The effective national response of Uzbekistan against COVID-19

0
1679

BY  FURQAT SIDIKOV

Nowadays all countries around the world are counteracting to the COVID-19 pandemic, deploying and mobilizing their financial, intellectual and human resources.

Unfortunately, Uzbekistan, along with a number of other countries in the world, is facing consequences of COVID-19 pandemic on the economy and social area, including on the lives of people in cities and regions.

Today are 1900 confirmed cases and 8 died in Uzbekistan, which is a relatively low number for a country with 32 million population. Good news is more than 800 recovered in Uzbekistan, which demonstrates the professionalism of Uzbek doctors and the effectiveness of Uzbekistan ‘s health care system

Republic of Uzbekistan initiated “sensible and effective measures” to safeguard the national interests of its people and economy. For instance, by initiative of Uzbekistan’s President H.E. Mr. Shavkat Mirziyoyev various socio-economic, administrative and legal measures has been implemented for comprehensive and effective fight against COVID-19.

In accordance with Presidential Decree 10 trillion Uzbek sums
($1 billion) Anti-Crisis Fund has been established for mainly on four areas: countering the spread of the coronavirus, supporting business and employment, expanding social welfare provisions and ensuring the continued functioning of the financial sector.

On March 25, Uzbekistan made mandatory the wearing of face masks in public. On March 27, the movement of people and personal vehicles in the cities was restricted except got grocery shopping and pharmacy visits. In the first nine days since the rules were introduced, as of April 3, about 2,200 violations of the rules were registered, mostly individuals being outside without face masks. Today, more than 100 thousand people are quarantined. At the same time, almost 13 thousand citizens, who were returned to Uzbekistan, were also in quarantine. A special and unique quarantine zone with 10 thousand beds has been created in the Tashkent region. More than 2.2 thousand citizens, who have returned from abroad, have already been placed there and successfully finished their quarantine period.

The Government of Uzbekistan has also initiated comprehensive measures in the field of customs. According to the Presidential Decree, starting from 1 April 2020, customs clearance of imported food products will be carried out in an accelerated mode, including by issuing permits before the arrival of goods on the territory of Uzbekistan. The State Customs Committee and other authorized agencies responsible for permits issuance will implement these measures.

The Ministry of Finance on 6 April 2020 announced certain tax relief measures in response to coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In particular, the tax relief generally is aimed at small and medium size enterprises and individual entrepreneurs, and includes the following:

– funds received by business entities in the form of interest-free financial assistance will not be subject to income tax;

– annual audits of certain taxpayers are postponed;

– there is a moratorium on initiating or declaring bankruptcy by enterprises faced with financial difficulties;

– planned increase in the rates of excise tax on gasoline, diesel fuel, and alcohol and alcohol products is canceled;

– rate of customs duty and excise tax on “primary goods” (generally food products and hygiene products) is assigned zero percent (0%);

– moratorium on tax audits will be effective until 1 January 2021 (tax audits will only be limited to tax audits conducted based on criminal cases and liquidation of legal entities);

– property tax, land tax and water use tax payment deadlines for legal entities can be extended for 6 months by local authorities based on the application of the taxpayer (late payment interest on these taxes is not assessed by the tax authorities until 1 October 2020 in relation to entities experiencing temporary difficulties, and measures on forced tax collection measures shall not be applied;

– water use tax rate for water volumes used for the purposes of agricultural irrigation is reduced by 50% in 2020;

– social tax for individual entrepreneurs is reduced to 50% of the specified base value for the period between 1 April 2020 to 1 October 2020.       In kind benefits received by individuals from charity institutions are exempt from individual income tax from 1 April 2020;

– the individual income tax declaration filing deadline is extended from 1 April to 1 August 2020;

– property tax and land tax payment deadlines for individuals are extended from 15 April to 15 October 2020;

– touristic duty is not levied during the period from 1 April to
1 October 2020;

– penalties for having overdue receivables from foreign trade operations are not applied until 1 October 2020;

– export of goods without guaranteed payment is allowed if the overdue receivables do not exceed 10% of the total annual export (previously export of goods without guaranteed payment was allowed only if there were no overdue receivables).

It should be noted that President Shavkat Mirziyoyev is paying great attention to communication and cooperation with foreign partners, especially with Central Asian countries.  For example, Uzbek leader had telephone talks with leaders of Central Asia:  President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev and Turkmen President Gubanguly Berdimuhamedov on March 18 and 27; Kazakh First President Nursultan Nazarbayev on March 20; Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on March 26; Kyrgyz President Sooronbay Jeenbekov on March 27; Russian President Vladimir Putin on March 20; Chinese President Xi Jinping on March 24; and UN Secretary General António Guterres on March 24.

