Uzbekistan - Future trends

With President Karimov firmly in office, Uzbekistan will likely be characterized by political stability, but the policy of import substitution and the lack of sufficient structural reform may further aggravate economic problems. Poor cotton crops and recurrent droughts may add to the crisis. If accompanied by economic crisis, the president's exaggerated security threats—particularly about Islamic groups—could contribute to the authoritarian character of the regime and lead towards further political violence.

Particularly troublesome will be the persistent inconvertibility of the sum, the lack of hard currency, and the growing external debt. The country will not be able to serve its financial obligations in the 21st century without IMF help, but the IMF requires the closure of many loss-making industrial enterprises that would be particularly difficult for the government to effect. Significant reforms were promised in 2000, and there were hints that some harmful old policies would be abandoned.

Growth in the former Soviet area, Uzbekistan's main export market, is expected to be robust, but a weakening global economy in 2001 will restrain growth because of its impact on key commodity prices, especially of cotton and gold. Due to its natural wealth and strategic location, Uzbekistan has significant growth prospects once it implements market reforms and controls environmental hazards.

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