NEWS AND EVENTS
September 6, 2007
UZBEKISTAN: 16 YEARS OF INDEPENDENT DEVELOPMENT (PART 2)
The enormous purposeful work carried out since the early days of independence in strengthening the interethnic and inter-religious peace and accord in the country, enhancing the role of spiritual and moral upbringing, returning to our national roots, upgrading the political awareness and legal culture of the population were of crucial importance to reach our goals, maintain stability and implement broad-scale reforms on renovation of the country.
The climate created in the society has a wholesome affect on the minds of people. It is when such human features typical to our nation since the ancient times ? mutual understanding, mutual tolerance, openness, kindness, hospitality, and heartfelt generosity ? have fully manifested themselves.
In the modern conditions of building a new life, we all have to realize that the vacuum or emptiness in society following the rejection of the communist ideology and morale may rather rapidly be filled with an alien and imported so-called mass culture with its unacceptable spiritual and moral vices and perversions.
This expansion, which pursues the far-reaching goals and is generously funded by various foreign centers, may well lead to serious and unpredictable consequences. And we have to always remember this.
Summarizing the outcomes of the reform and renewal of the country during the period 1991-2000, today we have all grounds to say that this stage has laid a solid foundation for the national statehood and sustainable growth of the country.
During what is historically a very short period of time we have dismantled the old administrative-command Soviet system, managed to create the dependable legislative basis to build up the national state and establish the structures of state governance ? the legislative, executive and judicial branches of power. The foundations for public and civil society organizations have been laid. We have carried out the transition to a free market economy.
A radical change in the minds of people has also occurred. The way of thinking and worldview of people, who for several generations were brought up in line with the principles of communist and Soviet ideology, has changed. A new generation of people is beginning their lives. They have a new way of thinking and see their future in strengthening democratic values and integrating the country into the world community, and this fact is a reliable guarantee of the irreversibility of the fundamental political, economic, spiritual and moral changes in the country.
In a word, in this critical period in the history of our nation, we have accomplished fundamental changes, laid the foundation of a new independent democratic state which has become a fully-fledged member of international relations, and taken a deserving and authoritative place in the world community.
On this very solid foundation the next natural phase of development is being built, which can be characterized as the period of the active reforming and modernization of the country.
The most important program objectives of this phase are as follows: further democratization and liberalization of all aspects of political and economic life, state and public construction, enhancement of independent judicial system, protection of human rights and freedoms, raising the political and economic activeness of citizens, and developing the basis of civil society.
The main task of this period of reforming our state system must be a consistent and step-by-step transition from a strong state, which was objectively necessary in conditions of transition period and establishing the national statehood, to a strong civil society.
In the course of democratic reforms being conducted at this very period in the sphere of state and public construction the supreme legislative body of the country has been reorganized into bicameral Oliy Majlis of the Republic of Uzbekistan.
The main tasks that we have fulfilled in this context are as follows: to turn the lower Legislative Chamber into a permanently functioning professional body and to create an upper chamber ? the Senate ? as a body of territorial representation, which expresses the interests of the regions. By this, along with improvement in the quality and validity of the adopted legislative acts, we are creating an effective system of checks and balances, providing a balance between national and regional interests, and considerably expanding the involvement of the population in the social and political life of the country.
Delegating part of the powers of the President to the upper house of Parliament ? the Senate - and enhancing the rights and powers of the Prime Minister were profoundly important in resolving the issues related to expanding the rights and powers of the bicameral Parliament of the country and providing greater balance of powers between the legislative and executive branches of power.
The exclusion from the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan of the norms stipulating that President of the country is simultaneously the head of the executive branch of power, has become very important political and legal act. Today, the Constitution defines the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan as the head of state and ensures the concerted functioning and interaction of the bodies of state power.
The adoption of the Law ?On strengthening the role of political parties in the renewal and further democratization of state governance and modernization of the country? has played a key and vital role in the course of deepening of democratic reforms.
