NEWS AND EVENTS
September 6, 2007
UZBEKISTAN: 16 YEARS OF INDEPENDENT DEVELOPMENT (PART 1)
In the next few days our country will celebrate the 16th anniversary of Uzbekistan?s Independence. On the eve of celebrations of what is a truly great and dear occasion for all of us and taking a look at the difficult path we have traveled during these years, there is a need for an objective assessment of the results achieved, everything we have accomplished during this period of our independent development, as well as to bring this all to the attention and consciousness of the country?s population.
I am confident that every citizen of the Republic of Uzbekistan has a full right not only to assess what has been accomplished, but also to express his own critical judgment and opinion on these vitally important issues both for every single person and also the country as a whole. Evaluating the essence, content and significance of the traversed path of the country?s independent development and what has yet to be accomplished, it would be correct to divide the passed road into two independent periods. Each of these periods undoubtedly takes its own and peculiar place in the history of our country.
Now, while assessing all these days, weeks, and months that we have lived through over these years, we may confidently state that the first stage from 1991 to 2000 ? the phase of top priority reforms and transformations during the transitional period and establishing the foundations of the national statehood - played a great, lasting and truly historical role in the life of our country and people.
The next stage, from 2001 to 2007 ? the period of active democratic renewal and modernization of the country, has played an equally important role in ensuring sustainable economic development, and consistent reform of the political, legislative, judicial, social and humanitarian spheres.
From the outset of independence, having rejected the old and obsolete totalitarian Soviet system, we have declared about building an open democratic state with a socially oriented market economy and establishing civil society in the country.
Five principles, which have proven to be fully justified, constituted the foundation for building this new state and society:
The first principle ? freeing the economy from ideology, giving it priority over politics. In other words, the economy first, then politics;
The second principle ? in the period of transition from the old system to the new one the state must become the principal reformer, i.e. it must undertake the role of initiating reform in the sphere of state, social and economic renewal of the country;
The third principle - the rule of law, or the equality of all citizens before the Law;
The fourth principle ? implementation of a strong social policy, the responsibility of the state to support the socially vulnerable layers and groups of population;
The fifth principle ? the step-by-step implementation of reform, thus rejecting the various models of shock therapy. In other words, the country must move along an evolutionary rather than revolutionary path of development. Human history testifies to the fact that latter has always brought violence, bloodshed and deprivations to people.
These principles, in the first instance, underlined our full rejection of the communist ideology, reflected the realities of the early 1990s of the 20th century and defined the main targets and tasks of our country?s reforming.
It was these principles based on which we started laying foundation of the new state and public construction.
It was the very need to implement these principles, which gave birth to the following well-known and popular slogans: ?do not destroy the old house until you have built a new one?, ?reforms are carried out not for their own sake, but for the sake of the people?.
The deep study and adoption of the time-honored world experience in building successful and stably developing modern democratic states while preserving and further consolidating our national values, customs and traditions, together with respecting the existing mentality of the people constituted the cornerstone in implementing the program objectives of the reform and renewal of the country.
The situation in which we found ourselves during the post-Soviet era after the demise of the U.S.S.R. dictated taking the most urgent measures to prevent chaos, maintain law and order, and provide for the immediate needs of population, first and foremost in terms of food.
Nowadays one can hardly imagine a situation in which the reserves of wheat and flour were sufficient only for 10-15 days and when the country was practically on the verge of famine.
The state of affairs in Uzbekistan, along with the vices typical to the entire Soviet system with its centralized planning and distribution mechanism, was most disastrously affected by the one-sided hypertrophic raw material-oriented economic development of the country, by the complete and unconditional cotton production monopoly, which had a destructive impact on the economy, environment and gene pool.
Although the republic possessed enormous natural, mineral, raw, labor and human potential, it occupied one of the lowest places within the former Soviet Union in terms of the living standards of the population, and social and human development. This was proved by data provided by the 1989 census of the U.S.S.R.
In such conditions it was of a vital importance to stop the catastrophic decline of the economy and curb galloping inflation, running into over thousands percent per year, when the old Soviet currency was almost worthless and the new national currency had not yet been introduced.
