Uzbekistan Day at the 43rd ADB Annual Meeting

Opening remarks by Haruhiko Kuroda, ADB President, at Uzbekistan Day at the 43rd Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors, Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Introduction

Your Excellencies First Deputy Prime Minister and Chair of the ADB Board of Governors, Mr. Rustam Azimov; Deputy Prime Minister Mr Elyor Ganiev; distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen:

Let me first say how delighted I am to be here in Tashkent. Its rich history at the heart of the ancient Silk Routes, its stunning geography and cultural diversity make this an ideal venue for ADB's 43rd Annual Meeting - and its first ever to be held in Central Asia. I would like to extend, on behalf of the ADB Board of Directors, Management and staff, our sincere appreciation to the people and the City of Tashkent for welcoming us so warmly.

We at ADB value our partnership with Uzbekistan very highly. Uzbekistan has been a member of ADB since 1995. Over the years, the ADB-Uzbekistan partnership has grown and evolved. As of today, ADB has provided $2.4 billion in support to Uzbekistan, which has helped anchor significant economic and social progress.

Uzbekistan and ADB

Over the past decade, the Uzbekistan economy has performed strongly - including throughout the recent global economic crisis. With its judicious approach to participating in the global financial markets, and the Government's quick anti-crisis program, the country effectively avoided the global recession, achieving GDP growth of 8.1% in 2009. While less favorable conditions for exports may remain for now, the overall picture looks positive. Our most recent projections for Uzbekistan projected GDP growth to increase to 8.5% in 2010 and 9.0% in 2011.

ADB strongly supports the Government's ambitious structural reform. Our current partnership strategy is aligned to Uzbekistan's Welfare Improvement Strategy, which focuses on developing the rural economy, the private sector, regional transport and transit, and human capital. Our strategic priorities in Uzbekistan include transport, energy, urban and rural services, and access to credit. Reflecting this, the major sectors covered by ADB's assistance are agriculture and natural resources, education, transport, water and municipal services, and small and microfinance.

Our work with Uzbekistan has delivered results. For example, two education projects made textbooks available to nearly all students at the primary and secondary levels through an innovative textbook rental scheme. The Grain Productivity Improvement Project nearly doubled wheat yields in the project areas, boosting farmers' incomes. The Small and Microfinance Development Project helped women in rural communities establish small businesses.

In 2009, we provided a $300 million multi-tranche financing facility, the first for Uzbekistan. The investment program aims at improving the living standards, environment, and health of 3 million people in Uzbekistan. In the towns covered by the project, water supply coverage will increase to more than 95% and physical losses will be reduced to less than 30%. Sewerage will increase to 70% coverage in the provincial capitals involved.

Uzbekistan wants to industrialize and has a clear strategy to do so. Among others, this strategy calls for the conversion of cotton into textiles, agricultural commodities into processed products, and gas into chemicals and power. With a strong economy, private sector development and mobilization has become a priority, as illustrated by the Navoi free industrial economic zone initiative. I am very pleased that ADB's Board of Directors recently approved 3 very important projects that will step up our assistance for energy, transportation and microfinance to help attract and grow the private sector.

Regional Cooperation

Another important strategic priority is regional cooperation and integration. Central Asia's small populations, vast distances to markets, and land locked geographies make cooperation among its countries a necessity for strengthening economies and improving standards of living.

With proximity to rapidly growing markets like India, the People's Republic of China, and the Russian Federation - all of which have huge needs for energy — and with greater transit access to the sea through Afghanistan, the Central Asian region is well poised to reap the benefits of its strategic location. The real and growing demand for improved connections between Europe and Asia provides Central Asia with an unprecedented opportunity to emerge as a center for trade and commerce, to achieve higher levels of economic growth, and to reduce poverty.

The Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation program - or CAREC - brings together eight countries in the region and six multilateral institutions to provide finance, ideas and networks for cooperation. It focuses on transport and trade facilitation, trade policy, and energy to increase competitiveness, draw investment and create more industries and jobs.

As Central Asia's largest economy, Uzbekistan's leadership and support of regional integration is critical, and deeply appreciated. We strongly support Uzbekistan's initiatives to provide a reliable supply of electricity to Afghanistan and to link by rail Hairaton near the Uzbekistan-Afghanistan border with Mazar-e-Sharif in Afghanistan. These projects are to help Afghanistan to connect with its northern neighbors, and capture new development opportunities.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Government of Uzbekistan is keen on expanding the role of the private sector, including SMEs. ADB stands ready to help. Uzbekistan is very much an unfolding story of development success, with a bright future ahead. With your ongoing support, I believe major strides will be made in the quest for a poverty-free Uzbekistan and a poverty-free Asia and Pacific region.

Let me conclude by thanking the organizers for putting together an excellent program today, and by wishing all of you success in your ongoing endeavors. Thank you for participating in today's event, and I look forward to your valuable views and feedback.

Thank you.