Fariddin Nasriyev: ‘People will stop leaving when there are enough jobs in Uzbekistan’
The consul general of Uzbekistan about labour migration, different experiences of working with expat communities and development of business with Tatarstan. Part two
In the last six years, the commodity turnover between Tatarstan and Uzbekistan has increased 10 times and reached $200 million, noted Consul General of the Republic of Uzbekistan in Kazan Fariddin Nasriyev. In the second part of his exclusive interview with Realnoe Vremya, the high-ranking diplomat explained how the Central Asian country developed business and friendly relations with its neighbours, opens new consulates in Russia and helped its compatriots far from home. As the consul general admitted, it turned out that not all representatives of Uzbek expat communities in regions selflessly supported their compatriots — some simply made this a business. At the same time, the relationships between Tatarstan and Uzbekistan are reaching a new level, big results from joint projects are expected here.
1,500 Russian companies operate in Uzbekistan
Mr Nasriyev, the Consulate General of the Republic of Turkey has been operating in Kazan since as early as 1996. There are consulates of Hungary, Kazakhstan, Iran, China. Why did Uzbekistan intensify its diplomatic mission in Russia only in 2018-2019?
The Uzbekistan presidential elections took place in December 2016 where Shavkat Mirizyoyov won. He is serving his second presidential term now. Uzbekistan’s foreign politics changed with his coming. We switched from political to economic diplomacy. Relations with our neighbours changed, now they are very good and friendly, with all Central Asian countries. And the state’s attitude to its citizens changed too. The principle the state for the citizen, not the citizen for the state, is in force now. It is a colossal change. There appeared the president’s reception offices where citizens write about their problems, make offers. We knew that a lot of our citizens in Russia needed help. The process of opening consulates isn’t simple — there are some procedures, agreements. Five new consulates of Uzbekistan opened in Russia, first of all, for our citizens and further development of economic, cultural and humanitarian cooperation with Russian regions.
In 2016, the commodity turnover between Tatarstan and Uzbekistan was about $16-20 million. Now it totals $200 million. It has increased tenfold in the last six years. It is huge numbers. In five years, we have reached $7 billion from $2,5 billion of commodity turnover with the Russian Federation in 2016. 1,500 Russian companies operate in Uzbekistan.
In late April, INNOPROM. Central Asia international industrial exhibition with Russian Minister of Industry and Trade Denis Manturov was held. There was a big delegation from Tatarstan. The difference between this and last year’s INNOPROM is that last year it was an event between Russia and Uzbekistan. This year, it was Central Asian. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Belarus, Armenia were also there. The format changed too. Earlier, it was a presentation to talk about your accomplishments, this year, real projects were introduced. More attention was paid to what specifically we could offer partners now. One could find specific projects at this forum and agree on joining them.
The difference between expat communities is that some help their compatriots and some make money
Before the diplomatic mission of Uzbekistan in Russia grew bigger, the so-called cultural autonomies and similar public organisations partly did their functions. Do you work with them now?
They can be called expat communities Every region has an expat community, it is simply called differently. The difference between expat communities is that some help their compatriots and some make money considering the expat community as a business. This is unacceptable for us. We thank many expat communities that worked honestly and for the good of their compatriots continue doing this together with consulates.
For instance, earlier, diasporas collected money to send dead Uzbekistan citizens to their homeland and organised the transportation. But with the coming of consulates, these expenses are covered by the public budget of the Republic of Uzbekistan. After the opening of the Consulate General, I was called several times and asked if they needed to pay money to send the body. It turns out there was a person from the expat community somewhere collecting money from everybody though we already paid and even sent the dead person to the homeland. This isn’t bad. We work with expat communities, but only with those registered in a region’s ministry of justice.
After the opening of the Consulate General, I travelled across the region and met with diaspora representatives. I talked with people, asked what people did. People told me everything themselves — who helped and who raised money. When these dishonest people understood they couldn’t make money, they disappeared themselves. Patriots of their homeland stayed. They all are citizens of the Russian Federation but came from Uzbekistan, they are our compatriots. They run a business and don’t want their compatriots to face the same hardships they did. Even when they simply explain to our citizens what to do, where to go, this is really helpful.
