President Shavkat Mirziyoyev made opening remarks at the first Tashkent International Investment Forum, which started on March 24.
The head of state spoke about the conditions created for investors: free currency exchange, removal of restrictions on the repatriation of profits, obtaining international credit ratings and issuing bonds by companies, visa-free regime with 90 countries, simplified visa regime with 60 states and others.
“According to these figures, Uzbekistan has received the status of the most open state in the region, and this is no secret to anyone,” his spokesman Sherzod Asadov quoted the president as saying.
Shavkat Mirziyoyev said that steps are being undertaken in the country to develop civil society, ensure freedom of speech, create a democratic media space and turn the media into the “fourth power”.
He also announced the elimination of forced labor, the lifting of the boycott of Uzbek cotton, the easing of tax policies, the simplification of licensing and other changes.
“The transformation of Uzbekistan into a democratic state where law and justice prevail, the formation of an independent and free judicial and legal system was designated as one of our main goals,” the president said.
The five-year development strategy, adopted in 2017, embodied such important areas as “ensuring the rule of law, developing competition, and resolutely fighting corruption,” the head of state said.
“First of all, we eliminated all the factors that previously prevented investors from entering the Uzbek market and their free activity and began to create favorable conditions for entrepreneurship,” said Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
The President said that the annual volume of foreign investments has grown 3.5 times over the past five years, and their value during this time has reached $25 billion. At the expense of these funds, 59 thousand investment projects were implemented and 2.5 million jobs were created. The volume of gold and foreign exchange reserves grew from $27 billion to $35 billion.
The head of state added that in order to increase the investment attractiveness of the country and develop proposals for improving the business environment, meetings of the Foreign Investors Council under the President, established in 2019, will be held on a regular basis from 2022.
“We will continue the practice of direct communication with investors and entrepreneurs in all sectors and regions, using the crowdsourcing platform and modern digital solutions… As a result of the reforms we are implementing, it is planned to increase the gross domestic product to 100 billion dollars over the next five years, and annual exports to 30 billion dollars,” he said.
Noting that the pandemic and other crises of recent years make it necessary to look for non-standard solutions, the President assured that Uzbekistan will continue to make efforts to create "the most convenient and attractive conditions for investors."
“The most difficult task in the reform process is not just to change the legislation or develop different strategies. This, of course, is important, but the most important thing is to change the worldview and thinking of people, which, I think, is recognized by all reformers in the world,” he said.
Shavkat Mirziyoyev said that "members of the president's team - ministers, heads of departments and local mayor’s office" are present in the hall.
“All of them are… highly qualified specialists with a modern outlook, representatives of New Uzbekistan, who received specific instructions from me in preparation for this forum. These leaders are ready to work with you, dear guests of the forum, on an ongoing basis to establish practical and mutually beneficial cooperation, develop new projects and, most importantly, to create a comprehensively favorable environment for investors and entrepreneurs,” the head of state said.
He noted that more than 30 events are planned within the framework of the forum, and "more than 200 attractive project proposals" will be presented to investors.
Shavkat Mirziyoyev noted the importance of digitalization, "green" technologies and innovations for development in all areas of business at the present stage.
“Ensuring your success in our country is guaranteed by the President and the Government of Uzbekistan,” the President assured, inviting investors for practical cooperation.
Among the high-ranking participants of the forum are EBRD President Odile Renault-Basso, ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa, WTO Vice President Zhang Xiangchen, AIIB Vice President Konstantin Limitovsky, IFC Vice President Stephanie von Friedeburg and others.
At the beginning of the year, the Agency for Strategic Development listed the factors affecting the investment climate. Among them are economic development, the judicial system, political stability, infrastructure development and others. As examples of the negative impact on the investment climate, the agency pointed to the frequently changing “rules of the game” for business, conflicting statements by khokims, and more.
The annual report of the US State Department on the investment climate in more than 165 countries notes that Uzbekistan has the potential to become one of the most successful economies in the Central Asia, but to achieve this goal, it is necessary to ensure the consolidation of market reforms by improving legislation and ensuring its proper implementation.