Key facts: Uzbekistan

by World Grain Staff
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Capital: Tashkent (Toshkent)

Population: 27,606,007 (July 2009 est.)

Religions: Muslim 88% (mostly Sunnis), Eastern Orthodox 9%, other 3%.

Location: Central Asia north of Afghanistan.

Government: Republic; authoritarian presidential rule, with little power outside the executive branch. Chief of state: President Islom Karimov (since March 24, 1990); Head of government: Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev (since Dec. 11, 2003).

Economy: Uzbekistan is a dry, landlocked country of which 11% consists of intensely cultivated, irrigated river valleys. More than 60% of its population lives in densely populated rural communities. Uzbekistan is now the world’s second-largest cotton exporter and fifth-largest producer; it relies heavily on cotton production as the major source of export earnings and has come under increasing international criticism for the use of child labor in its annual cotton harvest. Other major export earners include gold, natural gas and oil. Following independence in September 1991, the government sought to prop up its Soviet-style command economy with subsidies and tight controls on production and prices. While aware of the need to improve the investment climate, the government still sponsors measures that often increase, not decrease, its control over business decisions. A sharp increase in the inequality of income distribution has hurt the lower ranks of society since Uzbekistan achieved independence. In 2003, the government accepted Article VIII obligations under the International Monetary Fund, providing for full currency convertibility. However, strict currency controls and tightening of borders have lessened the effects of convertibility and have also led to some shortages that have further stifled economic activity. The Central Bank often delays or restricts convertibility, especially for consumer goods. Potential investment by Russia and China in Uzbekistan’s gas and oil industry, as well as increased cooperation with South Korea in the realm of civil aviation, may boost growth prospects. In November 2005, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Uzbekistan President Karimov signed an "alliance" which included provisions for economic and business cooperation. Russian businesses have shown increased interest in Uzbekistan, especially in mining, telecom, and oil and gas. In 2006, Uzbekistan took steps to rejoin the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Eurasian Economic Community (EurASEC), which it subsequently left in 2008. Uzbek authorities have accused the U.S. and other foreign companies operating in Uzbekistan of violating Uzbek tax laws and have frozen their assets.

GDP per capita: $2,600 (2008 est.); Inflation: 14% (2008 est.); note: official data based on independent analysis of consumer prices, inflation reached 38% in 2008; Unemployment 1% (2008 est.); note: officially measured by the Ministry of Labor, plus another 20% underemployed.

Currency: Uzbekistani soum (UZS). 1,510 Soum equal 1 U.S. dollar (Dec. 15, 2009).

Exports: $10.37 billion (2008 est.): cotton, gold, energy products, mineral fertilizers, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, textiles, food products, machinery and automobiles.

Imports: $7.07 billion (2008 est.): machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, ferrous and non-ferrous metals

Major crops/agricultural products: Cotton, vegetables, fruits grain; livestock.

Agriculture: 25.8% of GDP and 44% of the labor force

Internet: Code. .uz; 50,228 (2009) hosts and 2.469 million (2008) users.

Source: CIA World Factbook