Economic Workshops Bring Along Economic Situation in Southern Uzbekistan

Economic Workshops Bring Along Economic Situation in Southern Uzbekistan

In the context of the Community Action Investment Programme (CAIP), CHF International and Counterpart International conducted two, one-day economic workshops in the Surkhandarya and Kashkadarya regions of Uzbekistan.

More than 80 people representing governmental agencies, CAIP communities, local and international NGOs and the media participated in the two workshops. The goal of the workshops was to define and get agreement on concrete solutions to increase opportunities for small and medium sized businesses in southern Uzbekistan.

Kashkadarya and Surkhandarya regions of southern Uzbekistan –28 January and 11 February 2005 — as part of the Community Action Investment Programme (CAIP), CHF International and Counterpart International conducted Regional Economic Workshops in Karshi and Termez cities in southern Uzbekistan.

The regional economic workshops were a follow-up activity to the CAIP Economic Forums in 2004. At the CAIP Economic Forums, more than 300 citizens defined impediments to economic development in southern Uzbekistan.

The smaller regional workshops included government officials and focused on prioritising and getting agreement on concrete steps that the government and citizens can take to increase economic opportunities in southern Uzbekistan. The objectives of the regional economic workshops included: (1) giving individual entrepreneurs, businesses, economic organizations, government officials and other stakeholders interested in business development a chance to meet, network and discuss business development opportunities in the region; (2) having an open and honest discussion of the impediments to economic development in the region and to prioritise those problems, and (3) creating a list of priority problems and have all parties commit to a plan to alleviate those problems that can be addressed at the regional levels. Nearly 80 people participated in the regional economic workshops including CAIP community representatives, regional bank employees, tax inspection officials, Chamber of Trade and Industry members, mahalla leaders, local and international NGOs (PAD, ACTED, DRE, Junior Achievement) and media representatives.

During the regional economic workshops, participants prioritised the following problems that they felt could be solved at the regional level: lack of knowledge and publicly available information on business laws and regulations; difficulty in getting cash and credit from local banks; unequal enforcement of laws resulting in corruption and harassment of businesspeople; not enough foreign investment in the regions and difficulty in importing and exporting; citizens are not involved in economic policy decision making; lack of business training opportunities; high unemployment and the need for more economic trade shows.

Participants proposed the following concrete solutions to the aforementioned problems: increase government distribution of easy to understand and concise publications as well as more training opportunities; increase transparency, customer service and liquidity of banks through training and monitoring; initiate an anti-corruption media campaign, increase punishment for corruption and create harassment telephone hotlines; introduce tax incentives, support local businesspeople who have foreign contacts and encourage regional competition for foreign investment; stage regular public discussions to get citizen input and inform citizens of new economic policy in each region; contract with teachers or NGOs to conduct business training in all communities; and organize more district-level trade and labour shows. The prioritised problems and proposed solutions will be distributed to all workshop participants and other interested parties.

The Community Action Investment Programme is a three-year project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The Programme is focused on establishing democratic development systems in 72 communities in Southern Uzbekistan, where it is being implemented by CHF International in partnership with Counterpart International. CAIP works at the community level to develop democratic community leadership by assisting community members to improve local infrastructure and create jobs. As of February 2005, more than 470,000 community members have participated and benefited from CAIP.