One Family – One Cow

by Nathan Hamm on 5/15/2006

Last week, EurasiaNet had a quite interesting story on an Uzbek government program under which low-income families receive a cow. The cows for the program do not come from the government but from “donors.”

The initiative has caused much grumbling among entrepreneurs, most of them small private farmers. “When I heard about the instructions on television, my heart sank,” said one private farmer in Karshi. “[It meant] new requisitions.” Anyone familiar with the Karimov’s administration’s groupthink knew that the term “sponsors” in reality meant private farmers and other member members of Uzbekistan’s comparatively miniscule entrepreneurial class – whether they wanted to, or not.

There’s nothing quite like required charity…

To make matters worse, the quickly-drafted guidelines for the program left implementation to local officials, opening up new and exciting opportunities for corruption.

The heavy-handed methods used by local officials have compounded entrepreneurs’ discontent. Rather than actually solicit donations, local officials compelled entrepreneurs to wire pre-determined sums to special bank accounts ostensibly established to help low-income families. Those familiar with bureaucratic methods, however, suspect the program is fueling corrupt practices.

Those interviewed for the story complained that such “charity programs” are nothing new. Private entrepreneurs have been shaken down in the past for all sorts of philanthropic endeavors including road construction, public celebrations, and support for Kamolot.

And an added bonus to the program? Those receiving cows become legally classified as employed, inspiring the following joke.

“If the president only added the owners of donkeys, sheep and poultry to the ‘employed category,’ there would be no unemployed people left in Uzbekistan.”


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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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