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The response to the financial crisis has averted serious problems for exporters, but at the cost of introducing more distortions into the economy. The challenge is to reduce these distortions and increase the openness of the economy so that enterprises will not suffer a further erosion of competitiveness. Recent survey results suggest that the business environment has not improved, despite a new tax code and tax cuts. Renewed efforts are needed to reduce the overall tax and administrative burden, which is particularly important for the development of new and existing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The government’s fiscal stimulus package has been appropriate and the economy has shown resilience to the global economic downturn. However, the increase in directed lending through commercial banks could potentially constrain future credit growth and should therefore be restrained.
Liberalisation and privatisation
In response to the financial crisis, in December 2008 the government announced a new programme to support exporters, producers of domestic goods and services, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Benefits include tax advantages, borrowing at subsidised rates and preferential treatment in state procurement.
The new government programme has been accompanied by tighter restrictions on importers, including exchange rate convertibility. As a result, the difference between the official and the black market exchange rates has widened from around 5 per cent in 2008 to 20-25 per cent in 2009.
Business environment and competition
Doing business in Uzbekistan can still be difficult. Tax rates and the overall tax structure, trading across borders and dealing with construction permits remain problematic. Simpler procedures to obtain these permits should improve matters.
Uzbek enterprises have relatively poor management practices compared with those in other transition countries, according to the 2008/09 EBRD/World Bank Management, Organisation and Innovation Survey. The survey also shows that most Uzbek businesses limit their productivity growth by not carrying out research and development or registering patents abroad.
In 2008 the authorities recapitalised five state-owned banks – Uzpromstroybank, Asaka Bank, Mikrokreditbank, Pakhta Bank and Galla Bank. Commercial banks have continued to lend to the real sector – by 36 per cent more (year on year) in the first half of 2009 compared with growth of 34 per cent in 2008 as a whole.
A major step was taken in the fight against money laundering and the financing of terrorism when, in April 2009, the law on anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism was amended to comply with international standards. The country had received repeated warnings from the Financial Action Task Force to improve its measures.
Last updated 21 April 2010