H.E. Mr. Furqat Sidiqov Ambassador of the Republic of Uzbekistan in Pakistan
EVOLVE: Please share your views about people and places in Pakistan and your experience of working in an entirely different socio-economic and cultural environment?
Furqat Sidiqov: Pakistan is a great country with great hardworking and skilled people. We know Pakistan is one of the biggest economies in South Asia with developed textile, pharmaceutical, leather, agriculture, construction, car manufacturing and other industries. Pakistan has created all favorable conditions for foreign trade and attraction of investments. I have seen and visited many free economic and industrial zones of Pakistan which are very impressive and promising.
Moreover, people of Pakistan are open and peace-loving as well as with beautiful family and Islamic values. In this context, I have to emphasize that people of Pakistan and Uzbekistan have deep historical and closer cultural ties than we can ever imagine. One of the ties between our nations started in the era of Great Mughals, Baburids dynasty, founded by Zakhiriddin Muhammad Babur who came here from Andijan city of Uzbekistan. Historical monuments, mosques, madrasahs and gardens related to Baburids dynasty are deemed as main cultural heritage of Pakistan as well as protected by UNESCO.
Because of this we have many similarities and common values. For example, in Urdu language there are around 6 thousand words came from Uzbek language. That’s why Pakistani and Uzbek people can somehow easily understand each other. If you visit Uzbekistan you can realize that our cuisine, mentality and family values are the same. Thus, these days Pakistani dramas are becoming very popular in Uzbekistan because they are so close to our souls.
By the way, centers for study Urdu and Uzbek languages are running both in Uzbekistan and Pakistan. In Tashkent operates one of the oldest Urdu Language departments which are unique in the entire region. In Tashkent we have Mirza Ghalib street. By the way, the great personality Allama Iqbal always praised in his poetry precious cities of Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. Nowadays in Pakistan you can see many people with the surnames Boukhari, Samarkandi, Tirmizi and others, ancestors of which came from Central Asia. Millions of followers of Naqshbandia order in Pakistan know that its founder Bakhauddin Naqshbandi was born in Bukhara. That’s why thousands of Pakistani citizens annually visiting Uzbekistan in order to make Ziarah of such holy places including Imam al Bukhari memorial complex, Imam At-Termizi, Seven Peers of Sufism, Owais Qarni tomb, Shahi Zinda and others.
Considering above mentioned I assure you that cultural environment between Pakistan and Uzbekistan is not different as you may think.
EVOLVE: Kindly let our readers know about the Pak-Uzbek business council as this council has helped in increasing the bilateral trade between two countries and according to one of the reports, it might increase to $300 million in a near soon?
Furqat Sidiqov: Establishment of Uzbekistan-Pakistan Business Council was realization of mutual will of business circles of our countries towards further enhancement of trade-economical, investment, tourism and cultural cooperation as well as to bring private sectors active interaction. First meeting of Business Council held in Islamabad in April 2018, as a result of which trade contracts were signed for the amount more than 8 million dollars and investment agreements for 35 million dollars. Next Business Councils meeting is planned to be held in Tashkent this year.
With the aid of Business Council, we have organized more than 30 bilateral business visits to Uzbekistan and Pakistan, sent 175 Pakistani businessmen to Uzbekistan as well as organized Pak-Uzbek business forums in the cities, Lahore, Sialkot, Faisalabad, Peshawar, Karachi, Multan, Rawalpindi, Swabi and others.
In this context, I would like to point out that the main reason of the increasing interest of Pakistani businessmen to work with Uzbekistan is economic potential of both countries. Uzbekistan is one of the biggest economies of Central Asia with diversified industry and agriculture. President of Uzbekistan H.E. Mr. Shavkat Mirziyoyev created all favorable conditions for foreign partners in order to cooperate mutually. In this regard, trade-economic interaction between our countries is developing and increasing very rapidly and dynamically. For example, in 2019 trade turnover of Uzbekistan with Pakistan reached to more than 122 million USD. For comparison: in 2018 98 million USD, and in 2017 just 36.6 million. The difference is significant and it is continuing to grow.
Pakistani importers are interested in Uzbek textile yarns, petrochemical products, 100% natural and healthy fruit-vegetables, red and white kidney beans, green mungs, peas, pure Uzbek silk products and agricultural machinery.
Uzbek importers are interested in Pakistani ready textile and leather garments, pharmacy, sugar and potatoes as well as mango and kinnows. As a result of this, in 2018-2019 years Uzbekistan became main trade partner of Pakistan in Central Asian states.
By means of Business Council as well as through direct interaction of private entrepreneurs of two brotherly states we are planning to raise trade with Pakistan up to 300 million dollars and more in near future. Because our countries potential can easily allow us to reach such high indicators. For this reason, last year we signed a unique agreement with participation of Business Council on establishment of first Trade house of Uzbekistan in Karachi. Additionally, we are working out its establishment in five other cities of Pakistan. Another trade houses of Namangan province of Uzbekistan are deemed as textile and agricultural hub of my country. Through these trade houses not only export of Uzbekistan will increase to Pakistan, but export of Pakistani goods to Central Asia will significantly raise.