Today, political parties are called upon to become the most important instrument in making citizens more politically and socially active, expressing the will and opinion of the population, and most importantly, in implementing the election processes and establishing the bodies of state power in the center and at local level. In order to fulfill this task we have taken organizational and legal measures to define in law the status of the parliamentary majority and parliamentary opposition, as well as the election of the leaders of factions as Deputy Speakers of the Legislative Chamber of Parliament. The legal mechanisms adopted have principally changed the role and weight of political parties in terms in organizing the activity of the country?s Parliament, as well as in establishing the bodies of representative and executive branches of power and controlling their activity.
The introduction, in particular, of mandatory consultations with factions of political parties concerning the candidature for the post of Prime Minister, and the strictly regulated procedure and mechanism for his approval by Parliament is the most important step in deepening democratic reforms in the sphere of state construction.
It is of a great importance that the Constitutional law gives to the factions of political parties in the Legislative Chamber the right to initiate the resignation of the Prime Minister, and to party groups at local Kengashs (Councils) the right to initiate the resignation of khokims (governors) of provinces. This by itself is concrete evidence of the increasing role of political parties in the country?s life.
A number of powers and functions are consistently being delegated from central bodies of power to local ones, particularly, to the bodies of citizen?s self-governance, makhallas, allowing them to resolve economic and social issues, financing budget organizations, utilities, employment, and protection of people?s interests.
The new concept of deep reform and liberalization of the judicial system which has been introduced in the country is the most important component in building a law-governed state. The specialization of courts has been implemented ? the courts on civil and criminal cases are established. The courts have been relieved of certain inappropriate functions such as executing courts? decisions. The measures taken to liberalize the system of criminal punishment were of a great social and political importance. As a result of these measures, about 75% of crimes which previously belonged to the category of grave and heinous crimes have been transferred to the category of crimes which do not represent serious danger to society, and are less grave. There was a significant increase in the number of norms, which do not allow courts to decide on punishment in the form of imprisonment, if the person who has committed the crime provides full compensation for the damage. With introduction of these changes there was almost 20% decrease of court decisions on imprisonment in 2006 in comparison with 2000. The institute of reconciliation has been introduced.
The Law of the Republic of Uzbekistan on abolishing the death penalty from January 1, 2008 in the country, as well as the Law on transferring the right to issue the arrest warrants from prosecutor?s office to courts adopted in 2007 gained huge resonance around the whole world.
From now on, the death penalty is replaced with a life imprisonment, which is assigned only for two types of crimes: murder in aggravated circumstances and terrorism. Moreover, this type of punishment cannot be applied to women and persons under 18 and over 60 years of age.
One can say without exaggeration that with the introduction of these measures one of the most humane and liberal systems of criminal punishment in the world has been created in Uzbekistan. It is suffice to note that in such countries as Germany and Poland life imprisonment can be applied for 5 types of crimes, in Belgium and the Russian Federation ? 6, in France ? 18, the Netherlands ? 19, etc.
Delegating to the courts the right to issue arrest warrants and defining a precise procedural and legal mechanism for its implementation will become an important guarantee for the effective protection of the rights and lawful interests of citizens under criminal prosecution, at the pre-trial stage of the legal process. This measure will facilitate enhancing the responsibility of investigators and prosecutors in choosing the type of preventive punishment in the form of imprisonment, raising the authority and independence of judicial power, providing reliable protection of the constitutional rights of people to freedom.
An open and strong civil society cannot be imagined today without a developed system of independent and stable non-governmental non-profit organizations, free mass media, and other civil society institutions representing the interests of different social groups and broad layers of the population.
At the moment, there are, in particular, about 5,000 non-governmental non-profit organizations, over 870 newspapers and magazines, and about 100 state and non-state television and radio studios in the country. The necessary normative and legal basis, economic and legal guarantees have been created to promote the free development of civil society institutions, and to raise efficiency of their activities aimed at satisfying and protecting the interests of citizens, addressing socially significant programs.
Speaking about the achievements, which we have secured during the years of independence, first of all, we assess them in terms of the level of development of the economy, its growth rates, the balanced nature of macroeconomic indices, low inflation indicators, stability and purchasing capacity of the national currency, and growth of exports and gold-currency reserves, in a word, its sustainable development.
