By Yusupov Umid Sobirzhanovich, PhD in economics, assistant professor
The following article was contributed by the Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan in Seoul for publication by The Korea Post media, publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean-language news publications since 1985.—Ed.
The main goal of the policy pursued in Uzbekistan is the improvement of the well-being of every citizen, the insurance of the socio-economic security of the society.
As it was emphasized by the President of the country Sh. Mirziyoyev, New Uzbekistan is a state, the main goal of which is to ensure free, comfortable and prosperous life for our multinational people. This is a state developing in strict accordance with generally recognized norms in the field of democracy, human rights and freedoms, based on the principles of friendship and cooperation with the international community.
In this context, the issue of ensuring decent living conditions for the broad cross-section of the population is one of the priorities in the socio-economic policy of the state. At the same time, the main criterion for the success of the reforms is to ensure social justice. Therefore, the work to support the population in need of social protection is rising to a qualitatively new level. As a result, the indicators of provision of the needy with social benefits and material assistance in the near future will be increased from 60 to 100 percent, all of them will be provided with state-guaranteed free medical care.
For the category of citizens in need of socio-economic support, the possibilities of obtaining a profession in demand on the market are significantly expanding at the expense of the state. Exact measures are being taken to double the scale of professional education, 1 million of the unemployed citizens will acquire new professions, and the participation of non-state educational institutions in this process will reach 30 percent.
2.5 million people employed in the informal sector of the economy will be assisted in the legalization of their labor activity, which will enable them to receive full access to social guarantees and benefits. By expanding the number of service facilities in the regions, the volume of services will be increased by 3 times, and, due to this, about 3.5 million jobs will be created.
The authorities have clear understanding that education is a key factor in the socio-economic development. A systematic approach to the development of the education sector creates a solid foundation for the innovative development of the economy and the preparation of the competitive labor resources. Systematic character, first of all, is expressed in the continuity of the educational process with a growing scope.
Particularly, in 2012, 23% of children in Uzbekistan received preschool education, and only 8.5% of them – children from rural areas. In 2017, large-scale reforms began, and now more than 60% of children are already covered. Free part-time groups for six-year-olds are being opened in the country. The profession of a teacher for preschool children becomes more and more demanded in Uzbekistan. For example, in the recently opened branch of the Korean Bucheon University in Tashkent it is taught to find a zest in every child, and strive for each child to feel like a separate independent and free person.
In 2021, the number of operating general education institutions increased by 515 units compared to 2018 (total number – 10289); their equipment with the modern teaching aids improved.
Higher education is also becoming more accessible. In particular, the maximum possible enrollment in higher education is achieved through an increase in quotas for the state-funded places. At the suggestion of the President of the country, the share of the state grants for the admission to universities has doubled.
The education reform is accompanied by a gradual increase in the salaries of secondary school and university teachers. On the basis of the foreign, including the Korean experience, the standards of higher education are being improved; its directions and the structure of the studied disciplines are being revised. As a result, the vast majority of young people are becoming more interested in the higher education. This is evidenced by the trend of a rapid growth in the number of students studying in the higher educational institutions. In the 2021/2022 academic year, compared to the 2017/2018 academic year, their number almost tripled (graph No 1).
The healthcare sector is also in the center of attention of the socio-economic policy of the state. Thus, in recent years, the volume of funds directed to the sphere has sharply increased. Particularly, in 2022 alone, 24 trillion soums (over $2 billion), that is 4 times more than in 2016, were allocated from the budget for its development. Over the past five years, the amount of funds allocated to provide hospitals and emergency rooms with medicines and medical products has increased 12 times. During this period, funds from the international financial organizations in the amount of more than 700 million dollars were attracted to improve the healthcare system. Targeted screening of 12 million people at risk for health indicators has begun.
Another important change in the healthcare system was the development of the private medicine along with the state one. For instance, if before private services were provided only in dentistry, now private clinics operate in almost all areas of healthcare, their number has reached 8 thousand (graph № 2.).
A system of support for private medicine has been introduced, including tax and customs preferences, and subsidies. Only due to tax incentives over the past five years, the private sector has gained 1.3 trillion soums (approximately $130 million).
