Following the recent C5+1 presidential summit in New York, USAID Administrator Samantha Power embarked on a visit to Uzbekistan from October 23-24. One of the key purposes of her visit was to convene the inaugural C5+1 Regional Connectivity Ministerial in Samarkand. The event brought together regional ministers from Central Asia to discuss and collaborate on concrete actions aimed at promoting inclusive and sustainable economic development in the region.
During her visit, Power also had a high-level meeting with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. In that meeting, she highlighted USAID’s commitment to supporting the government of Uzbekistan’s reform agenda. As a demonstration of this commitment, USAID announced that it will be providing additional funds amounting to over $14 million. By building on existing programs and launching new targeted initiatives, the United States plans to step up cooperation with Uzbekistan in the areas of global health, governance, and economic growth in order to contribute to its government reforms and inclusive and equitable socioeconomic development.
Tuberculosis (TB) poses a significant challenge to Uzbekistan’s public health system, threatening both its overall health and economic progress. As per the 2019 Global Tuberculosis (TB) Report by the World Health Organization, Uzbekistan is listed among the top 20 nations with a high incidence of multidrug resistant tuberculosis. Alarmingly, it is one of seven countries with over 100 cases of extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB) and has the second-highest XDR-TB mortality rate globally, standing at 26 percent. Furthermore, the country faces low success rates in treating multidrug resistant (57 percent) and extensively drug-resistant (49 percent) tuberculosis.
Recognizing the gravity of the situation, USAID has devised a comprehensive response. USAID plans to launch “TB Free Uzbekistan,” a five-year program with an additional investment of $3.2 million. This initiative is designed to prevent and identify TB transmission promptly, initiate swift and effective treatment, reduce the social stigma associated with TB, and bolster ongoing health reform initiatives throughout Uzbekistan.
It is noteworthy that USAID has a longstanding commitment to Uzbekistan’s fight against TB. Since 2002, the agency has dedicated substantial resources, cumulatively amounting to nearly $60 million, to support Uzbekistan’s efforts in combating TB transmission and containing its spread. The “TB Free Uzbekistan” program represents a continuation and intensification of these efforts, reflecting USAID’s determination to curb the TB epidemic and improve the health landscape in Uzbekistan. Through this concerted program, the agency aims to not only address the immediate challenges posed by TB but also to contribute significantly to the long-term health and well-being of the Uzbekistani population.
Combatting Infectious Diseases
In the era of globalization, emerging infectious diseases have become a grave concern at an unprecedented pace. Approximately 40 new infectious diseases have surfaced in the past decade, with COVID-19 standing as one of the most recent examples. This alarming increase in emerging diseases can be attributed, in part, to heightened global connectivity, enabling the rapid dissemination of infectious agents. Uzbekistan, in particular, faces unique challenges due to a significant portion of its population working abroad, frequent travel, and densely populated living conditions. These factors create an environment ripe for the swift spread of infectious diseases, posing intricate challenges for both global and local public health efforts.
To tackle these challenges and bolster Uzbekistan’s preparedness for future outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics, USAID intends to allocate $4 million for strategic investments, drawing from the valuable lessons learned during the COVID-19 response. This investment aims to bolster Uzbekistan’s laboratory and surveillance systems, enhance emergency preparedness, refine risk communication strategies, and promote community engagement. Through these initiatives, the goal is to build a more resilient public health system, capable of effectively combating and managing future outbreaks.
Strengthening Businesses and the Private Sector
After experiencing a long period of stagnation and isolation from global markets, Uzbekistan embarked on a crucial reform agenda in 2017 with the goal of building a thriving and inclusive market economy. As part of these reforms, the country implemented several significant changes, including liberalizing exchange rates, reducing import tariffs, allowing for price flexibility in specific goods and services, and establishing the Anti-Monopoly Committee. These initial pro-market initiatives were a major step forward in nurturing the private sector and creating more job opportunities. However, in order to further strengthen businesses and the private sector and ensure continued growth in the Uzbek economy, additional measures are needed.
To support and encourage these efforts, USAID announced plans to invest $3.5 million in targeted sectors such as tourism, information and communications technology, and the green economy. This initiative aims to generate employment opportunities, promote economic inclusivity, develop new export markets for small and medium-sized enterprises, and attract foreign investments. USAID also wants to work toward eliminating policy and economic obstacles that hinder the ability of marginalized groups such as women, youth, and people with disabilities to establish and operate businesses. Additionally, USAID intends to assist Uzbekistani businesses in incorporating U.S. technology to enhance e-commerce and trade. These all holds potential for promoting economic growth and creating a more inclusive economy.
Enhancing Local Governance
In late July this year, Tashkent released its “Uzbekistan – 2030” strategy and draft measures for its implementation in order to encourage citizens to actively engage in the discussion of these projects and submit proposals through the regulation.gov.uz and 2030.strategy.uz platforms. The strategy outlines the country’s vision for the next seven years and includes a hundred main goals across five priority areas. One of these areas focuses on enhancing governance and public administration through various reforms.
To support this strategy, USAID has committed to allocating $3.5 million to a local governance program. The objective of this program is to strengthen regional and local governments, enabling them to become more responsive, participatory, and accountable in delivering public services. This initiative aims to foster collaboration between national and local governments, civil society, and the private sector, with the ultimate aim of increasing transparency in local government budgets and expenditures.
Furthermore, this program will involve training public officials to assume their new responsibilities effectively. Equally important is empowering citizens and communities by equipping them with the necessary tools, skills, and resources to monitor local government activities. USAID is also committed to supporting the government in developing data-driven national policies and legislation focused on decentralization and local governance. This multi-faceted approach underscores the collective commitment towards fostering a more transparent, responsive, and accountable governance framework in Uzbekistan.
In conclusion, the recent initiatives announced by USAID during Administrator Samantha Power’s visit to Uzbekistan mark a significant step toward fostering sustainable development, public health, economic growth, and good governance in the country. The commitment of over $14 million for governance, health and economic initiatives – plus a separate $4.5 million for a new educational initiative – demonstrates an increased partnership between the United States and Uzbekistan in addressing critical challenges and promoting positive change.
Looking to the future, these initiatives have potential for sustainable growth, improved healthcare, and effective governance in Uzbekistan. However, sustained collaboration and investment in these critical sectors are essential to achieving long-term development goals and ensuring the well-being of the Uzbekistani population.