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Uzbekistan

Creating dialogue and citizen engagement – initial observations from Uzbekistan

Nina Kolybashkina's picture
I started my assignment in Uzbekistan in 2015, working on social issues such as labor rights, gender mainstreaming, and citizen engagement. This work was certainly not without its challenges, at a time when Uzbekistan ranked among the worst performers on democracy and accountability, and before the process of liberalizing the economy had begun.

I never imagined, therefore, when I temporarily left Uzbekistan in late 2016, that I would return just a half year later to find the country in the midst of a significant transformation.

What can an Uzbek mountain town learn from an Austrian eco-friendly tourism destination?

Rosanna Nitti's picture
Hiking recently around Chartak in Uzbekistan’s Namangan Region, I was struck by the area’s natural beauty and literally (and figurately) got my second breadth. At 650 meters above sea level, this modest town in the Ferghana Valley enjoys evergreen alpine pastures and rocky panoramas, and is permeated by a constant supply of high-altitude fresh air and crystal-clear, mineral-rich waters.

Sustainable tourism can be an economic lifeline for many mountain communities and help create job opportunities for their young people – which is all the more important since three-quarters of people living in extreme poverty in Uzbekistan live in rural areas.
 


 

The high toll of traffic injuries in Central Asia: unacceptable and preventable

Aliya Karakulova's picture

Did you know that in Kazakhstan we live in the country with the deadliest roads? Every year, 3,000 people die on roads in Kazakhstan, and over 30,000 are injured. Imagine if an airplane crashed every month! Would you fly?

We are 11 times more likely to die in a traffic accident in Kazakhstan than in Norway. Indeed, the numbers for road deaths are high in all Central Asian countries.

The High Toll of Traffic Injuries in Central Asia
Source: WHO, 2013


Globally, road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among people aged between 15 and 29 years. Not cancer, not heart diseases, and not wars.

Life changing injuries and deaths affect countries in terms of health care and economic costs – the annual economic loss of road deaths in Central Asian countries is estimated at around 3-4% of GDP.

But beyond this monetary value, lies a person’s life. 

Doing Business and Central Asia – After 15 years, how much reform?

Stefka Slavova's picture


This year, the annual Doing Business Report – by far the most anticipated and cited World Bank publication – celebrates its 15th year. Starting in 2003, the fledgling report, which covers about 130 countries, has grown into its teens garnering admiration and criticism in equal measure. Some absolutely love it, while others argue that its flaws outweigh its strong points.

Regardless, nobody can deny that the Doing Business report has been a major catalyst for reforms across the world – 3,200 reforms of business regulation have been counted to date, spurred by the Report and carried out in line with the methodology of its indicators.

After the storm: Time to rebuild faster and stronger

Lilia Burunciuc's picture
With every calamity comes an opportunity: to rebound and rebuild stronger than before. The economies of Central Asia faced such an opportunity following the major economic shock they experienced at the end of 2014. The collapse in commodity prices affected not only oil-producing countries – highlighting the narrow production base on which their prosperity rests – but also oil importers, whose growth depends largely on remittance-fueled demand.

All countries in the region experienced significant welfare losses. In 2015-16, the volume of imports declined 15% in both Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and 25% in Kyrgyzstan – a clear sign that households and firms were constrained.

After the initial shock, however, the economies of Central Asia rebounded. This was thanks to supportive fiscal and monetary policies, namely fiscal expansion and relatively lose monetary policy. Growth has picked-up: for Central Asia, as a whole, it is now projected to reach 4.4% in 2017, against 2.8% the year before. Inflation has returned to manageable levels: in Kazakhstan, it has plummeted down from the double-digit rates seen after the fall in oil prices, confirming that the previous spike was merely a one-time adjustment.

But, have the countries of Central Asia done enough to shift the focus from structural constraints to durable prosperity? According to the recently released Economic Update for Europe and Central Asia, important challenges still lie ahead.

Managing water better is central to attaining our development goals

Jonas Jägermeyr's picture
Rainwater harvesting for drip irrigation, Lake Victoria, Tanzania.
Photo credit: Wisions.net
Everybody depends on it; there is no substitute for it if we run out; in some places, it’s more valuable than oil. Freshwater is at the very core of human development: it is inextricably linked to food security, economic growth, and poverty reduction.

At face value, water use for food production today largely occurs at the expense of ecosystems, which is the number one reason for their rapid degradation. Already, a quarter of the world’s major rivers no longer reach the ocean.

