major macro economic indicators
|2019||2020||2021 (e)||2022 (f)|
|GDP growth (%)||5.6||1.6||7.4||3.4|
|Inflation (yearly average, %)||14.5||12.9||10||12.1|
|Budget balance (% GDP)*||-3.9||-4.4||-6.2||-4|
|Current account balance (% GDP)||-5.6||-5.4||-7||-9.5|
|Public debt (% GDP)||29.3||37.6||36.8||39.5|
(e): Estimate (f): Forecast *Balance including off-budgeted public expenditures financed by borrowing
- More resilient economy than the rest of Central Asia (more diversified, less sensitive to external shocks)
- Abundant natural resources (gas, gold, copper, hydroelectric potential)
- Youthful population (50% under 30)
- International financial support; state enjoys net creditor position
- Economic reforms (liberalisation, privatisation, diversification), credit development (42% of GDP, 37% to private sector) and public investment (electricity, transport, health) encouraging FDI
- Increasingly dynamic bilateral relations and negotiations for preferential trade agreements with key partners (Turkey, Singapore, South Korea, etc.) and an enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the European Union (EU)
- Negotiation process to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) and observer member of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) since 2020
- Improved relations with neighbouring countries and good diplomatic relations with Europe, Russia and China, which value its strategic position
- High dependence on Russia and China (main trading partners, recipients of 80% of gas exports)
- Dependence on commodities, weather conditions for agriculture (25% of GDP) and expatriate remittances (15% of GDP)
- Limited manufacturing activity (16% of GDP)
- Weakly competitive markets (high concentration in key sectors) and, although on the rise, low share of the private sector in the economy (50% of GDP)
- High unemployment, lack of jobs leading to migration, low standard of living, large rural population and still widespread informal economy (58% of employment)
- Low financial intermediation, high dollarization, mostly directed credit, low bank deposits
- Slow institutional progress (corruption, bureaucracy, weak parliament, lack of effective opposition); inefficient energy sector constrains the business environment
Economic ties with Russia impact growth
While Uzbekistan has managed to control the COVID-19 pandemic, sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine will affect economic growth in 2022. Russia is a key trading partner for the country (12% of its exports and 22% of its imports in 2021), as well as an important source of funds through expatriate Uzbek workers (13% of GDP), and of investment in the energy and mining sectors. As a result, the recession in Russia will cause a decline in consumption (54% of GDP) and investment (42% of GDP). Inflation will be high due to soaring international food and fuel prices. The price of bread, a sacred staple in the country, rose drastically (up to +75%) in mid-June, after the government ended state-subsidized grain purchases in an effort to increase domestic flour production by encouraging private millers, as the system was not profitable for producers. The Central Bank of Uzbekistan (CBU) raised its key interest rate from 14% to 17% in mid-March in order to stem the pressure on the exchange rate and its impact on the prices of imported goods, and to gradually bring inflation back to target (5%). However, with limited transmission of monetary policy, the CBU will probably have to tighten it further by the end of the year.
Between January and April 2022, exports increased by 120% year-on-year, largely due to sales of gold (40% of total exports), natural gas, and textiles (cotton and clothing). However, Uzbekistan could be affected by slowing growth in its other major trading partners, including China, Turkey, and Kazakhstan, reducing demand for its output, as well as by a decline in commodity prices.
Fiscal situation remains comfortable
The approved budget for 2022 called for the deficit to be reduced to 3% of GDP, and it is expected to come close to the target. Increased revenues from gold sales will offset the decline due to reduced activity in other sectors. Nevertheless, the government is likely to announce support measures to protect vulnerable households from falling remittances and inflation, in order to counter potential discontent. For this reason, spending will be higher, and the deficit may widen. However, although still rising, the level of public debt (94% is external) will remain relatively low and foreign exchange reserves high. The latter cover 18 months of imports, 60% in the form of gold, and will continue to be bolstered by the price of gold. In addition, the Chinese government has provided almost USD 40 million in unconditional aid to finance social projects (health, energy and agriculture could be among the sectors targeted). Tax reforms initiated in recent years are beginning to bear fruit. For instance, a new mandatory online platform with information on the ownership of participating companies is reducing opportunities for corruption.
The current account deficit is expected to widen, as the decline in remittances is only partially offset by higher commodity export earnings. The trade balance will remain structurally in deficit due to the effect of the weight of capital goods imports. It will be financed mainly by recourse to borrowing by the public and private sectors, to reserves and to foreign direct investment. The external debt (58% in 2021) will increase.
Moving away from Russia, closer to other partners
In December 2021, President Mirziyoyev called for changes to the 1992 constitution. He wants to reform it on issues such as the development of the family institution, strengthening inter-ethnic harmony, banning child labour, protecting the rights of the disabled and the elderly, but also ecology, and making the principle "New Uzbekistan - a social state" a constitutional norm. The web portal "My Constitution" has been launched to collect public proposals on constitutional amendments.
Internationally, relations with Moscow, which had been excellent until now, seem to be weakening. Although the country wishes to remain neutral in the face of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, it remains very attached to the respect of territorial integrity in the Central Asian region, where Russian-speaking minorities exist. The expected recession in Russia will reduce its influence in Central Asia, especially in countries like Uzbekistan, where cultural influence has diminished in recent years. This leaves room for China to expand its influence. Indeed, the Uzbek government has presented a new development strategy for the period 2022-2026 in which the focus is very clearly on China, without even mentioning Russia. Moreover, discussions on the construction of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway line are back in the spotlight, with construction scheduled for 2023. Uzbekistan is also getting closer to Turkey: on 30 March 2022, a comprehensive strategic partnership treaty was signed between the two countries. Bilateral trade has tripled in the last three years. In addition, the country is expected to benefit increasingly from its participation in the Organization of the Turkic States. India is also getting closer, especially on the military level, with joint military exercises.
Last updated: July 2022