As a natural result of the wide-scale and radical reforms and transformations, the growth rates of economy of the country in recent years have gained a stable character. Vivid evidence of this is the fact that in the last four years the annual growth rate has exceeded 7%. In comparison with 1990 the GDP of Uzbekistan has increased 1,3-fold, meanwhile in many CIS countries it hasn?t yet reached the pre-reform level.
Moreover, sustainable economic growth is being achieved in Uzbekistan not because of extensive growth and unrestrained extraction of hydrocarbon resources at a time when the price of oil and gas in the world markets is high, as is the case in a number of countries, but because of the purposeful implementation of market reforms, deep structural changes in the economy, modernization and technical re-equipment of branches and enterprises, creation of new competitive export-oriented industries, and the development of small business and private entrepreneurship.
Once again I would like to underscore that the dynamic growth of the economy of Uzbekistan is based on implementation of the deep economic reforms in all economic branches and spheres. At every stage of reform of the economy a special attention is given to determining clear priorities. To achieve these priorities the necessary financial, material and human resources are being mobilized.
The key directions of deepening the reforms are as follows: further liberalization of the economy, promotion of the freedom and economic independence of entities, establishing a diversified market infrastructure, cardinal decrease of controlling and regulating functions of the state, limiting its interference into economic activities of enterprises, and lifting the barriers for the development of entrepreneurship.
It is extraordinarily important to implement deep structural transformations in the economy, the basis of which is the priority growth of industrial sectors based on processing local raw materials and producing finished goods which are competitive in world markets, as well as the accelerated development of services. It is worth noting that in the years of independence the share of industry in the structure of the GDP has increased from 11% to 25%, and that of the services sector from 18% to 42%, or more than two-fold.
Priority is given to the implementation of an active investment policy aimed at providing accelerated modernization, technical re-equipment of the operating enterprises and setting up new, updated and high-tech industries, such as automobile production, petrochemical, electro-technical, textiles, food, pharmaceutical, IT, telecommunications, etc. A favorable, and to a large extent unprecedented, investment climate for foreign and local investors has been established. As an outcome, during the years of independent development investments worth over 100 billion dollars have been attracted to the country?s economy. Out of this amount over 25 billion dollars were foreign investments.
A policy of tax burden reduction has been consistently carried out. During the period of 2000-2007 alone the income (profit) tax rate was cut from 38% to 10%, the single social payment ? from 40% to 24%, and the single tax on small businesses and agricultural producers was reduced to 10%. There were significant income tax cuts on physical entities. As a result of these measures over the last seven years the general tax burden has been reduced from 40% to 27%.
In recent years agriculture has radically changed. Instead of the forms of economic relations which were inherited since the Soviet times and discredited themselves, we have established universally accepted private farms, which in fact have become the main form of agricultural production, the principal locomotive for ensuring its sustainable and effective development.
An essentially new market infrastructure has been created. The organization and stimulation of agricultural production is being developed according to qualitatively new principles.
At the present time, over 76% of GDP, almost 80% of industrial products, and all agricultural goods are produced in the non-state sector of the economy. The entire retail trade also falls to the share of the non-state sector. Along with this, over 90% of enterprises are privately and corporately owned, and provide employment for 77% of the national workforce.
Small and private business, which now accounts for more than 45% of GDP has not only taken a central place in the country?s economy, but has also become the main means of supplying the market with necessary goods and services, increasing the incomes and well being of the population, and the most important factor in tackling the problems of employment.
Considerable attention is being paid to the development of transport communications as a decisive factor in the dynamic development of the country. One can hardly overestimate the role and importance of the 633 km-long Navoi?Nukus railroad, the 223 km-long Tashguzar-Baysun-Kumkurghan railroad, high-speed automobile road through the Kamchik mountain pass, which were constructed in recent years and reliably link all regions of the country into a single transport network, as well as opened a broad access to developing the richest mineral and natural resources in these regions.
The tangible results of economic reforms have allowed the steady increase of incomes and well being of the people, and successful implementation of large-scale social programs.
The most illustrative fact is the growth rate in people?s salaries and incomes. In comparison with 2000 the real incomes of the population in 2006 increased 2,5-fold, and against to 1992 ? 12-fold on average. By the end of this year the average salary in the republic is to increase to 200 dollars.