EVOLVE: In your view, what areas of development can both countries explore to open new trade and business avenues for both countries?
Furqat Sidiqov: Under initiatives of Uzbekistan’s President H.E. Mr. Shavkat Mirziyoyev, wide range of socio-economic reforms towards further modernization of Uzbek economy. The strategic priorities of the dynamic development are clearly defined in the Strategy of actions on five priority areas of development of Uzbekistan in 2017-2021 years. Within this strategy Uzbekistan has begun to witness constant modernization and diversification which has improved the competitiveness of different sectors of national economy, expanded the geography of export, as well as developed economic relations with foreign partners. The Government of Uzbekistan has created favorable and attractive investment climate to operate more than 20 free economic zones for local and foreign investors. Nowadays, in Uzbekistan 7000 enterprises with foreign investments, including world famous transnational companies has their economic activities. They are General Motors, MAN, Mercedes-Benz, Isuzu, LG, Gazprom, Lukoil, Nestle, Coca-Cola, British-American Tobacco, Carlsberg and many others. Moreover, new corporations like Citroen, Hyundai and other car manufacturing companies are establishing their plants in Uzbekistan.
Among them around 111 joint venture companies with Pakistan are successfully working in Uzbekistan. With the participation of Pakistani investors, we have modern restaurants, hotels, trade companies, textile and pharmaceutical factories, and chemical industries. As priority areas with Pakistan I can mention the following directions:
- Pakistan has developed textile industry; Uzbekistan has supreme and noncomparable unique quality of cotton. So, this direction can be very attractive for your textile industry businessmen for long term joint manufacturing projects, creation of more work places, as well as development of other sectors.
- Uzbekistan has large quantity of high-quality raw leather and silk. Pakistan has well developed expertise on these. In perspective, they can open wide range opportunities for business development.
- We are producing modern agricultural machineries and integral parts for them. Thus, both countries can jointly work on the projects for mechanization and modernization of agricultural sector of Pakistan in order to raise productivity.
- Uzbekistan offers foreign companies cheap electricity and natural gas rates for industrial use, qualified employees (rate of literacy in Uzbekistan is 97%), legal safety of investments, free trade regime (zero rate taxes and duties) with CIS countries, free of charge land plots and buildings for investment projects, tax incentives up to 7 years and extendable, subsidies for raw materials, local banking loans and from other international financial institutions.
We offer Pakistan to open joint ventures or own foreign companies in Uzbekistan in order to further expand their export geography not only to Central Asia but also to all CIS countries because as I mentioned my country has free trade regimes with all of them, especially green corridor trade regimes.
EVOLVE: Uzbekistan has a really great heritage, monumental architecture and so many captivating places to visit. What facilities Uzbek Govt. is providing to the tourists and is there any strategy to be followed to entice tourists from around the globe?
Furqat Sidiqov: Uzbekistan is a country whose rich historical heritage harmoniously coexists with modern architecture and high-tech development. Everybody knows that tourist potential of Uzbekistan is huge. Over 7 thousand objects of pre-Islamic and Islamic cultural heritages, more than 300 of which are located in museum cities like Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva, Shakhrisabz, Termez and others.
All of them are included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. In addition, there are huge number of nature resorts, national parks, mountain areas and more than 50 water protection zones, which are also attractive tourist sites.
President of Uzbekistan pays great attention to tourism development. He initiated large number of reforms in tourism sector and gave the status of a strategic sector of the national economy. In order to increase effectiveness of reforms in this sector, in 2019 Concept for the Development of the Tourism Sphere in Uzbekistan in 2019-2025 as well as new Law on tourism was approved.
Uzbekistan increasingly simplified visa and registration processes for foreign tourists. In particular, visa-free regimes and an electronic-visa issuance system have been introduced. Together with Pakistan, we are also working on creation of legal base for mutual visa simplifications for our citizens. Along with traditional cultural and historical tourism, such new types of tourism as Ziyarat, ecology, gastronomic, sports, health, business and other types of tourism are successfully developing. As a result of these, Uzbekistan is becoming an increasingly popular destination for tourists. So, according to the results of 2019, number of foreign tourists arriving in the republic tripled. Last year, around 7 thousand Pakistani tourists and pilgrims visited Uzbekistan.
Tourist infrastructure facilities are also developing rapidly. In 2019, more than 150 hotels were established. Transport and logistics services have also risen to a qualitatively new level. 11 airports have received the status of international air harbors. Moreover, travelers have opportunity in comfortable conditions to reach the tourist centers of the country by regular high-speed bullet trains Afrosiab, which have significantly improved the quality of service and reduced travel time. As a bright sample of effectiveness initiated by our Presidential reforms, Bukhara city has been announced by OIC as a City of Islamic Culture and Civilization in 2020.
