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European Bank in Milestone Visit to Uzbekistan

New regime wants to liberalize the economy in face of opposition from hardliners.

16 March 2017

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A delegation from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) led by its president, Suma Chakrabarti (pictured), arrived in Uzbekistan yesterday for a three-day visit.

 

The delegation planned a number of high-level meetings “to discuss ways of increasing EBRD engagement with Uzbekistan,” the bank said in a statement.

 

The visit could unlock investment opportunities for the country years after the EBRD drastically scaled back its presence there, and, EurasiaNet.org writes, could also “have major repercussions for ongoing intra-elite struggles.”

 

Relations between Tashkent and the London-headquartered, multinational bank turned icy when EBRD officials lambasted the regime’s egregious human-rights record at the bank’s 2003 annual meeting, held in the Uzbek capital.

 

By 2007 the bank had stopped investing in new projects entirely, maintaining just a token presence to manage a shrinking portfolio, now worth just 8 million euros ($8.6 million).

 

Any resumption of operations in the country will probably get off to a slow start so the bank can watch how the administration of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev deals with human rights, Reuters wrote earlier this month.

 

Mirziyoyev was elected last fall to replace the late Islam Karimov, who had led the country since the late 1980s. He has signaled a relaxation of some isolationist economic policies, but the EBRD visit could exacerbate his relations with the country’s powerful security chief, Rustam Inoyatov, who opposed the bank’s visit, diplomatic sources told Reuters.

 

Inoyatov’s opposition to re-engagement with the bank was confirmed by an EBRD source, Reuters said.

 

 

 

  • Since 1993 the EBRD has invested in 54 projects in Uzbekistan worth a cumulative total of 894 million euros ($958 million).

 

  • The bank is one of the largest investors in Central Asia, with more than $12 billion in commitments to regional projects, The Diplomat reports. Kazakhstan, the region’s largest economy, has received more than half the total and the bank’s current portfolio there is worth $2.8 billion.

Compiled by Ky Krauthamer

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