It was necessary to prevent the complete destruction of the established economic, industrial and financial linkages, and also prevent mass unemployment.
The most serious threat originated from the situation of legal vacuum when the system of maintaining internal and external security collapsed, from the danger of spread and outbreaks of ethnic and religious, regional and clan contradictions, from the growth of radicalism, first of all, amongst the youth. In short, it was necessary to protect the country from internal and external conflicts rooted in the twilight years of the Soviet Union.
It is enough to recall those dark years of lawlessness and arbitrariness, which took place during 1984-1989 and were carried out by those, who were rightly called to the point among people as desantniki (the paratroopers) and sent to Uzbekistan by the decision of the Central Committee of Communist Party with the mission of preventing and stopping the growing resentment of the population of the republic, caused predominantly by the social hardship.
It is enough to recall those alarming days and the lasting wounds left in the hearts of our people as a result of the tragic events in Kuvasai, Ferghana, Kokand, Namangan, Buka, Parkent, Gulistan and Tashkent, the events in Osh, and the incursion of bandit terrorist groups from abroad into the mountainous and foothill areas of Surkhandarya and Tashkent provinces, financed and masterminded by foreign centers.
If these dirty and far-reaching provocative objectives had been realized, the country would have been plunged into the fire of civil war, the consequences of which, without any doubt, would have been explosive for the situation throughout Middle Asia.
In this rather complex and tragic situation, in which our republic found itself, it was of an utmost importance to maintain self-control and self-restraint, a firm political will and to elaborate a comprehensively thought-out and verified strategy to tackle the deep crisis in the country and to mobilize the healthiest forces of society for its implementation.
The strategy of political and economic development, state and social construction was defined based on the historically shaped national and cultural peculiarities of our nation, and a sober-minded assessment of the natural, economic, mineral, raw material and human potential of the country, as well as its worthy place, which we are able and must take in the system of world economic relations.
What were the initial steps in implementing this strategy of the country?s reform and establishing the foundation of national statehood?
Within the historically shortest period of time we drafted and adopted the main law ? the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan which clearly defines the basic principles of state and public construction in the country. The most important principle is the separation of powers into the legislative, executive and judicial. The priority of human rights over state interests and the primacy of the universally recognized norms of international law stand as the main principles declared by the Constitution. It is defined that no ideology can be declared as the state one, and public and political life are organized based on diversity of political institutions, ideologies, and opinions. The Constitution ensures the priority of private ownership along with the equal rights of all forms of ownership.
Based on these principles we have purposefully and gradually dismantled the totalitarian and centralized system of administering the state and economy, established the foundations of a new political and state system of an independent Uzbekistan, created the integral system of constitutional and legislative bodies at both the central and local levels.
Secondly, in such a difficult transitional period it was important to create an effective system and structures of executive power able to implement in practice the laws adopted, to protect civic rights and freedoms, and to conduct political and economic reforms.
Radical administrative reform has been carried out, including: the strongholds of the centralized-planning, distributive system ? Gosplan (the State planning committee), Gossnab (the State procurement committee), Goskomtsen (the State committee for prices), Gosagroprom (the State committee for agricultural industry) were abolished; numerous ministries of different sectors of the economy were liquidated; the local bodies of power were reorganized - in provinces, districts and cities of the country the institution of khokims (governors) was introduced. Great attention was paid to developing and strengthening the system of local self-governance bodies ? the institution of the makhalla.
Thirdly, we have set and successfully achieved the goal of creating an integral system of judicial power, aimed at transforming the court from the body which only punished and protected the interests of the state into a body that ensures the rule of law and protection of human rights. The Constitutional Court, general courts, and economic courts were established. Criminal, criminal-procedural and other core laws, which constitute the legislative basis of the court and legal system, were adopted.
Fourthly, in a short period of time we have established the system of national security bodies which reliably secures our sovereignty, constitutional order, territorial integrity, public order, and counters the ever increasing threat of international terrorism, extremism and drug aggression.
