On 21 January, the OECD organised the second EU-supported capacity-building webinar for the Government of Uzbekistan as part of the project Improving the Legal Environment for Business in Central Asia.
The event was an opportunity to develop capabilities on policy challenges for improving the regulatory environment for SMEs in Uzbekistan and to look at how experiences from OECD and non-member OECD countries could support Uzbekistan’s policy-makers. The webinar brought together senior policy-makers from Uzbekistan, experts from Poland and the OECD, a number of stakeholders from the international development and diplomatic community. The project forms part of the Policy Component of the EU Central Asia Invest initiative.
Opening the session, Mr Shukhrat Vafaev, Deputy Minister of Trade and Investment, underlined the fact that SMEs were the firms most severely affected by the COVID-19 crisis in Uzbekistan. He noted that the government had undertaken a series of reforms in recent years that had improved the operational environment for SMEs, but that more work would be necessary for these firms to contribute fully to the country’s recovery. Mr François Bégeot, Head of the Co-operation at the EU Delegation to Uzbekistan, underscored the importance of helping the country’s SMEs play a more significant role in the country’s economic development, and noted the need to hasten efforts to improve firm digitalisation.
Ms Amélie Schurich-Rey, Economist and Policy Analyst of the OECD Eurasia Division, discussed the regulatory reforms made by Uzbekistan and the challenges ahead with respect to SME regulations. Building on Ms Schurich-Rey’s comments on the Uzbek draft SME law, the webinar heard from Ms Svenja Petersen of the EBRD on the Bank’s ongoing work assisting the government with their SME law concept. Complementing these interventions was a presentation on progress with the concept and related legislation from Mr Obod Ortikov, Chief Specialist at the Agency for Development of SMEs and Entrepreneurship.
Leading the first of two capacity-building sessions and expanding upon the issue of managing regulatory change highlighted by previous speakers, Mr Daniel Trnka, Senior Policy Analyst in the OECD Directorate for Public Governance, gave a rich overview of OECD best practice in Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA). Mr Trnka spoke of the need to rationalise regulatory change and to develop effective systems to monitor the real impact on firms and whether such changes effect the desired policy goals. He answered numerous questions from the audience.
Ms Martyna Wieczorek, Senior Expert at the Ministry of Economic Development, Labour and Technology of Poland, led the second capacity-building sessions. This session was dedicated to Poland’s experience in simplifying its regulatory framework for SMEs as well as ensuring a coherent and consistent definition of such firms in legislation. Following her intervention, Ms Lamiya Khudoyarova, Head Inspector on International Affairs for the Business Ombudsman, noted the need to tie in efforts to support the country’s SMEs with the anticorruption agenda.
The session was concluded by Mr Alexey Sim, Department Head at the Ministry of Investment and Foreign Trade, who expressed his enthusiasm for the ideas discussed at the webinar, noted the importance of SMEs to the broader agendas of investment attraction and trade. Together with Mr Bégeot, he highlighted the crucial support needed from the EU and international partners to bring international experience and knowledge sharing in these endeavours.