Old problems will not allow the states to take a step towards implementing the proposals of the Uzbek leader, the expert said.
President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev is actively campaigning for the new presidential election. He does not forget to continue to participate in the regional processes in Central Asia. It’s not just his frequent statements about Afghanistan, where the government has recently changed. Mirziyoyev hardly doubts that he can lose the election. He does not slow down and positions himself as the initiator of large-scale projects in the region, becoming, as it were, the “first person” in Central Asia.
We must pay tribute – Uzbekistan under Mirziyoyev has clearly demonstrated its openness to the world, avoiding the policy of isolationism. But what about the reality of the implementation of 10 initiatives of the Uzbek leader, which he voiced at the International Conference “Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity. Challenges and Opportunities”? The CentralAsia.news editors asked an independent expert Bakhrom Khamroev to comment on Mirziyoyev’s proposals in light of their implementation.
Tourism in question
The interlocutor emphasised that Mirziyoyev’s policy differs significantly from the course of his predecessor Islam Karimov. Now Tashkent clearly claims to be a regional leader – in the old days it had difficult relationships with its neighbours, the country pursued the policy of isolationism. It is thanks to Mirziyoyev that relations have been established not only with many states, but also with international organisations. Foreign investors gradually began to invest in Uzbekistan.
However, the geographic and economic potential, along with the vigour of Mirziyoyev – this is not enough to cast aside a sceptical view of the President’s initiative to popularise the region as a tourist destination. Khamroev stressed that the situation in all the Central Asian states should be taken into consideration.
— However, it is first necessary to ensure security, as well as entrepreneurial freedom, which cannot be done without solving the problem of corruption, for the large-scale development of the tourism sector and attraction of guests. As is known, these problems remain unresolved in the countries of the region. How Mirziyoyev will solve them in Uzbekistan is a separate issue, but it is obvious that it is impossible to influence the relevant processes, for example, in Tajikistan, where authoritarianism is also observed, — the expert said.
Bakhrom Khamroev noted that Uzbekistan needed systemic, fundamental reforms. Nepotism, corruption and labour migration – all this hinders the implementation of serious projects in the country. The interlocutor described the measures taken in the Republic as “cosmetic”.
“Not green” region
Shavkat Mirziyoyev promotes the popular “green economy” in the region, including the development of technologies that do not pollute the environment. The interlocutor stated that the above problems also did not allow fully developing “green” innovations.
Khamroev noted that this also required serious investments, the involvement of high-level international specialists, the development of science and drastic transformations of the national economy. Today, the latter is based on cotton growing, which adversely affects the environment, the expert noted. All this must be supported by a well-functioning system of project implementation.
— The strongest USSR, by orders of magnitude more developed than Uzbekistan, could not solve these problems. It is simply naive to believe that a conglomerate of Central Asian autocracies with an economy “on its last legs”, a degraded education system, and conflicting regional interests will solve these problems more successfully, — the expert said.
Drugs as a business in Central Asia
The fight against drugs, radicalism and terrorism is not a completely new phenomenon for Central Asia, but it does not lose its relevance. Even more so that the terrorist organisation of Taliban, banned in the Russian Federation, came to power in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Khamroev noted that drug trafficking should be viewed not just as a criminal act. The drug business has become one of the symbols of the “symbiosis” of the mafia with officials and security forces.
— Drug smuggling is a huge business, and it is often one of the few ways to earn money in conditions of a degraded economy, nepotism, corruption and mass unemployment. Moreover, the authorities are often more interested in supporting drug smuggling than the population. It is no secret that the people from the inner circle of the President of Tajikistan Rahmon were involved in it. The high-ranking officials of the former Afghan leadership, close associates of President Ashraf Ghani, governors and influential field commanders, including General Dostum, were implicated in drug smuggling, — Khamroev reminded.
The interlocutor has no doubts that the financial position of a number of regional politicians may directly depend on the illicit trade in illegal substances. At the same time, illegal activities are hardly possible without any protection by the security forces. Therefore, the question arises as to how to deal with the criminal business, which has long ingrained in the political system? Khamroev firmly believes that the real steps to combat drug trafficking are a purge in power circles, as well as poverty reduction in practice, not in words.
The expert also noted that the Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan does not entail the flourishing of drug smuggling and the increased threat of terrorism. Khamroev stressed that the Taliban are now “under the magnifying glass” of the international community. Representatives of the movement intend to demonstrate how they are actually capable of solving these two problems. Even more so that they are extremely religious, which means that intoxicating substances are strictly prohibited by them.
— Moreover, according to the available information, after the Taliban have come to power, heroin prices rose sharply, which testifies to “negative market expectations. Therefore, contrary to the alarmist expectations, I assume that the Taliban will make every possible effort to curb these problems, — Khamroev commented.
The expert said he did not expect the authorities of other countries in the region to fight truly effectively against the drug business, given the characteristics of the criminal octopus.