A strategically important task is put forward, i.e. to increase salary 2-2,5-fold every three years so that already in the years to come, taking into consideration the purchasing capacity of population, we will reach the level of those countries which provide high standards of income and well being for their citizens.
A modern labor market has been established. During the years of independence more than 5 million new jobs have been created and over 70% of them fall to the share of industrial production and services sector. Home based work in cooperation with large industrial enterprises has been actively developed. First and foremost, this allows the use of women?s labor power in cities and rural areas.
Considerable attention to and purposeful work on the problems of employment has allowed to change radically the situation in this sphere and reduce the unemployment rate in the country to 5,3% in 2006.
The conditions and quality of life of our population are consistently improving, particularly, in rural area. During the years of independence 36 thousand km-long water supply and 72 thousand km-long gas supply networks were commissioned, which are accordingly 2 and 4 times more than the actual availability of these networks in 1991. As a result, provision of drinking water for the population supply has increased to 84%, including up to 77% in rural areas, and the provision of natural gas is up to 82%, with a figure of 78% in rural areas.
Public health and the protection of people?s health take an important place in the system of measures on improving the quality of life of population.
The system of medical servicing has been almost fully reconsidered during these years in Uzbekistan. At the moment, one of the main stages of its reforming is being completed. The creation of a specialized network of hospitals and medical units, which meet the highest requirements, in rendering free emergency and high qualified medical aid to the population is the most important and concrete result of this stage. Their activities are administered and coordinated by the Republican center.
Serious changes have taken place in the primary chain of public healthcare, especially in rural areas. Over 3,000 rural medical units supplied with modern diagnostic and therapeutic equipment have been established, replacing less effective midwifery centers and rural out-patients? clinics.
The thorough reconsideration of the system of remuneration and incentives for medical workers has led to a considerable qualitative improvement in the medical services available to the population. As a result, within the last two to three years alone their salaries have increased more than two-fold.
Specialized clinics supplied with high-tech equipment and where the highly-skilled specialists perform the unique world-class surgery, saving and prolonging the people?s lives, now play a significant role in the system of public healthcare.
It is difficult to overestimate the role and importance of the extensive network of screening centers, which carry out systematic monitoring of the state of health of mothers-to-be and promote the birth of healthy children. Today the death rate of women in childbirth per 100,000 childbirths is 24 while in 1991 it was 65. The infant mortality rate has decreased during this period from 35 to 14 per 1000 babies.
Significantly, today such infectious diseases as smallpox, enteric fever, malignant anthrax, bubonic plague, and cholera have been completely eradicated in Uzbekistan.
The increase of life expectancy from 67 in 1990 to 72,5 in 2006, including for men ? from 66 to 70, and women - from 70 to 74,6 is a concrete and illustrative result of measures taken to protect people?s health and improve their living standards.
It goes without saying that Uzbekistan like other countries, which strive to occupy a worthy place in the world community and maintain peace and prosperity for their people, should have a clear, precise and deeply thought out strategy and program of actions that can fully meet the requirements and challenges of today?s rapidly changing world.
This strategy in the first instance should provide consistent continuation and deepening of the course of democratic, political, and economic reforms, social transformations that justify themselves, as well as ensure the strengthening of peace and accord in society. The strategy should provide implementation of a peaceful foreign policy and integration into the global economy. It is only this kind of policy that may create the appropriate conditions and a solid foundation to reach the long-term objective which we have set for ourselves ? to join the ranks of the developed countries of the world.
The most important priority for us was and will be full implementation of the principle ? ?All for the sake of humanity and for the sake of its future?. All our reforms in the economic, political, state and legal spheres must ultimately be directed at creating decent living conditions, the steady increase of incomes and well being of our people, as well as establishing essential opportunities for people to develop their professional, intellectual and spiritual potential.
In addressing and sincerely congratulating you on what is truly our greatest holiday ? the Independence Day of the Republic of Uzbekistan - my heart is overflowing with a feeling of immense gratitude and pride for our country, for our nation, for everything that we have accomplished together with you during these years, and for the bright future which we will certainly build.