The European Union, together with the OECD and the government of Uzbekistan, organised a webinar on 19 May 2020, as part of the EU Central Asia Invest programme to discuss the policy responses to the Covid-19 outbreak in Uzbekistan, share the experience of OECD countries in the current context, and discuss longer-term priorities for Uzbekistan from the current work on the legal environment for business.
The webinar was opened by Mr Shukhrat Vafaev, Deputy Minister of Investments and Foreign Trade of Uzbekistan, Mr François Bégeot, Head of Co-operation at the EU Delegation to Uzbekistan, and Mr William Tompson, Head of the OECD Eurasia Division. They all acknowledged the quick and extensive measures provided by Uzbekistan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic consequences, and acknowledged the need to plan recovery in line with the fast pre-crisis pace of reforms in Uzbekistan.
Deputy Minister Vafaev presented the economic support measures taken by the government to cushion the negative impacts of the pandemic on its economy, supporting in particular small businesses and households. Mr Bégeot confirmed the full support of the European Union in the difficult task of ensuring a return to strong and sustained growth, highlighting the crucial role of the private sector in driving the recovery.
During the first session dedicated to foreign direct investment policies and promotion, Mr Stephen Thomsen (OECD) welcomed the introduction of the new Investment Law and accompanying reforms. He further discussed the remaining obstacles that must be overcome to unlock Uzbekistan’s full FDI attraction potential. In a second session, Mr Arnault Prêtet (OECD) presented the experience of OECD countries in supporting private sector and entrepreneurship during the COVID-19 pandemic, and discussed possible applications to Uzbekistan, focusing on credit guarantees and support measures for SMEs. During the final session, Mr Bert Brys (OECD) discussed issues related to taxation, sharing the experiences of OECD and G7 countries, with a priority focus on means to keep households and businesses financially afloat to drive a sustainable recovery.
Deputy Minister Vafaev concluded the webinar, and renewed his expression of interest in continued cooperation, in particular regarding investment attraction to sustain the recovery. Moving forward, the OECD invited Uzbekistan to a high-level regional discussion of the COVID crisis 10 June with governments of Central Asia. The OECD is preparing a regional policy note on COVID-19 in Central Asia to inform the discussion, which will be followed by further such initiatives and events focusing on Uzbekistan, including on the legal environment for business and green connectivity and infrastructure.