Uzbekistan - Infrastructure, power, and communications

Uzbekistan's infrastructure is extensive, but badly needs modernization. In 1993 there were 3,380 kilometers (2,113 miles) of railroads, 300 kilometers (187.5 miles) of which were electrified, and 81,600 kilometers (51,000 miles) of highways, 71,237 kilometers (44,523 miles) of which were paved, including gravel. The construction of a 2,300 kilometer (1,437.5 miles) long high-speed highway is expected to start in 2002. An international tender will be announced for implementing the project, and credits from international organizations and local budget resources are to be mobilized. The system of inland waterways included 1,100 kilometers (687.5 miles) in 1990: crude oil pipelines 250 kilometers (156 miles), petroleum products pipelines 40 kilometers (25 miles), and natural gas pipelines 810 kilometers (506 miles) in 1992. There was 1 port at Termiz on the Amu Darya River and 3 airports with paved runways in 1997.

The policy of import substitution has made Uzbekistan self-sufficient in energy. Since independence, oil production increased by 189 percent to 8.1 million tons in 1998, thereby eliminating oil imports. This self-sufficiency was not achieved with foreign investment, but through the compulsory allocation of national credit and large amounts of government-guaranteed foreign debt. Natural gas production rose from 41.9 billion cubic meters in 1991 to 54.8 billion cubic meters in 1998, but most natural gas is exported to former Soviet markets that pay late, if at all. Relations with neighboring Kyrgyzstan deteriorated in 2000 when the Uzbekistan government demanded that Kyrgyzstan hand over part of its land as payment for natural gas.

The Uzbeki energy sector has lost efficiency since 1991 because of government-controlled energy prices favoring individuals over industries. According to the IMF, industrial gas users payed 812.5 percent more than private families in 1997, though this disparity fell to 203 percent in 1998. Smuggling oil out of Uzbekistan is a widespread occurrence since the domestic price is very low when converted at the free market exchange rate. Despite self-sufficiency in fuel production, fuel is in short supply, encouraging drivers to buy smuggled imported gasoline from private traders at a premium of more than 45 percent above the official price. Electricity production generally meets the needs of the country, standing at 43.47

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Uzbekistan 3 465 275 N/A 1 N/A N/A 0.05 8
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Russia 105 418 420 78.5 5 0.4 40.6 13.06 2,700
Turkmenistan N/A 276 201 N/A 1 N/A N/A 0.56 2
a Data are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
b Data are from the Internet Software Consortium ( ) and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

billion kilowatt hours in 1998. Approximately 85.2 percent of Uzbekistan's electricity is generated in thermal plants, and 14.2 percent is generated at hydropower stations in the mountains. In 2000, the government launched a US$113 million import substitution program for power-sector machinery. It also planned to increase local coal production at the Angren mine from 3 million tons in 1999 to 5 million tons by 2007. Elimination of energy imports has come at the heavy price of high foreign debt, which Uzbekistan is finding difficult to service.

The Uzbekistan telephone system is outdated, with only 1.976 million main lines in 1999, and 26,000 cellular phones in 1998. In the late 1990s, the telephone system was expanded and improved under contracts with foreign companies, particularly in and around Tashkent and Samarkand. By 1998, 6 cellular networks were in operation, 4 of them of the European GSM type (Groupe Spéciale Mobile; or Global System for Mobile Communications). Uzbekistan communications are linked with other post-Soviet republics and other countries by a leased connection via the Moscow international switch. With the opening of a link to the Trans-Asia-Europe (TAE) fiber-optic cable, the country will become independent of Russia for its international communications. There was only 1 Internet service provider in 1999 and computer usage was low. In 2000 a shortage of hard currency made the state-owned telecommunications company Uzbektelekom repay its US$1.2 million debt to Kazakhstan's Kazakhtelekom in supplies of Uzbek telephone boxes and natural gas. Kazakhtelekom cut off calls coming from Uzbekistan in August 2000, claiming that the debt was in fact US$4.4 million.

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