Azerbaijan, Baku, August 30 /Trend, V.Zhavoronkova/
Trend interviews Uzbek Ambassador to Azerbaijan Ismatulla Irgashev in the run-up to Uzbekistan's Independence Day.
Trend: Uzbekistan will soon celebrate the nineteenth anniversary of its independence. The international community is now facing a pressing challenge - eliminating the effects of the global economic crisis. What can you say about Uzbekistan's achievements in this regard?
Irgashev: You correctly emphasized that now the international community considers it extremely important to promptly eliminate the consequences of the global economic crisis.
I think that it would not be an exaggeration to say that the stable, uninterrupted development of the global economy is a major precondition for ensuring global security and prosperity.
On the backdrop of the crisis, Uzbekistan has continued to demonstrate successes in ensuring macroeconomic stability and sustainable economic growth. In turn, this proved yet again that Uzbekistan's economic policy is wise. The policy is based on five fundamental principles of economic reform and is known by the international community as the "Uzbek model."
In this context, I would like to note that foreign experts and analysts in the international conference on post-crisis development and anti-crisis programs in Tashkent on April 12 showed significant interest in the "Uzbek model" of economic reforms.
We should note that the most important social and economic development priorities for this year, which were identified by Uzbek President Islam Karimov at a government meeting on Jan. 29, included a program of anti-crisis measures to prevent and neutralize the consequences of the crisis. Complex programs were adopted to ensure the stable, balanced development of the economy and society and sustainable high economic growth during the first half of this year.
Thus, the GDP grew by eight percent in the first half of this year in Uzbekistan. Industrial production grew eight percent, consumer goods production - 11.8 percent, agriculture - 6.9 percent, construction - 11.5 percent, retail trade - 10.3 percent, and services - 10.9 percent.
The state budget was fulfilled with a 0.2-percent surplus of the GDP. Thanks to the support of exporters and active searches for new markets, export growth reached 14.3 percent, with foreign trade turnover increasing. During the reporting period, domestic producers exported goods and services to 139 countries, including 26 new countries.
The population's deposits in banks also increased by 41.8 percent compared to early in the year. This significantly enhanced the resource base of banks, and increased credit investments by 30.3 percent. During the reporting period, investment loans increased by 2.3 times. Roughly 6,800 homes were also being built in rural areas, and will go on the market in the third quarter of this year. Roughly 213.9 kilometers of external engineering networks and new rural residential roads were also built. Approximately 116 new building material production companies opened, as well as 25 brick plants. As part of the program to construct and reconstruct international and national roads, including sections of the Uzbek national highway, 190.6 billion sum were spent, or 1.8 times more than during the first half of 2009. During the first half of the year, 22-percent growth was also recorded in the the amount of freight and passenger traffic transported through the Navoi international airport. The Angren Logistics Center was also opened. Oour active investment policy ensured investments worth 7.1 trillion sum, including foreign direct investments 1.3 times larger than during first half of last year. Additionally, 108 projects were completed to modernize production and 529 production facilities were put into operation.
Q.: How do you assess current relations between Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan?
A: We have seen many events in the contemporary history of Uzbek-Azerbaijani relations that allow us to directly and firmly consider each other to be true strategic partners. The establishment of a close, trustful dialogue between our leaders was a key factor in bringing our to such a high level. In this context, I would like to say that we are now working actively to prepare for Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's official visit to Uzbekistan in autumn. I am deeply convinced that the visit will provide a further impetus to the development of these ties.
Q.: What do you see as the priorities of Azerbaijani-Uzbek cooperation?
A.: I am not a supporter of classifying spheres of cooperation because each category is an integral part of the whole. In this regard, like our Azerbaijani partners, we are making efforts to promote bilateral ties in the political, trade, economic, military and technical, cultural and humanitarian spheres. This is made clear by the active visits made by our delegations in these directions.
It is gratifying to see such wonderful examples of bilateral cooperation as the delivery of Uzbek products to Azerbaijan, including airplanes and cars. Moreover, Azerbaijani planes are repaired by Uzbek enterprises. I think that there are sound prospects in terms of Uzbekistan repairing Azerbaijan's fleet of Western airplanes.
However, I would also like to note that the current level of cooperation in the trade and economic spheres does not reflect our true potential. Of course, the crisis has affected the pace of interaction between our two countries in this regard.
Moreover, we should note that there is another reason for this - a lack of common borders. We are forced to implement economic and trade cooperation through third countries. Of course, there are certain agreements that provide preferential tariffs on transportation. However, they remain only on paper. In this regard, I am sure that if our relevant ministries and agencies engaged in railway and maritime transport agree on this issue, then we could achieve a noticeable increase in trade turnover.
Regarding cooperation in transport and communications, I should also mention the construction of the Baku-Akhalkalaki-Kars Railway. I am convinced that the project will receive a positive response from both an economic and a cultural and historical standpoint. On the one hand, access to Europe and Mediterranean ports will be ensured. On the other hand, great assistance will be provided to the international community's efforts to revive the Great Silk Road.
I also would like to note that Uzbekistan is working hard to ensure that the Navoi free industrial zone functions fully. We are building the zone's infrastructure at an accelerated pace, and have already constructed bypass roads, drainage and gas systems, an external power supply, a concrete road leading from the E-40 Highway to Navoi, a railway entrance, and a customs post. I hope that this project will also attract the attention of the Azerbaijani side.
It seems to us that our countries are self-sufficient economically and we should make investments in each others' economies. We invite representatives of Azerbaijani business circles to visit Uzbekistan to establish direct partnerships to achieve these goals.
Chinese President Hu Jintao's paid a visit to Uzbekistan on June 9-10. During his visit, the sides signed several important documents, including a memorandum to expand gas cooperation. As you know, Azerbaijan has also shown interest in developing its energy supplies eastwards. I think this could also new horizons for Uzbek-Azerbaijani cooperation in the trade and economic spheres.
Q.: The peaceful settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is a major challenges facing Azerbaijan. How do you assess the prospects of resolving the conflict in the near future?
A.: I have said earlier and will repeat that Azerbaijan is a self-sufficient country that does not depend on external assistance. Even if it needs assistance from the outside, it is only in addressing the vital issue of restoring its territorial integrity. In this context, Uzbekistan's position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains unchanged. Uzbekistan has always advocated a peaceful, political resolution to the conflict. We regard Azerbaijan's territorial integrity as a central conditions for its resolution.
We hope that Azerbaijan will achieve a peaceful solution with the assistance of the international community and key regional stakeholders in the region with the participation of the OSCE Minsk Group.
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