At the same time, some problems remain, the urgent solution of which requires significant amounts of investment. For example, due to the tear and wear of 70 percent of medical equipment, the quality of the medical services provided in primary care facilities remains low. Against the backdrop of an improving investment climate in Uzbekistan, this circumstance may open up new promising opportunities for Korean investors and medical equipment manufacturers to expand cooperation in the field of healthcare.
In this vein, it is appropriate to recall that the Republic of Korea is in the top five countries with the largest trade turnover with Uzbekistan. In particular, last year the share of the Republic of Korea in the import of goods and services to Uzbekistan amounted to 7.2 percent.
Utmost assistance of the authorities to the implementation of investment projects in the social sphere, including healthcare, is conditioned by its priority in the country’s development strategy. At present, the issues having been raised in the appeals of citizens and medics in this area are being deeply studied, and a program of measures is being developed in the following seven directions.
The first direction is bringing the medical services of primary care institutions closer to the population and expanding their network. About $6 million will be allocated for these purposes this year.
The second direction is the development of the ambulance system. In particular, over the next 3 years, the ambulance fleet will be completely renewed; 65 million dollars will be attracted for these purposes.
The third direction is infrastructural. Over the past five years, about 2,000 medical institutions have been built and repaired, and 500 million dollars have been spent to equip 2,500 health care institutions with modern medical equipment and inventory.
Along with this, 1,100 medical institutions will be reconstructed and equipped. 227 maternity complexes will be renovated and equipped with modern medical equipment. The state and the conditions in 39 children’s hospitals will improve drastically.
The measures of the fourth direction are straightly related to social support and material incentives for medical workers.
The fifth direction is providing healthcare institutions with qualified personnel. Aimed at this, from the 2022-2023 academic year, admission quotas to medical universities on the basis of the state grants will be purposefully increased, the state grants for the master’s studies in 15 narrow specialties will be increased by 4 times.
The sixth direction is the prevention of diseases through the promotion and stimulation of a healthy lifestyle.
The seventh direction is the reorientation of the system towards financing based on the principle of “spending funds directly on the patient”.
Abovementioned systemic measures have been developed on the basis of a study of public opinion and mood. Characteristically, the monitoring of the public opinion has revealed a positive trend in the growth of the number of citizens, who had indicated an improvement in their material status and housing and living conditions in recent years.
The society is showing great enthusiasm for fundamental changes in the interaction of power with the people. The initiative of the head of state to form a new political format and political culture based on openness, readiness in dialogue with the people to discuss topical problems existing in society and to take measures to solve them is very positively assessed.
An approving assessment of the population was caused by the creation of the Virtual and People’s Reception Offices of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, whose work with citizens’ appeals makes it possible to identify omissions in the course of reforms, analyze the effectiveness of the activities of the state bodies, and also contributes to increasing the responsibility of the executive branch and the officials to the citizens.
Certainly, a sectoral approach to solving the problems of socio-economic development of territories (based on the principle of their division into areas of responsibility) speeds up the efficiency, thus, optimizing resource costs. Along with the heads of local authorities, the heads of the territorial divisions of supervisory and fiscal departments, as well as law enforcement agencies, are directly involved in this process.
Effective cooperation of the state institutions with the civil society institutions, primarily with makhallas (neighborhood), opens up new horizons in improving the well-being of the society.
The institution of trade unions is also becoming one of the effective means of dialogue between the authorities (represented by employers) and the specific groups of the society (represented by hired workers). Thus, today more than 33,000 primary organizations are effectively operating in the system of trade unions of the country, more than 6,500 workers and about 300,000 activists are selflessly working. Currently, the trade unions unite more than 5.5 million members in their ranks, directly contributing to ensuring their labor rights and interests. At enterprises and organizations, the average amount of funds allocated during the year for social support per employee has increased 5 times.
Particularly noteworthy is the fact that solutions were found for more than 100,000 appeals of women, which had been received on the “hotline” created under the Federation of Trade Unions of Uzbekistan.
Thus, strengthening the role of the civil society institutions in the socio-economic life of the population will allow responding to urgent problems at the stage of their occurrence, since these institutions also perform the function of a catalyst in making and implementing the necessary management decisions.
All in all, the creation of conditions for the upbringing of a harmoniously developed and socially responsible personality based on the spiritual and moral values of the people, preserved historical and cultural traditions will make it possible to fully realize the national potential to achieve the goal of building New Uzbekistan.