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The U.S. Foreign Aid Freeze
On August 3, 2019, the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) ordered two federal agencies to temporarily freeze billions of foreign aid funding. This decision ordered the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide accounts for all unobligated resources of foreign aid. Rachel Semmel, a spokeswoman for the Budget Office, said the order aims to ensure accountability. According to the Associated Press (AP), the letter lists 10 areas that the U.S. foreign aid freeze targets, including development assistance, global health programs and United Nations peacekeeping. In total, the freeze puts $2 billion to $4 billion of congressionally-approved funding on hold.

Subsequent Response

The U.S. foreign aid freeze has met with bipartisan criticism. Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Eliot Engel said that the Trump administration has amounted to contempt and emphasized that congressionally-approved foreign aid is law and backed by the Constitution. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s criticism was harsher, labeling the freeze insane. In a letter to the OMB, lawmakers from both parties agreed that cutting foreign aid and development spending would not be in the interest of national security.

Critics of the OMB’s decision point to the fact that foreign aid spending makes up less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the federal budget. Before the freeze, the U.S. spent $30 billion annually on programs to reduce global poverty. Liz Schrayer, the chief executive of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, claims the OMB is cutting one of the smallest portions of the federal budget, but one that could have catastrophic impacts on U.S. economic and national security interests.

Impacted Countries

The U.S. foreign aid freeze will directly affect Malawi, one of the world’s least developed countries. The nation consistently ranks very low in various health indicators, such as life expectancy, infant mortality rate and maternal mortality rate. In addition, an estimated one million people or 9.2 percent of adults in Malawi live with HIV/AIDS with an estimated 13,000 deaths annually. In Malawi, USAID works to improve the quality of life by supporting development, education and health programs, especially those that prevent and treat malaria, tuberculosis and HIV. Due to the Trump administration’s order, Malawi may not have aid for the remainder of this financial year. According to documents that Foreign Policy obtained, the freeze could also affect foreign aid to countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Funding for UNICEF projects to protect children account for a large portion of the U.S. foreign aid freeze. One of these programs involves early childhood education and development in Uzbekistan. According to UNICEF, only 30 percent of Uzbek children attend preschool while 70 percent are unable to achieve their full potential due to a lack of early education. UNICEF is rolling its program out across six regions in Uzbekistan and it has designed it to increase access to quality education for children. Regional instructors have trained 2,159 preschool teachers in child-centered learning and model schools, which have increased enrollment by 2,841 children. The U.S. foreign aid freeze will have a direct impact on similar programs across the globe.

Bipartisan Solution

On August 15, 2019, the OMB sent an official rescission request to the State Department to cut foreign aid funding by more than $4 billion, yet canceled the request a few days later. Since taking office in 2017, the Trump administration has made numerous attempts to cut foreign aid funding, and in some cases by as much as 30 percent. Members of both parties in Congress firmly rejected all attempts. Daniel Runde, former director of the Global Development Alliance (GDA) in the Bush administration, says development, diplomacy and defense experts are in full agreement that the Trump administration should work collaboratively with Congress to create a more robust and sustainable approach to foreign aid and development.

– Adam Bentz
Photo: Flickr

developmental aid around the Aral Sea
The Aral Sea was once a large saltwater lake located in Central Asia. With Kazakhstan in the north and Uzbekistan in the south, both countries bordered the body of water. Fishing communities in the countries prospered for years, yet a decisive change in the 1960s led to the demise of these towns. The two countries experienced drastically different outcomes, all due to developmental aid around the Aral Sea.

Causes of the Aral Sea’s Water Loss

In the 1960s, the Soviet Union decided to redirect the water in the Aral Sea for agriculture, predominately for cotton. Previously, the sea was replenished by the water that rivers returned, making it a reliable source of income for neighboring fisheries. Over the past four decades, the sea has retreated about 93 miles, losing a surface area the size of Maryland. With salinity levels continuing to rise to more than seven times the normal amount, a once plentiful resource has run dry.

As the sea dried up, so did jobs. A reported 60,000 jobs disappeared in direct relation to Aral fishery shutdowns. Dust storms that swelled within the barren seabed contained various chemicals from the agriculture in the surrounding areas and caused irrevocable harm to citizens. Diseases related to poor air quality were rampant. Even the food produced in the area contained hazards for consumers, which forced thousands from their homes. Those that chose not to leave, despite the water and air pollution, were left living in poverty.

