperson of the citizens' assembly must be citizens of Uzbekistan, have a higher education, reside on the relevant territory at least five years before the election, have organizational skills, working experience in government or nonprofit organizations, business management or other economic fields, as well as life experience and authority among the population.

This is a very responsible post, as the chairman should be able to organize the implementation of the tasks entrusted to the community, to act on its behalf when collaborating with public authorities, legal entities and individuals, as well as represent the interests of community residents. He should stand out with his organizational skills, behavior, knowledge, social activity, and authority in the neighborhood.

The election of chairperson of citizens’ assembly and his advisors is held by open or secret ballot. The decision on the form of a vote is made by the citizens’ assembly.

Specialized local commissions were established to assist in the organization and conduct of elections, which worked in conformity with the action plan, approved by the Senate of the Oliy Majlis. They provided methodological and practical assistance to subordinate committees and working groups.

Working groups on organization and conduct of elections were established in all self-government bodies at the decision of their citizens' assemblies. They comprised worthy, enterprising and respected people. Being the closest organizational structure to the population, they ensure the conduct of general meetings on the organization and conduct of elections.

The working groups are entrusted with outreach on election-related issues, organize general meetings of residents of households, houses, streets and communities to elect the representatives of the citizens on the basis of norms of representation, established by the relevant commission. In this process, they take into account the opinion of residents of the certain territory. They have prepared proposals on nomination of candidates for the post of chairperson of the citizens’ assembly and his advisors.

Information Services cover the course of election in order to ensure openness and transparency in all stages of the elections. Mass media have been informed on the procedures of organization and conduct of the election.

Local administrations assist citizens’ assemblies in the organization and conduct of elections, providing them with premises, transportation means, and communications. They carefully select convenient facilities for the conduct of elections, organize healthcare services, prepare secret voting booths, ballot boxes and ballots sheets.

The importance of the upcoming elections to the citizens’ assemblies cannot be overestimated. The involvement in the life of the native neighborhood, belonging to the ongoing transformations in the country is the key to wellbeing and prosperity of each family and the entire state.

The election of chairpersons of citizens' assemblies and their advisors from among the most appropriate candidates will further promote peace in the country, development of our homeland and people’s welfare. All of us are capable of contributing to the further upscale of the role and authority of the institution of mahalla in building strong civil society by active involvement in the social and political processes.

(Source: «Uzbekistan Today» newspaper)

 

 

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