Based on a deep analysis of the social and political situation in the region as well as the contemporary challenges and threats to security in the country, we have adopted the legislative acts ?On the military doctrine of the Republic of Uzbekistan?, ?On the concept of national security of the Republic of Uzbekistan?, and a number of other acts, which lay a firm legal foundation for the operation of the integral security system that promotes peace, tranquility and stability in the country.
Our attention was also focused on issues related to establishing the civil and public institutions, including the parliamentary Ombudsman, the national center for human rights, and some others. The protection of the rights and interests of each individual and family, raising the legal culture and awareness of the population were defined not only as objectives, but also as crucial preconditions in building a truly democratic law-governed state and civil society.
Establishing the national economy and its radical reforming became the most important basis of the independent development of the country.
The republic faced an urgent and crucially important problem in reliable satisfying the country?s demand and the needs of the population first of all for fuel and energy resources, consumer goods and food.
Achieving energy and grain self-sufficiency was placed on the agenda as a pivotal, strategic task.
First of all, it was meant that Uzbekistan though possessing the vast proved industrial reserves of natural gas, oil and gas condensate had to annually import about 6-7 million tons of oil and oil products and spend for this purpose considerable currency reserves to satisfy the demand of branches of economy and the needs of population.
In a short period of time we have elaborated and implemented special programs on the extraction and refining of national hydrocarbon resources, and attracted the required investment, in particular at the expense of inflow of foreign capital, to explore the new oil and gas deposits and to extract oil and natural gas. A new and modern Bukhara oil refinery was built. The Ferghana and Alty-Aryk refineries were modernized and reconstructed, and we ensured their stable and reliable operation.
The unprecedented and unique in its capabilities the Shurtan petrochemical complex was built. It produces the liquefied gas, various types of polyethylene and other products which are on high demand not only in the country, but also abroad.
Today owing to these plants built and reconstructed during the years of independence, the output of oil products has increased three-fold since 1990. Nowadays Uzbekistan not only meets its own, annually increasing, domestic demand, but has also increased exports.
It is due to the growth of production of oil and oil products, that today we meet the sharply increased requirements of industrial development of the country and population.
At the same time, we have to note that thanks to the creation of the automobile plants in Asaka and Samarkand, the number of automobiles per 100 families has increased more than six-fold during the years of independence. Accordingly, the demand for petrol, fuel and lubricants has also increased.
In the first days of independence there were huge difficulties and problems in supplying the population with bread and grain products. This problem was rooted in the fact that Uzbekistan being the main producer and supplier of raw cotton for the needs of the former U.S.S.R. and the socialist bloc, at the same time covered more than 80% of its demand in grain and flour at the account of their importation from abroad. In addition, one should take into consideration that only about 7% of the raw cotton produced was processed in the country.
The situation was no less complicated with regard to supplying the population with other foodstuffs, such as meat and dairy products, along with sugar which was completely imported from abroad. The most revealing example was the case with potatoes, which we had to annually import from Russia, Belarus, Poland, and other countries at the levels of over 1 million tons. Moreover, in November and December it was mainly frozen potato that was imported. Much of it went to waste and was used as cattle fodder. Today the needs of population in potato are completely covered at the account of our own production.
We have highlighted and successfully resolved the crucially important task of achieving the grain self-sufficiency, in the first instance, thanks to radical reforming agriculture, ending cotton monopoly which caused great damage to the economy and ecology of our country. Today Uzbekistan is not only self-sufficient in grain, but also exports flour and grain to the neighboring countries of the CIS, Afghanistan, Iran, and others. It is also important to note that achieving grain self-sufficiency allowed, along with sustainable supply the population of the country with flour and bread, to tackle the task of stably satisfying the needs of the population for meat and dairy products by producing locally.
These achievements were only possible thanks to the enormous and selfless labor of our farmers, dekhkans, agricultural workers and all other sectors of the economy who tackled these challenging tasks. It was of fundamental importance for us to reject the centralized-planning, distributive system that was completely discredited with all its faults and which stood as an obstacle to productive labor, initiative and entrepreneurship necessary for producing high quality and competitive goods.
