Since the government of Uzbekistan’s economic and budget reports are unreliable, making proxy indicators about the only things that allow for any kind of realistic assessment of the government and country’s financial health. The latest sign of the Uzbek government’s poor financial health is the news that teachers and doctors in Vobkent district of Bukhara province have been paid a portion of their salaries in the form of chickens.
Public sector workers get 10 chicks each under the initiative, launched after cabinet ministers in February urged regional governments to boost domestic production of poultry, eggs, meat, and vegetables.
“We were given a mandatory 10 chicks each,” says Odil, a 32-year-old teacher, who spoke to RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service. “Each chick costs 5,500 soms ($3). It’s a little more expensive than local chicks. There is no way to refuse the offer; it was compulsory.”
Officials say that the program of paying public employees with live Serbian chickens is so successful that it will probably expand it to more areas and perhaps also include cows as future payment.
Previous indicators Uzbekistan is hard up for cash recently have been the hard push to substitute local consumption of natural gas with wood and coal, the wider net cast in recent years for cotton harvests, and continuing tight border controls, particularly with Kyrgyzstan, keeping foreign consumer goods from entering the Uzbek market.