Interview with Sanjar Umarov

by Nathan Hamm on 8/7/2005

Earlier we have written about the second congress of the “Serquyosh O`zbekistonim” – “Sunshine Uzbekistan” Coalition. Now, the elected chairman of the Coalition, Mr. Sanjar Umarov has kindly agreed to give an interview to TRIBUNE-uz 08.06.2005.

Our readers would like to know more about you, please tell us about your background.

I was born on April 7, 1956 in Tashkent. My farther – Giyas Umarov – was a physicist and one of the founders of the solar application science in Uzbekistan. My mother – Nabira Shamsieva – was a teacher of English language. I have two elder brothers and two younger sisters. The respect for arts and science has dominated our family since I can remember. I’m married. My wife – Indira Niyazova – holds a PhD in art. We have three sons, two daughters and a granddaughter.

I graduated from the Tashkent Institute of Irrigation and Mechanization of Agriculture; with degree in electrical engineering, engaged in research activities and taught at the Tashkent polytechnic institute. Having learnt French language I got the opportunity to teach physics and electrical engineering at the University of Biskra in Algeria.
In 1989, conjointly with Republican Economics Society and All-Union’s Academy of Foreign Trade of Moscow participated in organization one of the first business schools in Uzbekistan. Thus, our young people got the opportunity to learn international business from the best professors and teachers of Moscow and the West.

People knowing you, call you a successful businessman and some even use the term “oligarch”…

The term “oligarch” in its classical meaning, means a person who uses his contacts in the government to turn the some financial flow to his pocket.

I on the other hand participate in attracting foreign investments for Uzbekistan, and also invested myself on initial stage into perspective projects – in financial language – maybe I’m a “venture capitalist”. Let me provide you some examples of business activity:

Upon my return from Algeria in 1988, taking into account the opportunities and great potential of the development of mobile communication, I managed a project to introduce cellular technology to Uzbekistan, and as a result, the first cellular communications company in USSR was created, “Uzdunrobita,” attracting American investments and set up in February of 1991.

The success of the first project inspirited me, and Uzbekistan’s independence gave the opportunity to attract foreign investments into the agriculture. With my business partners we initiated the creation of a republican international trade association “Uzagrotradeinvest” in 1992. This association had attracted foreign investments into processing of fruit and vegetables for export.

Besides that, the conception developed by us, underlie the World Bank’s investment program on creation of several private cotton gin plants in Uzbekistan in 1996. In succeeding years I engaged in attracting investments into the oil and gas industry. In 1996, I participated in attracting American investments to set up the joint Uzbek-American transport company “Neftgaztrans” to provide transport and logistics services for liquid hydrocarbons and industrial equipment for the sector.

The latest project, aims to set up a plant in Uzbekistan to produce liquid hydrocarbons (diesel, jet fuel, naphtha, etc.) from the natural gas (methane) – this technology is known as “Gas-to-Liquids” (GTL). Uzbekistan is rich with natural gas, but at the same time crude oil production is rapidly declining. The GTL plant will substantially fill up the diesel deficit in Uzbekistan. The plant will be built for 1 billion USD of direct North American investments without sovereign governmental guarantees.

What is the “Sunshine Uzbekistan” Coalition?

It is an open union of different organizations and citizens. Our aim is the realization of real and fundamental reforms in social-economical life of Uzbekistan. We understand that those pseudo-reforms that the government of Uzbekistan and Parliament carries out, lead the country to a dead end. We believe that it’s necessary to start changes without delay. Otherwise it will be too late, because of growing social discontent. If the executive power in the person of President Karimov will show their resolute wishes for reforms, then there is the opportunity to turn the strained situation into a constructive and peaceful course.

What do you mean by saying “resolute wishes for reforms?” What reforms do you propose?

By resolute steps I mean, first of all complete and unconditional resignation of the present ineffective Cabinet of Ministers. Appointment of the new Government of reformers, and providing them with the widest authorities, including several of authorities that President has today. As written in the Constitution, the President retains the control of the armed forces and the National Security Service, but their actions must not be politically motivated.

What would you do in case you’re appointed as the Prime Minister?

To begin with, I will change the organizational structure of the Cabinet of Ministers to fit the demands of a liberalized, market economy. Secondly, I should attract many new, young and also experienced progressive people to the government, who have not stained themselves by corruption. Thirdly, I will organize an International Economical Consultative Council, attracting leading economists, financiers, politicians both western, ours and Russian, for the purpose of elaborating a detailed reform program and coordinating it with the international financial institutions. Fourthly, I should organize a nation-wide discussion of the reform program. And finally, after receiving an approval of the majority of Uzbekistan’s citizens we’ll start its realization.

Could you briefly tell us about some concepts that will lie in the economic section of the reform program?

Almost all of Uzbekistan’s economy is still subject to the Soviet-style control by government bureaucracies that are often corrupted. As a result, the citizens of Uzbekistan have never been free to develop their country’s rich agricultural and natural resources. Uzbekistan’s current economic system has driven its citizens to despair for the future. “Sunshine Uzbekistan” is committed to introducing a liberal, free-market economic relations that will provide Uzbekistan’s citizens with the ability to support their families and build a better future.

Agriculture reforms

Uzbekistan is primarily an agrarian country with over 80% of the population dependent on farming. Therefore, Sunshine Uzbekistan’s reform program emphasizes immediate and practical steps to stimulate economic growth of Uzbekistan’s countryside. Reforms include:

  • De-monopolization and liberalization of cotton production, trade and export
  • The rapid transfer of rights to private ownership of the cultivated area
  • The establishment of several competing, privately owned cooperatives dedicated to the service, support and development of small, private farms.
  • The implementation of a simplified low-rate tax system for farmers

Industrial and Trade reforms

Uzbekistan is blessed with abundant natural recourses, including gold, uranium, oil and gas, which are now controlled by corrupt government bureaucracies for the benefit of a chosen few. Sunshine Uzbekistan’s industrial reform program is based on the private property and proposes the rapid and transparent privatization of all sectors of industry, considering the mistakes of Russian privatization experience, in order not to allow the profit to go to the pockets of individual persons and robbing of the public. Similarly, Sunshine Uzbekistan’s reform program will radically liberalize domestic and international trade by reduction of tariffs and other administrative restrictions that serve only to feed corruption and starve citizens.

Macroeconomic Reforms

Uzbekistan’s government financial and banking systems are basically on the verge of collapse. Years of command, practically “Soviet” economic policy have created mountains of bad debts that have crippled the economy. Economic stagnation has, in turn, aggravated the Government’s dismal financial position. Rather than undertaking cardinal macro-economic reforms necessary to fundamentally improve its financial position, the Government has responded with ever more burdensome taxes and regulations that are killing private business. Sunshine Uzbekistan’s reform program will revive Uzbekistan’s economy through the implementation of sound, growth oriented monetary and fiscal policies that will revive private business development and restore financial stability.

Thank you!

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This post was written by...

– 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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