Intervention in Kazakhstan Improves the Lives and Livelihoods of Residents

In 2005, the World Bank intervened with a plan for developmental aid around the Aral Sea and partnered with the Kazakh government to install a dam. The plan cost $86 million and was designed to improve irrigation along the rivers and restore the sea. The dam primarily prevented water in the northern regions from flowing south. Additional measures to improve irrigation along the Syr Darya River made sure enough water flowed back into the North Aral Sea. Previously, as much as 40 percent of water was lost due to poor irrigation.

In 2006, the Kok-Aral Dam was constructed and saw quick success. As the surface area of the sea expanded, fish stocks were reintroduced. The replenishment of local resources meant that the economy, once built on fishing, could flourish and grow to its previous grandeur. The water and air quality also improved, meaning that residents no longer needed to move away from the area.

In 2006, the ports handled around 2,000 tons of fish and houses in the area were no longer empty; about 17 homes were occupied as opposed to eight. As the local fish diet improved, so did the ability to grow vegetables. The changes to the ecosystem led to more rainfall and fewer sandstorms. Life was reintroduced to the region.

Uzbekistan’s Focus on Cotton Deprives the Fishing Industry

A very different story played out in neighboring Uzbekistan, where government leaders are still insistent that cotton production is their “white gold”. The country ranks 12th in highest value of cotton exported in 2017. The enterprise brings in around $850.4 million and accounts for 1.6 percent of total exported cotton.

However, similar health risks and impoverishment are seen in areas previously home to fisheries. Many people migrated to agricultural regions to make a living farming and picking cotton. Conditions around cotton production in Uzbekistan remain questionable, with allegations of forced labor becoming rampant.

The Effects of Developmental Aid Around the Aral Sea on Poverty

Although both countries experienced high levels of poverty at the height of the Aral Sea’s reduction, the current state of poverty in the two countries is quite different. In 2005, 31.6 percent of the country lived in poverty in Kazakhstan, while in 2016, only 2.6 percent of the population lived in poverty. This reduction is directly related to developmental aid around the Aral Sea.

In Uzbekistan, the decline is much slower. From 2012 to 2016, poverty decreased from 15 percent to 12.3 percent. This progress is promising, yet slow compared to its neighbors. When the World Bank asked the Uzbek government if it wished to participate in developmental aid around the Aral Sea, like that in Kazakhstan, it declined.

The Future of Development in Central Asia

In partnership with World Bank, the Kazakh government provides an example of successful developmental aid around the Aral Sea. Currently, the World Bank is working with the Uzbek government to implement projects around horticulture. As new enterprises are explored, such as oil drilling in the south Aral Sea by Uzbekistan, avenues to combat poverty will vary. For Kazakhstan, working to reinvigorate a previously plentiful resource was the key to poverty alleviation.

This triumph in poverty reduction provides a hopeful message to those wanting to see a drastic drop in poverty through developmental aid.

– Taylor Jennings
Photo: Google

Uzbekistan Poverty Rate
Since gaining independence in 1991 after the fall of the USSR, Uzbekistan’s prosperity has grown by leaps and bounds. Located in Central Asia, just south of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan has become the fifth-largest cotton exporter in the world and is quickly growing its gold and natural gas industries. Its forecasted GDP growth for 2017 is seven percent, which is well above the 3.2 percent average of other Central Asian countries. In fact, Uzbekistan’s GDP has more than tripled since 2007. Despite these exciting changes, there is still much room for improvement, particularly concerning the poverty rate in Uzbekistan.

Lack of employment is a major issue for Uzbekistan, with 12.8 percent of its population living below the poverty line. Since becoming a sovereign nation, a time when Uzbekistan’s economy was in flux, the country has become dependent on its exportation of its gold and cotton products; however, these commodities are tightly controlled by the regime, with much of the profits lining the pockets of the wealthy leaders, leaving many average citizens high and dry. Job stagnation also hurts the poverty rate in Uzbekistan as the number of Uzbek citizens of eligible employment age has increased and industries with little room for growth dominate the country.

Because there is little money to be made in Uzbekistan, many people migrate or work abroad, usually in Russia or Kazakhstan. The citizens often face harsh repercussions including harassment from Uzbek security services and government interference with remittances. These poor economic conditions, along with restrictions on human rights and religious freedoms nearly thrust Uzbekistan into a civil war during the Andijan massacre in 2005, when hundreds of protesters were shot dead for demanding their president’s resignation.

