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The American-Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce (AUCC) seeks to promote trade and investment ties, cultural exchanges and bonds of friendship between the United States of America and the Republic of Uzbekistan. In performing these functions, the AUCC places primary emphasis on serving the needs and interests of its members.
Interview with AUCC Chairperson Carolyn Lamm Before 2012 Uzbekistan-US Annual Business Forum
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INVITATION: Conversation with Albert Jaeger, IMF Country Director for Uzbekistan, on Improving Uzbekistan's Investment Climate: What Do Investors Want?
Friday, March 22, 2019
12.30pm - 2.00pm
White & Case LLP
701 13th Street NW
Washington, DC 20005
(lunch featuring Uzbek cuisine)
12.30pm - Welcome by Elena V. Son, Executive Director, AUCC
12.35pm - Opening Remarks by Uzbek Ambassador H.E. Javlon Vakhabov
1.00pm - IMF views on Uzbekistan by Albert Jaeger, IMF Country Director for Uzbekistan
1.30pm - Questions and Answers
Please join our discussion with Albert Jaeger of the International Monetary Fund on Uzbekistan's progress with the Article IV. The IMF delegation has recently visited Uzbekistan where they held talks with the government of Uzbekistan on macroeconomic reforms, restructuring of the State-owned enterprises and improvements required to attract foreign investment. What specific reforms are required? What are priority sectors for such reforms? Why should Uzbekistan follow the IMF recommendations? These and other questions will be reviewed during our meeting. We look forward to hosting you.
Click here to read the statement.
Uzbekistan has successfully implemented a first wave of significant economic reforms. Initiated by President Mirziyoyev in 2016, the reforms aim to revive an economy that was hobbled by distorting policies, including foreign exchange and trade restrictions, a punishing tax burden, and directed credit. Flagship reforms implemented so far include foreign exchange liberalization, tax reform, and a major upgrade in the quality and availability of economic statistics. Uzbekistan has also taken the lead on regional cooperation, key for promoting regional trade and reconnecting the region's energy and transportation networks.
Excessive credit growth has emerged as a major risk to macroeconomic stability. Rapid credit growth in 2018 financed a surge in imports of capital goods and bolstered investments in housing and infrastructure following decades of underinvestment. Looking ahead, the main macroeconomic stability risk is that a prolonged credit boom will aggravate inflationary pressures and feed into excessive external deficits. To wit, available potential funding of credit is plentiful: the country has large accumulated financial buffers that could be drawn down; and external lenders seem eager to provide debt financing at favorable terms, as highlighted by last month's oversubscription of the country's first sovereign debt issue. While this is a new macroeconomic stability challenge for Uzbekistan, the authorities are acutely aware of the need to adjust policies to forestall a boom-bust credit cycle.
Setting priorities for a vast structural reform agenda is another major challenge. Reforms so far have rightly focused on high-impact, broadly popular, and administratively workable priorities, with foreign exchange liberalization being the exemplar of this pragmatic approach. But the reform agenda is expanding rapidly. The authorities recognize the need to prioritize reforms that address the economy's most damaging distortions first.
The mission projects GDP growth will pick up, reflecting strong investment . While investment boomed in 2018, agricultural production was disappointing due to severe weather and water shortages. In 2019, despite lower commodity prices and slowing external demand, GDP growth is projected to pick up from 5 percent to 5½ percent (see attached table). Investment will remain the main driver, followed by private consumption, which will benefit from robust wage growth. Growth of formal sector jobs is projected to expand in 2019, spurred by lower labor taxes and formalization of jobs. The main short-term risk to growth remains a significantly worse external environment.
Inflation has moderated recently, but pressures will remain elevated .After peaking at 20½ percent in January, CPI inflation slowed during 2018. Inflation is expected to hover around 15 percent through 2019, mainly reflecting the delayed effects of energy price hikes for businesses in November 2018, robust wage growth, and projected increases in VAT collections as the number of firms paying VAT has expanded significantly.
External deficits are likely to persist, but risks remain low. Imports, especially capital and intermediate goods, surged in 2018 reflecting foreign exchange and trade liberalization and rapid credit growth. With strong domestic demand, external deficits will likely remain high in 2019. External stability risks are mitigated by large foreign exchange reserves and moderate external debt. The main risk is that a continued boom in credit growth could propel external deficits-and inflation rates-significantly above projections.
Monetary and Exchange Rate Policies
Given persistent inflationary pressures, the monetary stance needs to remain tight. The Central Bank of Uzbekistan (CBU) aims to gradually bring CPI inflation back to single digits. After increasing the refinancing rate last year, the CBU needs to keep liquidity in line with the tighter monetary stance, even if such operations are costly. The exchange rate has moved broadly in line with underlying fundamentals, including depreciations in key trading partners. However, CBU foreign exchange interventions to sterilize liquidity generated by purchases of domestic gold could become more regular and predictable. To facilitate the move to inflation targeting over the medium term, the proposed new central bank law should provide the CBU with sufficient independence to conduct policies effectively.
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