EVOLVE: What strategic elements Uzbek govt. is mainly focusing on for strengthening bilateral relations and people to people contact between Uzbekistan and Pakistan?
Furqat Sidiqov: As mentioned before, Uzbekistan is becoming largest trade partner of Pakistan in Central Asia. Developing this direction matches core interests of both countries. Moreover, Uzbekistan is interested in reaching Pakistani sea ports Gwadar and Karachi by means of them our goods will further expand its export geography. That’s why, together with Pakistani partners we are actively working in this direction.
At the same time, Uzbekistan recognizes key importance of Pakistan in keeping stability and prosperity in the region. We are actively continuing our bilateral partnership with Pakistan in all key issues as per our regional security and stability agenda, including the conflict resolution in Afghanistan.
Nowadays, Uzbekistan projected the construction of power transmission line Surkhan-Puli-Khumri line with capacity of 500 kWh. This project will increase supply of electricity from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan by 70% – up to 6 billion kWh per year. The Surkhan-Puli-Khumri line project in future can be increased by several times and become an integral part of the CASA-1000 project, through which electricity will be supplied to Pakistan from Central Asia. Moreover, this energy project in future can be connected with CPEC infrastructure project, to connect Pakistan with Central Asia.
In Uzbekistan, a special attention is paid to the pragmatic issues, and most importantly, to the effective foreign policy course of the country. Uzbekistan’s foreign policy was marked in the past year with unprecedented dynamism, openness, initiative and pragmatism in promoting the country’s national interests in the international arena.
At the same time, Tashkent was able to bring strategic partnership with Russia, China, United States as well as with Pakistan to a new level, to resolve all issues and open new era of good neighborhood ties with all Central Asian states. The Pak-Uzbek relations are aimed at developing mutually beneficial partnership and strengthening friendly relations, based on principles of mutual respect, equality and interest. It is necessary to point out the major challenges between Pakistan and Uzbekistan was the lack of direct link, which was resolved when flights of the Uzbekistan Airways were opened from Tashkent to Lahore in 2016. As a continuation of this, Uzbekistan proposes to establish a trilateral government commission in the format Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan in order to coordinate efforts in further developing transit-trade and economic cooperation and implementing inter-regional infrastructure projects.
EVOLVE: What opportunities are there for young entrepreneurs in Uzbekistan that can initiate corporate relations between economic sector of both countries?
Furqat Sidiqov: Government of Uzbekistan pays great attention to the development of young entrepreneurs in the country. Specially for them President of Uzbekistan initiated creation of Association of young entrepreneurs of Uzbekistan as well as special Academy of youth and Youth Union.
As you know, entrepreneurs of medium and small businesses are drivers of sustainable economic development. That’s why, in my country, development of entrepreneurship is one of the priorities of the state policy. The share of this sector in the GDP of Uzbekistan is 59.4 percent.
As a result of fundamental reforms to support entrepreneurs and improvment in the business environment, in Doing Business 2020 ranking of the World Bank, Uzbekistan took 69th place, having risen by seven positions, and was among the top 20 reforming states.
Some of them created in the republic conditions for the development of business among youth:
- The time for registering a small business is 30 minutes. To register an entity as an individual entrepreneur, it is required to prepare only one document, and as a small enterprise with a legal entity – two documents.
- Financial support for small businesses is carried out through: the issuance by banks of loans at a subsidized rate etc.
- The interests of business are additionally protected by the institution of Business Ombudsman.
- Unscheduled inspections of the activities of businesses have been canceled, entities exempted from all types of liability that have committed financial and economic offenses for the first time; in all regions of the country, entrepreneurship support centers have been established. Created business incubators that provide legal and advisory support in the preparation of business plans, obtaining the necessary information.
- In all region, training courses have been organized for young business entrepreneurs, youth entrepreneurship clusters have been created, where young start-up entrepreneurs are provided with rental sites at a zero rate for a period of 5 years.
These measures created more productive conditions for young businessmen, increased their role to enter export markets of Uzbekistan, which reflect in the expansion of the country’s export potential and the growth of welfare of the population.
EVOLVE: What message you have for the readers of Evolve Business Publication?
Furqat Sidiqov: I hope that this conversation with your esteemed magazine will help to further strengthen and develop understanding, knowledge of both brotherly countries links and partnership. As your publication is mostly related
to business auditorium, I would like to invite businessmen of Pakistan to actively participate in vastly developing business platform in Uzbekistan. Moreover, Pakistani travelers should not miss the chance at least one time in their life to visit Uzbekistan and discover ancient oriental fairytale cities and modern life of active Uzbekistan. Taking this opportunity, I would like to express my gratitude to the whole Brotherly nation of Pakistan, wish them eternal prosperity, peace and happiness. Thank you!