The first edition of the Tashkent International Investment Forum (TIIF) was held on March 24-26, this is a new event intended to convey the investment potential of Uzbekistan.
It attracted over 1,500 participants and the various discussions centred on the investment and trade opportunities outlined in the development strategy of New Uzbekistan for 2022-2026. The many topics included investment, liberalizing trade and improving the competitiveness of the Uzbek economy, and measures to transform the national energy sector.
In the opening ceremony, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev outlined the key achievements of the 2017-2021 Strategy of Actions, and highlighted the following:
- Convertibility of currency
- Banking system reforms and privatization of state-owned enterprises
- Establishment of a new agency in the fight against corruption
- Visa-free travel for citizens of 90 countries
- Full eradication of forced and child labour in the cotton fields
- Doubling of the number of universities in the country: from 82 to 159
- Tripling in the enrolment in higher education institutions
- Establishment of a one-stop shop for foreign investors
In his speech, he outlined the main points of the development strategy for 2022-2026 which envisages an acceleration to a market economy while maintaining macroeconomic stability. It aims to attract USD 120 billion in investments during this period with a focus on transportation, education, green economy and energy.
Further priorities include:
- Continued economic and political stability
- Development of transit and transportation corridors in all geographical direction
- Increase the share of the private sector to 80 percent of GDP
- A 3-time reduction of the number of enterprises with state participation
- The introduction of Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mechanisms for foreign investors
- Shifting towards higher value added production in key industries, including textiles
- Development of new frameworks to facilitate exports and facilitate participation in global supply chains
- Focus on the development of a digital and green economy
Below are the themes that dominated the discussions at the Forum - privatization, connectivity and the green economy.
One of the key pillars of Uzbekistan’s economic transformation. Recently, a Presidential Decree on additional measures to further reduce state participation in the economy and accelerate privatization was adopted in March, putting up 1,500 state assets for sale.
- Development of transport and logistics infrastructure
Uzbekistan has so much potential as its the only Central Asian Republic that borders all other Central Asian countries and serves as an efficient land-bridge for expanding ties between Europe, Middle East and Asia. This favourable geographical location makes the country an ideal spot for expanding its role as an interregional logistics and transportation hub.
- The development of the green economy
Within the framework of the Paris Agreement, Uzbekistan is actively taking measures to reduced CO2 emissions to the atmosphere. Initially, Uzbekistan set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions per unit of GDP by 10 percent from the 2010 level by 2030 but this figure has been elevated to 35%.
Uzbekistan has set a target of 25% of renewable energy generation by 2030 and has also announced its goal to be carbon neutral by 2050.
The Forum ended with the announcement of investment agreements and contracts worth USD 7.8 billion, as well as preliminary agreements on the implementation of projects worth USD 3.5 billion.
To give two concrete examples:
- The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Republic of Uzbekistan signed a USD 108 million loan to electrify the Bukhara – Miskin – Urgench – Khiva railway line.
- A cooperation agreement worth USD 500 million involving Uzbekistan operating companies Ferkensco Management Limited, Enter Engineering Pte. and the Switzerland based Casale SA was signed to support the construction of an ammonia-based fertilizer plant in Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan has been a closed country, from an economic point of view, for a long time. The interest from international investors was therefore relatively small. Since the initiation in 2017 of a broad and profound programme of reforms, the Uzbekistan we see today is radically different than the previous Uzbekistan.
The Tashkent International Investment Forum is expected to become a yearly occurrence, providing a platform for attracting global investment, know-how and cutting-edge technology to Uzbekistan in order to boost economic productivity, industrial capacity and export potential of the country, as the country continues in its relentless journey of economic restructuring, transformation and modernisation.
Alberto Turkstra, Project Manager, Diplomatic World Institute; Co-Founder, Brussels-Uzbekistan Friendship Group