In 2016, a new Uzbek president was elected to office for the first time in 25 years: Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Since taking office, Mirziyoyev has partnered with The World Bank in a five-year strategy to use a $100 million loan for the creation of 500,000 new jobs. The goal of the plan is to decrease the poverty rate in Uzbekistan and to help the country reach upper-middle-income status by 2030.

Although there is still more progress needed to improve the livelihoods of average Uzbek citizens, it is important not to understate the growth and development that has been at work in the country for decades. Since 2001, the poverty rate has been cut by more than half. These numbers, along with new leadership and the implementation of the stimulus package being proposed, give hope to the prospect of a wealthy and economically secure Uzbekistan.

Micaela Fischer

Photo: Flickr

In Central Asia lies the Republic of Uzbekistan, a country just north of Turkmenistan and south of Kazakhstan. With a physical size only slightly larger than the state of California, Uzbekistan’s population is just under 29.5 million. Although a sovereign nation today, Uzbekistan only just gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

Today, the country’s economy remains largely state-run with little diversification. As of 2015, around 12.8 percent of individuals living in the country were below the poverty line. As it has now been decades since the nation gained independence from the Soviet Union, this begs the question: why is Uzbekistan poor? Below are a few reasons:

“White Gold”
Cotton, also referred to as “white gold,” currently accounts for a whopping 60 percent of Uzbekistan’s export earnings. This fact is in large part because of the actions of the Soviets in the 1940s. Because cotton is a highly water-intensive crop, the Soviet Union built various canals which would serve to divert water from the Aral Sea to the Uzbek cotton fields. Now, the Aral Sea has shrunk to 15 percent of its original volume and former ports around the Aral Sea rest as ghost towns.

The effect of this is that Uzbekistan’s economy remains undiversified. As the current government of Uzbekistan retains tight controls on most facets of the economy, farmers are highly pressured to meet cotton quotas. Therefore, as other farmers can grow so little else, “white gold” has indirectly compromised food supply.

Corruption
Worse yet, governmental corruption drains farmers’ deserved income from cotton. A U.K.-based charity called The Environmental Justice Foundation has stated that the official price that farmers receive in return for their cotton represents just one-third of its real value. However, the real outlook is far bleaker. Farmers have reported that they do not even receive the official procurement price. To understand the answer to the question “why is Uzbekistan poor,” one must know that corruption has persisted in Uzbekistan long after the fall of the Soviet Union. This persistence is not merely because of social and cultural norms, but because such practices have continued to actively benefit the elites of Uzbek society, both economically and politically, for decades.

Therefore, to answer the question “why is Uzbekistan poor?” one takes into account the primary reason Uzbekistan’s economy remains stifled and undiversified–cotton–but also the reason no changes have been made–corruption. If one hopes to end poverty in the region, both issues must be addressed.

Shannon Golden

Photo: Google

Causes of Poverty in UzbekistanIn Central Asia lies the Republic of Uzbekistan, a country just north of Turkmenistan and south of Kazakhstan. With a physical size only slightly larger than California, Uzbekistan’s population is just lower than 29.5 million. Although a sovereign nation today, Uzbekistan only just gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. Today, the nation’s economy remains largely state-run with little diversification. As of 2015, around 12.8 percent of individuals living in the country were below the poverty line. Roughly 75 percent of these individuals lived in rural areas. Here is one of the major causes of poverty in Uzbekistan:

“White gold,” also known as cotton, currently accounts for a whopping 60 percent of Uzbekistan’s export earnings. This resulted from the actions of the Soviet government during the 1940s. Because cotton is a highly water intensive crop, the Soviet Union built canals to divert water from the Aral Sea to Uzbekistan’s cotton fields. Now, the Aral Sea has shrunk to 15 percent of its original volume and former ports around the Aral Sea rest as ghost towns. The loss of these ports has been another cause of poverty in Uzbekistan.

This has also meant that Uzbekistan’s economy remains undiversified. As the current government of Uzbekistan retains tight controls on most facets of the economy, farmers are pressured to meet cotton quotas, and other farmers can grow little else. This has compromised the country’s food supply.

What makes matters worse is that governmental corruption drains farmers’ deserved income from yielding cotton. A U.K. charity called The Environmental Justice Foundation has stated, “the official price that farmers receive in return for their cotton represents just one third of its true value. But the real outlook is far more bleak. Farmers have reported that they don’t even receive the official procurement price.”

Therefore, the conquest for “white gold” or cotton has been one of the major causes of poverty in Uzbekistan. If dreams for a more thriving economy are to be realized, the economy must expand to include more than cotton.