When these dishonest people understood they couldn’t make money, they disappeared themselves
In every Volga region, we have a local expat community chair. We stay in touch with them. We hold meetings, events, celebrate holidays together, ask to help our citizens if needed, even to act as a translator in an organisation for those who don’t yet know Russia. They provide legal advice, especially if our citizen is in a difficult situation in a region far from the Consulate General.
Uzbekistan changed, but people keep going to Russia. Why?
We have agreements not only with Russia but also with Asian, European and Arab countries. A lot of our citizens work there too. The case is that in 1991 the population of Uzbekistan amounted to about 24 million people. Now we total 35 million. The annual birth rate is 600-700,000 people. The difference in the last 30 years is that now the state does a lot to create jobs. But if up to 30,000 people could work in a factory in the past, now it is no more than 100 people, automation is taking place. Many new jobs are created, but this isn’t enough anyway. While our hard-working people want to work, not ask the state for benefits. People will stop leaving when there are enough jobs in Uzbekistan.
IT in Uzbekistan develops very quickly and successfully
How do you assess the activity of Tatarstan in particular in developing and reinforcing the links between Russia and the Islamic world?
Russia with its millions of people and traditional respect for the religious traditions and beliefs of its citizens has always been an important component of the Islamic world. And of course, together with the Muslim republics of the North Caucasus and Bashkiria, Tatarstan is the main source of culture and traditions of our common religion.
Uzbekistan highly appreciates Tatarstan’s contribution to the development of the traditional peaceful Islam and actively participates in this God-pleasing, righteous activity. This year as well as last year, a big delegation of the Republic of Uzbekistan plans to participate in Russia — Islamic World: KazanSummit 2022 forum and the events dedicated to the 1100th anniversary of the adoption of Islam by Volga Bulgaria.
In turn, we also plan to invite the administration and the religious community of Tatarstan and all Muslims to the opening of the grandiose Centre for Islamic Civilisation whose construction is coming to an end next to the holy site of our capital — Hazrati Imam Complex storing Caliph Uthman’s 8th-century Quran.
Now Uzbekistan has announced new big IT projects. Is there cooperation here between your country and our republic? Is there competition because Tatarstan is also a big centre of this industry?
A Million Programmers programme was launched in Uzbekistan in 2019 to train highly qualified IT specialists.
Within the Digital Uzbekistan 2030 programme adopted in 2020, the republic takes a complex of measures to actively develop the digital economy and widely introduce the latest information and communication technologies in all sectors and spheres, first of all, in public administration, education, health care and agriculture. Particularly, priority projects started to be implemented that envisage the improvement of the e-government system, further development of the Russian market of software and information technologies, organisation of IT parks in all the regions of the republic, providing this sphere with skilled staff.
More than 11,000 young people work in IT parks. The youth that studied in the project A Million Programmes lays a firm foundation for the future of the sector.
Several IT parks have opened, new ones are created. There are joint educational institutes, with South Korea to train programmers and IT specialists. There were created such conditions in IT parks that people even from European countries can come to work. But we’re not yet talking about high competition, the niche is vacant.
The administration of the republic was tasked to constantly expand the range of IT services, it is planned to increase exports in the sector to $100 million till the end of the year. 404 regional and 133 sectoral projects will be launched till the end of the year in the Digital Uzbekistan 2030 programme. In Uzbekistan, this sphere develops very quickly and successfully.
We welcome Russian and Tatarstan businesspeople
What opportunities do Tatarstan entrepreneurs have in Uzbekistan?
There are opportunities for all entrepreneurs from the Russian Federation, there are a lot of vacant niches. There is a big project with Tatarstan, it is already at the final stage — it is a branch of Chemgrad technopark in Chirchiq city. There are a lot of residents from the Republic of Tatarstan that use this site to enter the big market of Central Asia. Besides 35 million people in Uzbekistan, it is another 35 million in our neighbouring countries.
We have 13 economic zones where all the necessary infrastructure was created, including energy-saving infrastructure. Uzbekistan is rich in feedstock and human capital, possesses unique transport and logistics and presents a huge outlet. The logistical hub of Navoi used with Korean Air is a good exit to South Asia, India, China and Pakistan.
The state helps businesses, provides preferences and guarantees stability and development. There is a separate reception office of the republic’s president for entrepreneurs. A ministry deals with entrepreneurs. We welcome Russian and Tatarstan businesspeople and invite everybody to visit sunny Uzbekistan as a businessperson, tourist or guest with pleasure.