President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev today delivered the first ever address to the parliament. The address lasted 4 hours (from 10:25 to 14:25) and was broadcast live on Uzbekistan 24.
In his address, Mirziyoyev summed up the results of 2017, which was declared as the Year of Dialogue with People and Human Interests, and outlined the main vectors of development of Uzbekistan for the near future.
As reported earlier, the President proposed to declare the year 2018 as the Year of Support to Active Entrepreneurship, Innovative Ideas and Technologies.
The event was attended by the members of the Senate and the Legislative Chamber, the ministers, heads of department, representatives of non-governmental organizations, foreign ambassadors, as well as people's deputies and ambassadors of Uzbekistan abroad via the videoconference system.
Some highlights of the address:
-The most important change in our economic policy - we gave up chasing unrealistic, made-up figures, painting a rosy picture, indulging in wishful thinking, and critically reviewed thiese unacceptable work methods, and we are now focusing on practical results, human interests and once again human interests as the main goals of our reforms. You know, people still have little trust in our reforms. They (the reforms) are kind of fine, they say. In fact, they now have a little bit more confidence for their future, there is a bit of progress.
-It's time to bring our statistics in line with world standards. What did lofty declarations of 8-9% GDP’s growth in previous years give us? Nothing. This year, the GDP growth will be 5.5%, This is the real figure, verified not only by the Central Bank, but also by international financial institutions.
-We made a major step in foreign exchange system liberalization. Legal entities and individuals can now freely buy and sell foreign currency in banks. The volume of foreign currency buying and selling operations increased by 1.5 times reaching to US$ 1.3 billion, this has never happened in our history in 25 years. Gold and foreign exchange reserves increased by US$ 1.1 billion this year.
- In 2018 Uzbekistan will resume talks on accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Uzbekistan began negotiations with the WTO in the early 1990s.
-336,000 new jobs were created in 2017, through setting up of new industrial facilities, the development of SMEs. Our constant focus will be on the creation of new jobs, which is extremely important for us. In previous years we used to declare to have created one million jobs every year for nearly a decade, that was a fiction, in fact not a single economy in the world is capable to create so many.
- All entrepreneurs will be exempted from financial and economic inspections for a two year period. Some local bureaucrats got claws on entrepreneurs like rats. They interfere with their activities with regular inspections on various pretexts. Most of all, I regret that we are not able provide them with sufficient practical support. And from the next year there won’t be any checks of their activities for two years. Now they will be checked by a special department at the General Prosecutor's Office under the personal supervision of the President. I will hope for the best and that businesses will work honestly and transparently.
- For the sake of political competition I call upon giving up providing 15 guaranteed seats to the Ecological Movement in the Legislative Chamber.
- It is time we adopt, the National Security Service law in Uzbekistan. Currently, the National Security Service bodies act on the basis of the Regulation approved by the Government 26 years ago. The quarter of a century sanctity of this Regulation and the facts of qualifying every issue by NSS officials as a threat to national security led to an unjustified expansion of the powers of this entity. The President's representative (governors, mayors) will be the top persons in provinces, cities, and districts. There is one department which interferes in all matters, now we have had enough of it. You will have to obey to my representatives, whether you like it or not. Whoever summons my representatives for investigation, I will prosecute them personally.
-We will undertake a major decentralization reform, with local khokims (governors, mayors) appointing from now on all chiefs of local education, tax, financial and other authorities, and not by some central bureaucrats. Also license issuance processes will also be decentralized, with currently over 90 percent of licenses issued by central authorities and existence of vast corruption schemes.
-The structure of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan will be reviewed. The main task of the Uzbekistan’s Foreign Ministry and diplomatic missions will be to attract investments and advanced technologies, as well as tourists to the country. I will personally oversee the activities of all Ambassadors and, if necessary, i will appoint new ones.
- In Uzbekistan, all road patrol posts (checkpoints) between provinces will be removed and the number of stationary traffic police posts will be sharply cut. The road patrol posts have restricted the free movement of people and had a negative impact on trade and economic activity, internal and external tourism. There are more than 60 such posts on the territory of Uzbekistan. Imagine if an ordinary person who wants to come to Tashkent from Khorezm by car, he needs to cross 17 posts, 17 posts!!! In Bukhara, Samarkand, Jizzakh, Syrdarya, and then in Chinaz three more posts. It's amazing that this Khorezm man doesn't commit suicide after all these tests. It sounds quite funny, but it's our reality! People from the Ferghana Valley have to cross 8 such posts, on each ocassion facing "rats" in police uniform.
-There is a lot of corruption among traffic police officers, and to prevent this in 2018 they will get personal video recorders. If a traffic policemen stops somebody. If there is no camera, then he has no right to stop ... If he stops, let him speak with the camera on, then everything will be taken into account. Otherwise, police officer himself will be held criminally liable. All corruption moments occur face-to-face.
- I propose to create My Opinion special web portal as an advanced mechanism of democracy so that citizens of Uzbekistan can express their opinion on important issues. We should then pass a law obliging the MPs to consider the initiatives put forward by citizens in this portal.
- I propose to create University of Journalism and Mass Communication in Uzbekistan, given the media is an important and influential factor in strengthening democratic principles in our society. Today there are more than 1500 mass media in the country. All of them need highly qualified staff. Unfortunately, there is still no proper higher institution that would supply qualified and talented youth for these media.