Since the mid-2000s, Uzbekistan has enjoyed robust GDP growth, thanks to favorable trade terms for its key export commodities like copper, gold, natural gas, cotton, the government’s macro-economic management, and limited exposure to international financial markets that protected it from the economic downturn. Still, the future is not without challenges.
Overall growth for Uzbekistan is projected to continue at around 7 to 8 percent annually during 2011-14, supported by net exports and a large capital investment program. World prices for Uzbekistan’s principal exports are projected to remain favorable at least through the first half of the 2012-15 fiscal year (FY) Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) period.

The impact of recent increases in global food and energy prices is expected to be limited given Uzbekistan’s policy of self sufficiency in both food grains and energy. Given the government’s plans to finance up to two-thirds of their investment program from external sources, including loans, external debt is expected to increase gradually.

The country has to contend with a combination of risk factors going forward, including deteriorating security conditions due to the situation in Afghanistan, and increasing tensions between with neighbors over regional issues—especially the management and use of trans-boundary energy and water resources. Domestically, Uzbekistan has to work to minimize its economy’s vulnerability to possible external shocks affecting commodity prices and the anticipated inflow of foreign direct investment (FDI) and external loans to finance the large public investment program.

Uzbekistan, with the goal of becoming an industrialized, high middle-income country by around 2050, is continuing to transition to a more market-oriented economy to ensure equitable distribution of growth between regions and to maintain infrastructure and social services. The country’s policy goals and priorities are: to increase the efficiency of infrastructure, especially of energy, transport, and irrigation; to enhance the competitiveness of specific industries, such as agro-processing, petrochemicals, and textiles; to diversify the economy and thereby reduce its reliance on commodity exports; and to improve access to and the quality and outcomes of education, health and other social services.

Since Uzbekistan joined the World Bank in 1992, the Bank has provided commitments for 24 projects financed by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) and the International Development Association (IDA). Of these, 14 projects have been completed.

Currently, the World Bank Group aims to support Uzbekistan’s policy goals and priorities with a two-track approach under the previous Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) – full or limited engagement depending on the extent of agreement with the government. This means that CPS support for increasing the efficiency of infrastructure and for human development and social inclusion will broaden and deepen the operational involvement and related policy dialogue already in place from the previous CAS. Conversely, support for the government’s industrial competitiveness and economic diversification agenda, where government and Bank perspectives differ, will be limited initially to analytical and advisory services.

Over the 4-year period of fiscal years 2012 to 2015, the Bank’s provisional lending program comprises fifteen operations, of which eleven will support reforms and investments for achieving sustainable growth, including more efficient energy use and diversification of exports. The total financial commitment will be about US$1.3 billion, i.e. commitments averaging about US$325 million annually.

Besides new lending, the existing portfolio of investment projects will support the infrastructure efficiency and social inclusion elements of the government’s strategy. Proposed analytical and advisory services will cover the government’s growth and development strategy. In addition, the provisional list of analytical and advisory services includes a proposed joint strategy report “Uzbekistan Vision 2030”. This will lay out roadmaps to facilitate implementation of the authorities’ industrial development, competitiveness and diversification agenda.

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) will maintain its focus on private sector development through a combined investment and advisory approach, by focusing on direct investments in the real sectors, such as general manufacturing, services, and agribusiness; strengthening access to finance for private sector through banks, especially by strengthening privately owned banks; and encouraging private sector participation in infrastructure.

Drainage, Irrigation and Wetlands Improvement Project
This project is part of the Aral Sea Basin Program. In Uzbekistan, particularly in the Amu Darya basin, the soil is saline and drainage systems are inadequate. Usually, large quantities of water are used to leach the soils of salts. This practice results in high groundwater levels, and causes the salts in the soil profile to be brought to the surface. The project aims to increase the productivity of irrigated agriculture, employment, and incomes in Karakalpakstan, one of the poorest regions in Central Asia; to improve the water quality of the Amu Darya River through safe disposal of drainage effluents; to enhance the quality of wetlands; to develop institutions for improving water management and the operation and maintenance of irrigation and drainage systems; and to promote sustainable irrigated agriculture.

So far, groundwater table has been lowered to acceptable levels in 90 percent of the project area, helping desalinate irrigated lands. Previously unusable land has been made friendly for agriculture, helping generate jobs and income in the area. Other results include improving the quality of water in the Amu Darya region and training people in better agriculture and water management practices.

Bukhara and Samarkhand Sewerage Project
Uzbekistan’s largely decentralized municipal services had suffered from insufficient investment and deferred maintenance, hurting the infrastructure, which is more than 20 years old, and rendering it severely deteriorated and energy inefficient. The decline in service reliability has reduced the public’s quality of life and constrained economic growth. The sewerage systems in Bukhara and Samarkand are more than 40 years old and will soon need to be replaced.

The project aims to mitigate the environmental impact from wastewater pollution and improve the efficiency and sustainability of wastewater management in Bukhara and Samarkand. This will be achieved by rehabilitating select sections of the sewerage system, expanding (to a limited extent) the sewerage system into currently unconnected central historical areas, installing more energy-efficient equipment such as wastewater pumps and aeration systems at wastewater treatment plants and pumping stations, and improving the capacity of the water utilities in the areas of management, communications, and public outreach.

So far, consultant services contracts are underway and the first urgent contract to rehabilitate a section of sewers and construct a new sewer pumping station in Samarkhand has been completed. Staff training is underway in Bukhara and Samarkhand on sewer operations.

Rural Enterprise Support Project Phase II
The project aims to increase the productivity, financial and environmental sustainability of agriculture and the profitability of agribusiness in the area. This will be achieved through the provision of financial and capacity-building support to farmers and agribusinesses in 7 regions in Uzbekistan (covering around 65 percent of the total population), and improved irrigation service delivery through the rehabilitation of the irrigation and drainage infrastructure and the associations of water users in the area.

So far, 370 agribusinesses have received financing to procure agricultural machinery, processing equipment, packaging equipment and materials, and investments in tree-crops, poultry and fishery, and livestock production. Also, 36,300 farmers have been trained about the principles of crop protection and pest control, development of livestock production, poultry and fish production and preparation of business plans among other lessons. Another key result is that farmers’ awareness of national child labor policies has improved and the International Labour Organization (ILO) convention restrictions have been ratified through training workshops.


Uzbekistan: Commitments by Fiscal Year (in millions of dollars)*

*Amounts include IBRD and IDA commitments