According to a new study published by Nature Communications, about 40% of global irrigation water is used unsustainably and violates life-supporting environmental flows of rivers. To achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, these water volumes need to be re-allocated to the ecosystem, which puts a heavy strain on current agricultural water use: food production would drop by at least 10% on half of all irrigated land, with losses of 20-30% at the country level, especially in Central and South Asia.

The “human scale” in public urban areas

Judy Zheng Jia's picture

Slideshow: Reimagining a park, a river, and other public spaces in Seoul (Photos by Judy Zheng Jia / World Bank)

"If you lose the human scale, the city becomes an ugly place," said Joan Clos, Executive Director of the UN-HABITAT at the Habitat III Conference last month. But more than being "ugly," the lack of good public urban spaces, such as open spaces, parks, and public buildings, often contribute to low livability in many of the world's congested and polluted cities. In fact, the importance of the issue received recognition in SDG 11, Target 7, which calls for the provision of “universal access to safe, inclusive and accessible, green, and public spaces, in particular for women and children, older persons, and persons with disabilities,” by 2030.
 
Global experience shows that disconnected, underutilized areas in urban settings can, instead, be opened up to a variety of uses to allow for improved social inclusion, social mixing, civic participation, recreation, safety, and a sense of belonging, ultimately contributing to urban prosperity. Well-designed and well-managed public spaces also offer benefits to environmental sustainability, transport efficiency, and public health improvements, and can equally serve women, the disabled, and people of all ages.

The importance of good urban spaces was the topic of an international workshop—“Vitalizing Cities with Public Space”—held in Seoul on November 14-17, 2016 and co-hosted by the Korea Research Institute of Human Settlements and the World Bank’s Urbanscapes Group. Eight cities from around the world—Seoul, Singapore, Buenos Aires, Chongqing, Kakamega, Zanzibar, Astana, and Tashkent—participated to discuss challenges and opportunities for better urban planning and design.

Oil price impact is felt beyond borders

Donna Barne's picture

Oil pumps in southern Russia © Gennadiy Kolodkin/World Bank

Two recently released World Bank reports — one on commodities and the other on remittances — lend insight into an unfolding dynamic in the world today. As oil prices dropped from more than $100 per barrel in June 2014 to as low as $27 in the last few months, the money sent home from people working abroad in oil-producing countries also fell. This drop is a major reason remittances to developing countries declined in 2015 to their lowest growth rate since the 2008-2009 financial crisis.

Collaboration is key to food security in Central Asia

Polina Bogomolova's picture
Photo credit: Adam Fagen/Flickr
Eight months after the launch of the World Development Report 2016 on Digital Dividends, I am happy to report that our efforts to operationalize the findings are well under way. For digital technologies to benefit everyone everywhere, affordable access to broadband internet is key. This requires both robust broadband infrastructure, and the strengthening of analog complements to digital solutions, including a pro-competitive and effective regulatory framework, a sound business environment, good governance and digital skills.

One of our main areas of focus is the enabling environment – helping governments foster digital development by putting in place the right policies and regulations.

Now, what are some of the main issues?

First, across the world, but especially in developing countries, competitiveness continues to be dragged down by ‘red tape’, including numerous procedures, authorizations and delays to start a business or launch a service, costly and unreliable property registration, or stifling labor regulations. I am sure you are all familiar with the Doing Business report and the World Bank’s many programs to support business reforms worldwide.

While the digital industry also faces these regulatory hurdles, it is confronted with additional challenges.

Let me give you an example. With your phone in hand, you are about to send a text message to a friend. Your phone offers you a choice: to send the text message through your mobile operator, or to send it via the internet through an app. Depending on what platform you use, your text message will be taxed differently. All text messages are not created equal: different digital services are treated differently from a regulatory and fiscal point of view, with no real level playing field.

"Shaken, not stirred"

Joaquin Toro's picture

Since October 29, 2015, Central Asia experienced fifteen earthquakes of moment magnitude 5.0 or greater, which on average amounts to an earthquake every 6 days.  Among these events are two notable ones that occurred on December 7th and 25th of 2015. The first earthquake was a 7.2 magnitude event in Murghob district of Tajikistan.

This was the largest earthquake in the country since the 1949 Khait earthquake and it brought widespread damage throughout the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region, Tajikistan's largest province located in the Pamir mountains. Losses consisted of 2 fatalities caused by landslides,  multiple injuries, complete or partial destruction of over 650 houses and 15 schools and kindergartens, damages to several health centers and a small hydroelectric power station, and loss of livestock. Estimates suggest that 4,000 people have been displaced and over 124,000 were affected by the earthquake, leaving many people homeless over the harsh winter period.

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