The coronavirus pandemic and introduction of quarantine measures have changed absolutely all areas of our life.
Today, we are seeing a gradual economic recovery from the consequences of the pandemic, which is due to the timely adoption of measures to support enterprises and the transformations carried out in recent years in the field of improving the business environment and creating a favorable business climate.
Which business sectors were the most viable and why? How tasks were solved and the negative impact of the pandemic overcome? Says the chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) of Uzbekistan, Adkham Ikramov, in an exclusive interview with the Economic Review magazine.
Overcoming the pandemic
— The coronavirus pandemic and the introduced quarantine methods have changed absolutely all areas of our life. In this regard, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Uzbekistan, which unites numerous representatives of the country's business community, has actively participated in the process of supporting entrepreneurs and carried out a number of important events in 2020. What has been done in this direction?
— Once the first case of coronavirus detected last year, the state took decisive measures to prevent the possibility of the spread of coronavirus, in particular, isolation measures and the introduction of quarantine measures throughout the republic. And these restrictions put business representatives in a difficult position. This especially affected the sphere of tourism and catering.
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry together with the business ombudsman and the reception of the Prime Minister created an operational headquarters to solve problems arising in the activities of entrepreneurs during the pandemic.
The Chamber of Commerce and Industry, together with UNDP launched the Business Clinic project to provide free advice to entrepreneurs facing financial difficulties during the pandemic. In addition, the local business entities, who could not fulfill their contractual obligations due to the pandemic, were provided with timely assistance in obtaining confirmation of force majeure.
Obviously under the conditions of quarantine, the implementation of many events and projects planned for 2020 were cancelled. However, despite this, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Uzbekistan managed to organize 72 international events with the participation of local and foreign business, and most of them were held online.
60 business events were held with the participation of more than 1200 business representatives in our country. Also, during 2020 the Chamber signed agreements on cooperation and the creation of a Business Council with the Chambers of Commerce and Industry of six countries.
— Adkham Ilkhamovich, which business sectors and enterprises turned out to be the most viable in the current conditions and why? And in your opinion, what are the main lessons of this difficult period?
— As we all know, the coronavirus pandemic has greatly affected the economic and financial condition of the whole world, as well as it caused an imbalance trade relation between countries.
The globally hardest hit are tourism and catering, as the coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on them.
International tourism declined by more than 70% in the first 10 months of 2020. This resulted in a loss of $935 billion in export revenues from international tourism.
Since the announcement of quarantine in our country, more than 1,500 tour operators and 1,200 hotels have suspended their activities, which has led to a reduction in the income of more than 250 thousand people.
The state took a number of measures to support the affected sectors of the economy. Much has been done to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on various areas, including business entities. In particular, more than 20 regulatory legal acts, Decrees and Resolutions of the President have been signed to support small businesses in a pandemic.
As a result of the established restrictions, there was a development in the IT sector, the transition to digitalization of processes accelerated. Many industries were forced to switch to an online format, which accelerated the process of business digitalization.
Another area of growth noticed among enterprises that produce various protective equipment - masks, gloves and other medical suppliments. Private medical services and the pharmaceutical industry also worked with high profitability.
All this was a consequence of the precise and appropriate decisions of the country's leadership.
Development of entrepreneurship
— In his Address, the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Sh.M. Mirziyoyev defined the creation of even more favorable conditions for the development of entrepreneurship and small business as one of the main directions in the field of economic development. In this regard, how will the activities of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry be structured in 2021?
—Small business entities and private entrepreneurship are increasing in the country's economy and their development have great importance to battle the poverty. In order to accelerate the development of these sectors of the economy, the most important priority is the creation of favorable conditions, benefits and preferences, and the provision of comprehensive support to entrepreneurs.
In this regard, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry will organize training in entrepreneurship and professions for 100,000 young people. Education and involvement of the population in entrepreneurship will ensure the creation of new small businesses.
Moreover, the head of state gave a number of instructions to increase the number of business entities in each district and city through the active involvement of the population.
Over the past few years, Uzbekistan has been carrying out reforms aimed at improving the business climate, attracting foreign investment, strengthening property rights and fighting corruption.
The consistent improvement of the business climate in Uzbekistan cannot be considered outside the context of the ongoing large-scale economic transformations in the field of improving the business environment. A lot has been done in this direction over the past few years:
Since January 2017, all types of unscheduled inspections of the business activities, as well as counter inspections, including in criminal cases, limiting the legal rights have been canceled.
Since January 2018, a two-year pause has been declared on conducting inspections of the financial and economic activities of business entities, which was extended in 2020 due to the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Since June 2018, 6 types of licenses and permits in the field of entrepreneurial activity have been canceled.
The mechanism for allocating microcredits has been simplified to newly registered individual entrepreneurs and family entrepreneurs.
The State Fund for Supporting the Development of Entrepreneurship has been created, which provides financial assistance to business entities.
A ban has been established on the use of criminal punishment against business entities. An independent institute was also established - the Commissioner under the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan for the protection of the rights and legitimate interests of business entities.
And the great work carried out over the past years to improve the operating conditions for business that has contributed to the consistent recovery of the economy from the consequences of the pandemic.
Tatiana Petrenko, "Economic Review"