It is very important that, this very difficult time for the world and Uzbek Nation, the President Shavkat Mirziyoyev is paying a great emphasis on providing support to vulnerable segments of the population and ensuring full operation of industrial enterprises, construction area and country’s infrastructure.

On 24 April, the next video-conference on the issues of ensuring employment of the population and the resumption of activities of economic sectors was chaired by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

The quarantine regime, which has been going on for more than a month, is becoming a test and experience for everyone, especially the heads of government. Video-conference calls are held to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the life of the population, the activities of entrepreneurs and economic sectors, and specific tasks are identified.

At a regular meeting held on 22 April, issues of the stable functioning of economic sectors, employment, social support for needy families were discussed using the example of Samarkand and Namangan regions. At today’s meeting, the work carried out in the Ferghana and Kashkadarya regions was reviewed.

As for the epidemiological situation in these regions, in Ferghana region, coronavirus was detected in 120, in Kashkadarya region – in 6 citizens.

During the quarantine period, production fell sharply at 10 thousand enterprises in Ferghana and 11 thousand in Kashkadarya. As a result, the number of unemployed has grown significantly. In addition, 56 thousand live in Ferghana, and 91 thousand families in need in Kashkadarya.

At the meeting, the Ministry of Health and khokims of these areas were instructed to analyze the regions and activities for high, medium and low risk of spread of infection, and taking into account this, make proposals for the phased mitigation of quarantine restrictions for consideration by the Republican Special Commission.

This year, 632 billion soums were allocated for the construction and reconstruction of 130 objects in the Ferghana region, 536 billion soums in 132 objects in Kashkadarya. However, in the first quarter, disbursement of funds and implementation of projects lagged behind the targets.

Given that to ensure employment, permission was given to continue the construction industry, the President noted the need to accelerate work at all facilities in these regions.

Uninterrupted supply of food to the population and maintaining stable prices in the domestic market is the most pressing issue. A large reserve in this regard is the space between the rows of gardens and vineyards.

In Ferghana and Kashkadarya there are orchards and vineyards with an area of 34 thousand hectares and more than 22 thousand hectares, respectively. However, usually only 20 percent of the row spacing is planted. With this in mind, the regional khokimiyats (provincial administrations) were instructed to organize a complete planting of row-spacing of orchards and vineyards with various crops and thereby ensure employment of the population.

The importance of the construction of wells on withdrawn from circulation and rainfed lands, to divide the plots among the population, was emphasized. For these purposes, 15 and 11 billion soums were allocated to Ferghana and Kashkadarya, respectively.

Instructions were given to provide work for low-income families through the distribution of livestock, poultry and bee hives, and to increase the procurement of products.

Due to the expected shortage of water this year, difficulties may arise in the irrigation of re-crops in Uzbekistan, Uchkuprik, Yazyavan, Kushtepa, Mirishkarsky, Nishansky, Mubarek and Kasbinsky districts. Therefore, as emphasized at the meeting, it is possible to grow export-oriented legumes less demanding on water.

The feasibility of cultivating 50-60 percent of the land freed from grain by farmers themselves and the distribution of the remainder among the population temporarily left without work and in need of assistance under quarantine is noted.

The khokims (governors) of Ferghana and Kashkadarya regions reported on the upcoming work to resume the activities of enterprises in compliance with the rules of quarantine, ensuring employment.

Bearing in mind historic and spiritual values of Uzbek nation, its generosity and care for other people, the President of Uzbekistan suggested establishing “Kindness and Support” nationwide movement.

The initiative aims to further ensure the supply of food and medical facilities to families in need and temporary jobless individuals. Particularly, entrepreneurs are encouraged to take selfless responsibility to support families in their neighborhood. In light of upcoming Ramadan, an act of goodwill is becoming more noble.

President said that the Holy month of Ramadan is approaching, and with this in mind, helping low-income and needy families during this period is a good deed.

Uzbek Leader instructed the Special Republican Commission to gradually ease quarantine restrictions in regions, districts and cities with no cases of coronavirus infection or where the epidemiological situation has improved. Facilities that have restored their activity will have to strictly observe sanitary and hygienic rules.

Moreover, Uzbekistan’s President H.E. Mr. Shavkat Mirziyoyev regularly hold a Government meetings and videoconferences with regional administrations on the measures taken in Uzbekistan to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Uzbek Leader noted that the current situation with the rapid spread of coronavirus in many countries of the world proves that we in Uzbekistan introduced quarantine and restrictive measures quite in time.

He is also grateful to our citizens who properly understand and share this view, patiently observe the rules of home self-isolation and lockdown, as well as to doctors who have proved courageous and steadfast in their duty performance.

As my President always emphasize, we will use all our strengths and capabilities, whether inside the country or outside its borders, to combat this challenge. Not a single person, not a single family in our country should be left without the attention and care of the state and society.

THE WRITER IS AMBASSADOR OF UZBEKISTAN.