ADB's Work in Uzbekistan
Central Asian Crossroads
ADB has been a partner in Uzbekistan’s efforts to modernize the economy and forge ties with neighbors, providing approved loans, grants, and technical assistance totaling more than $5 billion.
After the fall of the Soviet Union and the declaration of independence in 1991, Uzbekistan’s education system faced a challenging transition. An economic downturn left the government with an underfunded system and an outdated Soviet curriculum.
Uzbekistan and ADB became partners in 1995, and one of their early initiatives was to produce millions of new textbooks with modern content. To do this, the government supported the creation of a modern publishing and printing industry to produce durable but affordable books for nearly six million children.
It was a staggering task, but the Basic Education Textbook Development Project delivered for Uzbekistan’s children. By the end of the project, 15 million textbooks had been published in six different languages, and two million teacher’s guides and 49,000 visual aids were distributed.
Making the transition
When Uzbekistan joined ADB, it was in the midst of the country’s transition from a Soviet-style system to a modern market economy. After the initial shock of separation, the country was able to achieve moderate economic growth by 1996.
To help ease the transition, the government introduced programs to help people maintain access to high-quality social services, strengthen social protection, and increase their incomes. Reforms were undertaken in health, pensions, housing, and consumer subsidies. ADB’s 6 loans and 28 technical assistance projects during the 1996–2000 period helped to improve governance, build institutional capacity, support policy and institutional reforms, and rehabilitate basic social and physical infrastructure.
By the 2000s, Uzbekistan’s economy had taken off. The economy grew by more than 80% in real terms during the decade, and foreign investment rose dramatically, mainly in the oil, gas, and telecommunication sectors.
In the late 2000s, Uzbekistan, like other countries around the world, was feeling the effects of the global financial crisis. The government responded with careful fiscal management and a timely government anticrisis program that steered the country through the global economic downturn and allowed it to emerge with an economic growth rate of 8.1% in 2009, one of the highest in the region.
"We are grateful that, for more than 20 years, ADB is a strategic partner of Uzbekistan in implementation of structural reforms."
After the worst of the crisis was over, ADB and Uzbekistan turned their attention to developing the country’s immense natural energy resources, which gave it the potential to play a major role in redressing the energy deficit in other Central Asian countries and in South Asia. A 420-kilometer transmission line between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan’s capital was constructed that benefited 4 million people.
ADB also helped install more efficient turbines in the Talimarjan power plant in southern Uzbekistan. This strengthened the country’s energy generation infrastructure, helping it meet domestic power supply demand and produce electricity for export.
ADB and Uzbekistan also partnered in the late 2000s to make the most of the country’s strategic location. With its once-glittering cities of Samarkand and Bukhara, Uzbekistan was a pivotal trade crossroads on the steppes and deserts of the ancient Silk Road. In recent years, its strategic location thrust it back into the same vital role as a land bridge between Europe and the Middle East.
Three of the six transport corridors being developed with ADB support under the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) program pass through Uzbekistan: Corridor 2 (Mediterranean–East Asia), Corridor 3 (Russian Federation–Middle East–South Asia), and Corridor 6 (Europe–Middle East–South Asia).
Rail systems were also used to open up trade with neighboring countries. This included building a 75-kilometer railway line connecting Uzbekistan with
Mazar–e–Sharif, the second-largest city in Afghanistan, via Hairatan on the Afghanistan–Uzbekistan border. The new line formed a key trade corridor between the two countries.
ADB has also helped improve the quality of life of people in rural areas through housing construction, job creation, and private sector development. More than 41,000 rural families benefited from the Housing for Integrated Rural Development Investment Program, and much of the work in other areas continues today.
Since the partnership began, ADB and Uzbekistan have invested more than $5 billion in projects and programs designed to improve people’s lives. This has involved more loans to Uzbekistan than to any other country in Central Asia.
ADB and Uzbekistan continue to work together on projects in transport and communications, energy, water supply, municipal infrastructure and services, and access to financial services. All of this is being done with an eye to ensuring the country’s economic growth is inclusive.
This article was originally published in a special edition of Together We Deliver, which tells 50 stories highlighting the importance of good partnerships in Asia and the Pacific in meeting the complex development challenges of this dynamic region.