Uzbekistan Opens Up Banking & Financial Services To Foreign Investors

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Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has said that he wants to sell shares in Uzbekistan’s state owned banks to strategic foreign investors to help modernise the sector. In his annual state-of-the-nation speech, which Mr Mirziyoyev uses to outline his agenda, he also said that he wanted to tear down a domestic migration system that restricts people from travelling around to find work.

Selling stakes in banks would be one of the most significant reforms undertaken by Uzbekistan since Mr Mirziyoyev became president in 2016. He has prioritised modernising Uzbekistan’s economy, held back by the reactionary and reclusive policies of his predecessor, Islam Karimov. “Unfortunately, the banking system lags behind modern requirements by 10-15 years, especially in terms of the development of digital technologies, introduction of new banking products and software,” he said. “Banks with a state share will be gradually sold to strategic investors.”

Even at the retail level, the banking system lags behind its neighbours. ATMs are only just being rolled out across the country. Most use a local money transfer system, and not Visa or Mastercard. According to media reports, five of the 30 banks in Uzbekistan are fully state-owned and another eight are at least 50% owned by the government.

Uzbekistan has already started to modernise its capital markets. Last year, the government issued its inaugural sovereign debt bond, which was generally well-received by the market. Mr Mirziyoyev said that in 2019, Uzbekistan received direct foreign investment of US$4.2 billion, nearly four times the amount in 2018.

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Silk Road Briefing is written by Dezan Shira & Associates. The firm provides strategic analysis, legal, tax and operational advisory services across Eurasia and has done since 1992. We maintain 28 offices throughout the region and assist foreign governments and MNC’s develop regional strategies in addition to foreign investment advice for investors throughout Asia. Please contact us at asia@dezshira.com or visit us at www.dezshira.com

 

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