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Uzbekistan looks to promote entrepreneurship
The country plans to hold trade fairs to help develop domestic manufacturing within local markets.
By Shakar Saadi
TASHKENT – Uzbekistan plans to hold trade exhibitions nationwide, especially in the countryside, beginning in March as part of an effort to support local entrepreneurs and domestic manufacturers.
The Cabinet of Ministers December 30 passed a resolution allowing such fairs. The resolution was put forth by the Ministry for Foreign Economic Relations, Investments and Trade, the Ministry of Economy and the republic's Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The monthly events plan to feature Uzbek consumer goods, with the first fair planned for Tashkent.
"It's quite a good idea and it is well backed up by organisational measures," independent economist Yelena Gadzhiyeva told Central Asia Online. Against a background of slowing economic growth, the idea of holding trade fairs is "topical" and "urgent," she said.
Oyimkhon Pulatova, a mother of six from Zaamin District, Dzhizzak Oblast, welcomes the trade fairs. She tries to shop in Tashkent for clothes and other goods, she told Central Asia Online, but it takes money and time.
"Our district doesn't have much choice, and we pay more than they do [in Tashkent]," she said. "We really need these fairs."
Organisation under way
In January, the government set up an organisational committee to get the ball rolling, cabinet spokesman Odilkhon D. told Central Asia Online. The committee is concerned not only with holding the trade fairs but also with promoting them to draw local entrepreneurs.
A discussion about which premises and pavilions to use and other matters is on-going, he said, but the exhibitions will be staged in adequately equipped trade pavilions convenient to the public.
Government funds will support the events, although officials most likely will charge participants still-undetermined fees, according to a statement from the Cabinet of Ministers. All expenses incurred by the entrepreneurs, though, may be offset against taxes.
"This will primarily be an opportunity to obtain an excellent trading site reaching a wide range of consumers at a nominal price," Nortoy Yuldashev, a trader of dairy products, told Central Asia Online. He considers the exhibitions a good support mechanism for small- and medium-sized businesses.
The organisational committee will help to establish business relations among factories, middlemen and end consumers, Odilkhon said.
"To improve the efficiency of this work, the country is already creating a single updatable database for consumer items manufactured by Uzbek enterprises, giving our own producers and middlemen access to it," he said.
The effort includes researching the domestic consumer product sector, identifying promising directions for further economic production and mastering the manufacturing of in-demand goods, she said. This research, she said, should become the foundation of new economic programmes for increasing manufacturing of new items.
Officials will pay particular attention to production of electronic appliances, garments, knitwear, haberdashery, leather footwear and furniture, she added.
Uzbekistan needs to develop domestic markets
One challenge Uzbekistan has faced in recent years is that its markets are "saturated with imported goods," Gadzhiyeva said.
Mass-produced goods from abroad typically sell better than domestic products because of a price differential. Uzbekistan is working to boost the sale of domestic products by imposing higher customs duties on imports, making them more expensive, she said.
In conjunction with such efforts, "it is important to actively develop our own market for manufacturers," she said, calling the idea of trade fairs "a promising development."
Uzbek businesses will be able to use trade fairs as a way to showcase new products, she added. As Uzbek consumers become familiar with the models and names of various consumer goods, they will be able to make better choices about what to buy, Mukarram Azimova, chairwoman of the Faiz furniture-manufacturing company, told Central Asia Online.
"Our consumers will now have a choice, and they will most likely favour the local producer," Azimova said. "After all, our goods are cheaper, which is not unimportant."