Speech by First Vice President Bennett praises “enormous potential”
The EBRD is ready to increase its engagement in Uzbekistan. In a speech in the capital Tashkent the Bank’s First Vice President Phil Bennett praised reforms in the Central Asian country in recent months and emphasised the importance of economic integration: “Integration allows countries to opt into institutional arrangements of a high standard, and more generally, acts as a discipline on governance, legal, regulatory and other institutions.”
For the Uzbek economy to make further progress in mobilising investment is key, Mr Bennett stressed. A crucial role in this falls to attracting foreign direct investment: “FDI provides, through acquisition of business or assets or starting an enterprise, the closest link to the host country, and thus the greatest impact,” the EBRD First Vice President said.
To attract long-term and committed investment three factors stand out: market potential, business opportunities and an enabling environment. “The first two factors are clearly present in Uzbekistan. It would be a miss to overlook the third!” Mr Bennett stressed. With the recent liberalisation of currency conversion “a key step has been taken,” he said, but also warned: “There is more to be done.”
Following the recent developments in Uzbekistan the EBRD has welcomed the opportunity to reengage in the country and followed this up with rapidly developing new projects. The Bank opened a new office in Tashkent on Wednesday. In addition, First Vice President Bennett signed three projects for a total value of US$ 120 million with local companies during his stay.
More investments are in preparation: “We have a strong pipeline of projects across many sectors which we will be implementing in the coming year,” Mr Bennett said. About Uzbekistan’s prospects he added: “I cannot but think of the exceptional legacy of the Silk Road, which for centuries brought people together in peace across continents, regardless of religion and race, to trade with each other. The spirit of the Silk Road is alive today, 500 years later.”
The speech at Westminster International University in Tashkent was one of the highlights of Mr Bennett’s visit to Uzbekistan this week, his first stay in the country where he met Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov and other senior officials. He was accompanied by Betsy Nelson, EBRD Vice President, Risk and Compliance; and Natasha Khanjenkova, EBRD Managing Director, Central Asia and Russia.
The new EBRD office in Uzbekistan is headed by Associate Director Alkis Vryenios Drakinos and supports the expansion of the Bank’s operations in the country. The EBRD’s near-term objectives in Uzbekistan are to support domestic small and medium-sized enterprises and promote trade finance and cross-border cooperation, as well as to facilitate FDI and support the government’s reform efforts, including those aimed at improving the investment climate.
Mr Bennett will conclude his visit to Uzbekistan with a speech at the International Conference on Security and Sustainable Development in Central Asia in Samarkand on Saturday. Before his arrival in Uzbekistan he visited Tajikistan, where the EBRD is a major investor in the private sector, energy and infrastructure development sectors.