In the first years of independence we laid the foundations of market economy that was new for us, launched the mechanism of market economic relations together with the creation of market infrastructure institutions and shaping the competitive environment. Private ownership was revived and saw its priority development in the country. It was given the reliable constitutional guarantees. As a result of privatization and the complete denationalization of the main branches of the economy, trade enterprises, and services, the multi-structural economy has developed in the country in real terms. The new class of owners and entrepreneurs, which year by year plays an ever increasing role in the country?s life, has emerged.
It was of a great importance to establish an absolutely new financial and banking system that meets the requirements of a market economy, as well as to introduce our own national currency. One should admit that the transition to a national currency and achieving its firm paying capacity was not easy for us, but this did not prevent us to make it freely convertible already by 2003.
With establishing a modern two-level banking system, it became possible for us to have our own independent monetary policy, to clearly separate the spheres of competence of fiscal and monetary policies, to ensure their effective interaction, which provides sustainable and reliable servicing of our economy?s interests. Independence of economic entities and budget-funded organizations in terms of using financial resources has dramatically increased.
In the social sphere, in the initial, the most complicated transitional phase of reforming the economy and society, in general an unprecedented effective mechanism of implementing the strong social policies and protection of population was elaborated and successfully put into practice.
The approach when the needy families are materially supported mainly through the unique national communities ? makhallas, has fully justified itself. This allowed to openly and transparently render the necessary material and moral assistance on a concrete and targeted basis to the really needy categories of the population and reliably protect them from the difficulties of the transition period.
As a result, we have not only managed to achieve social and political stability in the country, but also gained broad popular support of the ongoing course of reforms and renovation of the country on the part of people.
The formation of Armed Forces was extremely important to strengthen the defense capability, and to maintain stability and security of the country.
In the conditions which followed the collapse of the U.S.S.R., in the situation when the Armed Forces actually lost control, discipline and order, in the circumstances when day by day the threat to internal and external security of the country increased, the establishment of a Ministry of Defense, and its bodies and command units on the ground was both timely and the only right decision. It was extremely important to preserve and consolidate the cadres, particularly, the staff of officers, filling up the Army staff with national cadres, organization of their training and retraining. It was especially important to prevent the military equipment and arms from being taken out of the country.
Later, as a result of the rapidly changing social, political and military situation in the region, we developed the long-term program of reforming the Army based on the new principles of construction and organization of the Armed Forces, and due consideration of outstanding threats and challenges to security.
In implementing these changes the Army has been transformed into a new organizational structure. In a short period of time, we have established military districts and border regions, reviewed entire Armed Forces command system, as well as the staffing and deployment of formations and units. We have also taken complex measures to enhance material and technical basis, supply the Armed Forces with modern arms and equipment.
On the most important operational areas special operations units and the Counterterrorist corps of the Ministry of Defense were established. The experience of conducting the operations to liquidate the bandit groups of international terrorists, which penetrated the mountainous areas of Surkhandarya, Kashkadarya and Tashkent provinces, demonstrated that these units have become a powerful tool in confronting any aggressive intentions of possible adversaries.
The reduction of conscription terms to one year, introducing qualitative changes in staffing, changes in the order of filling up the staff, in combat equipment supply of troops, introduction of the mobilization conscription reserve service, and practical completion of transition to contract-based military service, have principally altered the form, essence, content and combat capabilities of our Army.
We have created an effective system of sergeant and officer training, based on the use of information and computer technologies, the latest achievements in science and technology.
A lot has been done in the sphere of social protection and providing the necessary housing conditions for the military and their families. Just within the last five years, there was more than two-fold increase of salaries paid for the military rank, and retirement allowances for the military service.
Today one may confidently say that the security of our Homeland is reliably ensured by our Armed Forces, and that military service, without exaggeration, has become not only a constitutional duty of an Uzbekistan citizen, but also one of the most prestigious professions in the country. The young people who have joined the Army are not only mastering the military professions ? in the Army our children are getting matured both physically and spiritually, the integrity of their character, the firm living positions, and readiness to rise anytime to defend Homeland are cultivated.