Shannon Golden

Photo: Google

Water Quality in Uzbekistan
As one of the largest countries in Central Asia with a population of 32 million, Uzbekistan is a regional economic and political leader. Recently, Uzbekistan has turned its attention to the pressing issues of environmental protection and water quality. In the last decade, water quality in Uzbekistan has been a main focus thanks to government and service providers’ efforts to expand and modernize the water sector across the country. Although access to an improved water source has declined by less than one percent, increased investment in water supply and sanitation has provided the foundation for reform in Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan has amassed the largest borrowing portfolio for water projects of any Central Asian nation, including the Alat and Karakul Water Supply Project. Started in 2013 with financing from the World Bank, the project has improved quality and efficiency of water supply for more than 220,000 Uzbeks from the districts of Alat and Karakul in the Bukhara region. The World Bank has partnered with Uzbekistan since 1992, and its total commitments to the country exceed $1 billion.

The government has taken on these initiatives in response to the recent problems facing water quality in Uzbekistan, including water availability and pollution. More than half of Uzbekistani households do not connect to a piped water system; sewerage systems serve only 40% of the population. Much of the government’s efforts concentrate in the rural region of Karakalpakstan; it has some of the worst water quality in the country and has dealt with setbacks due to a uranium scare in 2008.

While the government-established State Committee for Environmental Protection has made limited efforts to curb water contamination in the last 15 years, nongovernmental organizations have spearheaded the effort to establish regulation to reduce harmful runoff and protect water resources.

Much of Uzbekistan’s economy relies on its environment, from its booming cotton industry to its oil and natural gas supplies. Environmental issues pose a threat to the country as a whole, with water availability as a top concern. Studies have shown that global warming may hit Central Asia the hardest in terms of temperature risings and potential drought. Uzbekistan must confront existing issues such as chemicals from cotton production contaminating freshwater, as well as future threats from climate change.

Though the government has acknowledged the extent of the country’s environmental problems, and the State Committee for Nature Protection has looked to contain environmental issues, grassroots organizations have called for the government to lay down further regulation and take more urgent action. Water quality in Uzbekistan has improved, but environmental issues threaten the country’s welfare if further action is not taken.

Nicholas Dugan

Photo: Flickr

Uzbek Refugees
The Republic of Uzbekistan is a Central Asian country with a population of about 32 million. From 1924 to 1991, Uzbekistan was a constituent republic within the Soviet Union. Since gaining independence in 1991, the Uzbek people have been dominated by an authoritarian government. Here are 10 critical facts about Uzbek refugees from the former Soviet state:

  1. According to the World Bank’s most current released data, there were 4,205 Uzbek refugees spread out across the world in 2015. This fact makes Uzbekistan the largest source of refugees in Central Asia, ahead of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.  These are all former Soviet republics as well.
  2. The number of Uzbek refugees is decreasing. Despite the world’s refugee population growing by millions annually since 2011, the Uzbek refugee population has declined each year in the same amount of time. The Uzbek refugee population is about a third of the size it was in 2011.
  3. Uzbek refugees often flee what the Human Rights Watch has described as an “abysmal” state of human rights in Uzbekistan. The country does not allow independent criticism and denies Uzbeks fundamental freedoms in regards to religion and expression.
    Torture is commonplace in the Uzbekistan justice system, and adults and children are subjected to forced labor. Collecting data on Uzbekistan, especially on its human rights violations is difficult.  This lack of information is due to Uzbekistan refusing to allow U.N. human rights experts access to the country since 2002.
  4. Some Uzbek refugees leave Uzbekistan because of their sexual orientation. Homosexual relations carry a maximum prison sentence of three years in Uzbekistan.
  5. Many Uzbek refugees left their country after the 2005 Andijan massacre. In June 2004, 23 businessmen from the city of Andijan were arrested on baseless charges of “religious extremism.” About 10,000 people eventually filled the streets in protest when the businessmen were subsequently found guilty. In a violent suppression of the protests, the Uzbekistan military opened fire on the crowd. Estimates of the number of people killed during the Andijan massacre start at 187. According to the Uzbekistan government’s official count, potentially nearly 2,000 people died.
  6. Some of the Uzbek refugees are whistleblowers and former government officials. For example, in 2008, Ikrom Yakubov sought asylum in London. Yakubov worked as a spy for ten years in the Uzbek National Security Service, including two years on the president’s National Security Council. When he arrived in London, he had already been hiding out in Europe for months, fearing for his life. Yakubov says that he no longer wanted to work for “the executioner,” and has accused the Uzbekistan government of routinely murdering its citizens for political reasons. His estimated death toll of the Andijan massacre is 1,500 people.
  7. The authorities often harass the families of Uzbek refugees who stay in Uzbekistan. If the refugees leave for political reasons, such as those that did following the Andijan massacre, their families are put under surveillance, interrogated and threatened with criminal charges. Children in these families even get publicly shamed at school.
  8. Uzbek refugees often find that their families will no longer talk to them after they leave Uzbekistan. Due to threats from the government, families are often too scared to receive phone calls or letters from their refugee relatives. The government threatens to take the families’ homes away or beat them. According to one Uzbek refugee, Nodir N., authorities detain his brother back in Uzbekistan for several days before each holiday to ensure he does not protest.
  9. Uzbekistan’s government does not acknowledge its refugees as such. Uzbek refugees are branded as “traitors,” “criminals” and, above all, “terrorists” after leaving their homeland.
  10. Uzbek refugees still struggle with the Uzbekistan government after fleeing the country. The Uzbekistan government has surveilled people in the country for a long time, but Amnesty International says they have received reports of Uzbek refugees being spied on outside of Uzbekistan, likely by government hackers.

