All KarimovIn this week’s RFE/RL

by Nathan Hamm on 9/5/2003

All KarimovIn this week’s RFE/RL Central Asia Bulletin. This
week, it’s time for the Oliy Majlis (parliament) to listen to what laws
the government wants passed and not passed. It’s a ridiculous exercise
of “democracy.” It always bugged me because my favorite hotel in
Tashkent (Hotel Tashkent) was really hard to get a room in and there
would be a huge police presence around it for that week. Anyway, the
highlights:
Karimov called for convertibility within two years. Funny, he just told
lenders it would be November
The president tore into his finance minister on raising salaries,
claiming inflation was only three percent this year.

You make salaries as big as a horse’s head, then you look
at the markets and prices are going up too. Who are we trying to
fool?…. Why can’t you explain this as a minister?” He concluded his
idiosyncratic review of capitalism by informing the hall, “If there is
too much money and a shortage of goods in the market, it means you’ll
pay more for 1 kilogram of potatoes

It gets even better though. Karimov urged the Oliy Majlis to exercise
their “democratic function” and do the will of their electorate by
grilling the minister. Everyone knows that this is a load of crap and
that the finance minister is the victim of a set-up:

If Nurmuradov has been targeted as a scapegoat, what is he
a scapegoat for? It is rare for Karimov to humiliate a ministerpublicly
(regional governors, however, are a different matter). Yet
last week’s performance was reminiscent of the way Turkmen President
Saparmurat Niyazov operates, whereby an offending official stands
before him on television and gets chastised, in
Turkmenbashi’s inimitable idiom, for being “a bad boy.”

What’s this all about then? The strike in Ferghana.

The strikes in Ferghana must have been a wake-up call for
the central government. Karimov must finally have appreciated the scale
of discontent among his increasingly
impoverished population. By targeting Nurmuradov the president deflects
criticism from himself while holding himself out as the outraged
champion of the little guy. Karimov has tried playing this role before.
This time the tactic may backfire. On the one hand, he risks appearing
out of control: why didn’t he act before the situation reached this
point? On the other hand, he risks seeming out
of touch: why is he so shocked now to discover salaries are paid months
in arrears? He runs a third risk as well: that the citizens of
Uzbekistan reckon he was perfectly in control, well aware of
deteriorating conditions — and simply indifferent.

Couldn’t say it better myself.


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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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