While summing up the results of this past period of our history, we cannot but to say about the extensive work that was accomplished to develop the foreign policy and establish the diplomatic service. It should be emphasized that before gaining the independence, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the republic, which was staffed only with 10-15 employees, performed mainly nominal representative functions which were limited to protocol duties and participation at different events, especially, related to reception of foreign guests.
Since the early days of independence, we have had to tackle the most important foreign policy issues and to find the most optimal ways in the sphere of international political and economic relations. In the shortest period of time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Committee and later the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations and some other bodies of state governance in this sphere were set up. We have developed the system of training and retraining of diplomatic staff.
Before gaining the independence, there was no foreign embassy in Uzbekistan. And yet now our country has established 48 diplomatic missions abroad. 86 embassies and foreign trade offices are accredited in Uzbekistan.
The particular geopolitical position of Uzbekistan, its comprehensively balanced, independent and consistent foreign policy, in the first instance with due consideration of its national interests, have ensured for Uzbekistan recognition and growing authority in the world community. Today Uzbekistan takes an active part in the work of such high-profile international organizations as the UN, OIC, OSCE, Eurasian Economic Community, Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Collective Security Treaty Organization, CIS, and a number of other specialized international institutions, making a significant contribution to resolving the problems of ensuring regional security; establishing a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia; combating drug trafficking, and other issues challenging the international community.
It goes without saying that to fulfill the tasks of construction of a new state, it was principally important to train the cadres of a new formation brought up on national and universal values and able to tackle in practice the uneasy and large-scale tasks on modernizing the country and building a modern democratic society. The country acutely needed the cadres with independent thinking and a modern mentality, who deeply comprehend their responsibility for the present and the future of the country, with a sense of responsibility for the destiny of their Homeland.
With these targets in mind, the National program of cadres training, to be implemented by 2009 was adopted in 1997.
This Program, unique in its essence and content, envisaging transition to a twelve-year education, constitutes an integral continuous system of education. The program provides for a nine-year secondary school education and a three-year secondary vocational training in colleges and academic lyceums.
The academic lyceums set up at the higher educational institutions of the country give the young people an opportunity to master deeper knowledge in order to continue with higher education according to their chosen specialty. And the colleges, as well as providing an opportunity to continue with education in specific disciplines, gives the chance to obtain a medium level professional qualification in two to three specialties so that every young person entering life could use their skills and find their niche in society.
Within the framework of the National program on cadres training a nationwide program on secondary school education development is also being implemented to be completed by 2009.
Since the launch of the national educational programs we have built and fully refurbished about 1,140 academic lyceums and professional colleges, and more than 4,680 secondary schools, equipped with modern furniture, study and laboratory equipment, computer and language learning classes.
We have radically improved the content of the educational process by developing and introducing the new national educational standards and publishing a new generation of textbooks and manuals. And what is particularly important is that we have organized training of the teaching staff of a new generation for colleges and academic lyceums at the specialized higher education institutions.
Radical reforms were carried out in the sphere of higher specialized education and the two-level European system of bachelor?s and master?s degrees has been introduced. At present, about 300 thousand students attend 65 higher educational institutions of the country specializing in 850 areas.
Within this period, more than 5 billion dollars of budget and non-budget funds have been channeled into building modern and well-equipped educational institutions.
Today expenditure on education is more than 12% of the country?s GDP, while in the world practice this index does not exceed 3-5%.
The Academy of Sciences and the associated 43 academic institutes with huge scientific potential are successfully operating in Uzbekistan. Much promising research is being undertaken in many spheres of the natural and exact sciences including the nuclear physics, thermal physics, astrophysics, helium-material studies, biology and micro-biology, chemistry and chemistry of natural compounds, seismology, and others.
There is no doubt that the resources allocated today to the sphere of education and science make up the very capital that lays a solid foundation to develop the high intellectual society in the country, to which the future belongs.