Some Uzbek refugees have had to bounce from country to country until they feel safe from the Uzbekistan government. Furthermore, countries like neighboring Kyrgyzstan, close to Uzbekistan geographically and culturally, deport Uzbek refugees in compliance with the Uzbekistan government’s request. Kyrgyzstan has never granted the request of an Uzbek refugee.

President Islam Karimov ruled Uzbekistan from its independence from the Soviet Union until his death in September 2016. The current president, Shavkat Mirziyaev, has vowed to bring human rights reforms to Uzbekistan. However, organizations like the Human Rights Watch say that there has been little to no progress thus far.

David Mclellan

Photo: Google

Countries That Still Have Slavery
Although modern slavery is not always easy to recognize, it continues to exist in nearly every country. In total, there are 167 countries that still have slavery and around 46 million slaves today, according to the 2016 Global Slavery Index.

The U.S. Department of State defines modern slavery as “the act of recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, or obtaining a person for compelled labor or commercial sex acts through the use of force, fraud, or coercion.”

India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Uzbekistan and North Korea are at the top of the list for countries that still have slavery. Here are some facts about what slavery is like in each of these countries.

The Highest Numbers: 6 Countries That Still Have Slavery

  1. India (18.4 Million) India has the highest number of slaves in the world. Like many other countries, modern slavery in India can take the shape of domestic service, forced begging, commercial sexual exploitation, forced marriage and forced recruitment for armed services. Because of India’s growing economy, many modern slaves work in factories that export goods to other countries. Consequently, men, women and children work long hours without proper compensation or even basic rights.
  2. China (3.4 Million) The Chinese government relies on exports of goods and raw materials even more than India. According to a CNN report, people in China are forced into labor across many different industries. The migration of poor families from rural to urban areas in search of jobs often leads to opportunities for traffickers. Although families travel together, many eventually split up. Individuals sell young boys to other families who lack sons, and girls often face sex slavery or forced marriage.
  3. Pakistan (2.1 Million) Modern slavery in Pakistan, like India, centers on debt bondage, or bonded labor. Brick-making employs around 10 million people in Pakistan. Children and families often work 10 hours each day in brick kilns and are denied basic rights or laws to protect them. Without this protection, workers face torture and sexual exploitation.
  4. Bangladesh (1.5 Million) Contemporary slavery in Bangladesh is accounted for through 80 percent forced labor and 20 percent forced marriage, according to the Global Slavery Index. Poverty, natural disasters and government corruption have made Bangladesh the 11th most vulnerable country to slavery within Asia.
  5. Uzbekistan (1.2 Million) The main cash crop of Uzbekistan is cotton. Each fall, when cotton crops are booming, the government forces millions of people out of their jobs to work in the cotton fields. International organizations monitor the process, however, the government still does not compensate these people. They also do not enforce proper safety precautions.
  6. North Korea (1.1 Million) The government of North Korea has done little to criminalize modern slavery. People of all ages are subject to forced labor while their government says they are “living in a socialist paradise.” One in twenty North Koreans is enslaved. Although the country does not have the highest total number of slaves, it does have the highest concentration of forced labor.

While many countries have taken steps toward banning and criminalizing slavery, there is still much to do. Countries that still have slavery are facing many problems that we all must address. “Improving the rights of 45.8 million human beings is both wise and urgent for all leaders of countries and organizations,” said Andrew Forrest, Founder and Chairman of the Walk Free Foundation. “Eradicating slavery makes sense; morally, politically, logically and economically.”

Madeline Boeding

Photo: Flickr


With a population of 32 million, Uzbekistan is one of the largest and fastest-growing countries in Central Asia and, as a result, it has faced a number of challenges regarding hunger and malnutrition. In 2016, the Global Hunger Index listed Uzbekistan as a country suffering from moderate hunger problems, citing 4.2 percent of the population as undernourished. Uzbekistan ranks 63rd on the 2016 index, just outside of the top 50 countries experiencing “alarming” hunger rates. This ranking comes as no surprise, but the nation has taken great strides toward addressing the underlying causes of hunger in Uzbekistan.

In the last decade, Uzbekistan has made monumental progress in battling its hunger issue. Compare the undernourished population of 4.2 percent in 2016 to 2013’s 5.5 percent — and 2008’s 9.4 percent. Since 1990, Uzbekistan has been one of the 26 countries to have successfully reduced hunger by more than half.

One of biggest reasons for these decreasing hunger rates is a decline in the amount of poverty in Uzbekistan thanks to sustained economic growth, educational opportunities and increased employment. The former Soviet Republic leads Central Asia with an economic growth rate of around eight percent annually since 2011. Prosperity in recent years even prompted the World Bank in 2011 to reclassify the country from a low-income to a lower middle-income nation.

A concentrated effort to increase wheat production has specifically attacked the issue of hunger in Uzbekistan. As the country continues to grow, greater demand for agricultural products like wheat and cattle has helped rural farmers feed their communities and contribute to solving the hunger problem.

The efforts of countries like Uzbekistan helped contribute to a 29 percent drop in hunger levels globally since 2000, according to the Global Health Index. The GHI’s main goal focuses on achieving zero hunger by 2030, a mark dependent upon further reform and the acceleration in hunger’s decline in Central Asia, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Nicholas Dugan

Photo: Flickr

tertiary education in Uzbekistan
Recent trends show that although education in Uzbekistan has come a long way since the nation’s Soviet days, Uzbekistan needs to focus on improving its tertiary education to secure a successful economic and social future. Currently, tertiary enrollment in Uzbekistan is among the lowest in Central Asia at just 15 percent.

After Uzbekistan gained independence in 1991 from the Soviet Union, the Uzbekistani government shifted its focus to prioritizing educational reform. However, major economic and social challenges were placed on Uzbekistan as a result of past Soviet reforms, making it difficult for Uzbekistan to reform its education system. Although Uzbekistan has put effort into improving its economy and social system, education in Uzbekistan needs attention, especially postsecondary education.

When first comparing general education net enrollment rates in Uzbekistan to respective sub-regional and regional averages, the country is above average for primary and secondary school enrollment. However, learning outcomes and overall education quality is concerning. Despite recent reforms such as increasing teacher salaries and revising the Law on Education, school performance is subpar. UNICEF states that Uzbekistan has plans to improve school infrastructure, teacher working conditions, and access to quality basic education. The World Bank believes that the biggest concern for education in Uzbekistan is tertiary education.

Over the past 20 years, Uzbekistan’s economy has shifted from agriculture to the service sector. According to the World Bank, tertiary education in Uzbekistan has failed to adapt to this shift in the economy and the limited access to tertiary education is concerning for the future of Uzbekistan. Statistics show that of total public spending on education in Uzbekistan, only 5.2 percent is spent on higher education. Many firms report that it is difficult to find qualified specialists in Uzbekistan due to the lack of higher education. It is predicted that if Uzbekistan does not shift its focus to postsecondary education, then there will be long-term ramifications on the economy, ultimately creating more social challenges in Uzbekistan.

Reports state that “experts from the World Bank Group have worked with key stakeholders in the country to analyze the challenges and design policies, recommendations, and interventions capable of overcoming these challenges.”

A recent report titled “Uzbekistan: Modernizing Tertiary Education” explores the education system in Uzbekistan and its relations to the economy. Experts believe that by doing things such as expanding equitable access to higher education for all students and increasing spending on tertiary education, Uzbekistan will see more economic growth.

Morgan Leahy

Photo: Flickr