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India’s key Central Asian partner initiates series of measures to minimise Covid fallout

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India’s close partner in Central Asia — Uzbekistan— critical to Delhi’s outreach in the region has undertaken a series of measures to safeguard the country’s economy and provide adequate social support in its fight against Covid-19. This would play significant role in expanding economic partnerships with its partners including Delhi.

A comprehensive action plan has been adopted which can be divided in four areas — General economic measures; Measures of social support for the population; Measures to support entrepreneurship; and Measures to support the most affected sectors.

The Anti-Crisis Fund was the first country-wide step to mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic on the country’s economy. As of June 17th 2020, the income of the Fund (ten trillion soms) amounted to 7.44 trillion soms (local currency).

The funds were spent — 43 per cent went to support the economy, including thermal power plants, regional power networks, oil and gas networks, air transport and rubber industry;

6 per cent accounted for the Republican Agency for Sanitary and Epidemiological Well-Being for the purchase of test systems, reagents, and protective equipment, the cost of disinfection, the purchase of special equipment, etc.;

5 per cent went for water supply and irrigation activities; 9 per cent was spent for the construction and equipping of hospitals and quarantine complexes.

Measures were taken to support employment in the informal sector and create additional jobs. The reason is that out of 13.5 million people employed in the labour market of Uzbekistan, 7.8 million are considered to be in the informal sector, including 2.6 million labour migrants.For this reason, it is highly relevant for Uzbekistan to mitigate the negative impact of the pandemic and the crisis on informal employment. In this context, it is worth noting that support for entrepreneurship is seen as a great opportunity and reserve for creating new jobs, generating demand and supply in the market, and also for ensuring economic growth.

With this in mind, the President of Uzbekistan has put forward several important initiatives to prevent a sharp decline in employment and incomes. These include the expansion of the list of activities for self-employed citizens and the provision of permits for all forms of entrepreneurship (85 types of activities) that are not prohibited by law, development of the service sector (delivery of products and goods, organization of export trade and services), creation of optimal opportunities for providing services to business entities working online, the conditions for those engaged in deliveries.

Measures were taken to expand the allocation of social benefits and financial assistance. Specifically, in March, the number of recipients of benefits and financial assistance increased by ten per cent, and then, as a result of the automatic extension of appointed benefits and financial assistance, it grew by 1.2 times (increased from 596,000 to 719,000).

Measures have been taken to support retirees, single and lonely, and people with disabilities. The most important steps in this direction include the possibility for working pensioners to receive a two-month pension at a time, as well as the free provision of disposable masks, antiseptic and antibacterial fluids to lonely elderly people and persons with disabilities.

By the initiative of the President, the Sahovat va Kumak Foundation (Kindness and Support) was established to financially support those in need during the quarantine, temporarily unemployed citizens who have lost their income, to supply everyday goods, medicines and other products.

A smooth system of receiving assistance was organized in special pavilions storing food and other products in the city of Tashkent and the regions. As of June 10, a total of 194.6 billion soms ($19.1 million) of charitable funds were channeled to the special account of the Sahovat va Kumak Foundation under the Mahalla Foundation.

To date, 300.4 thousand needy families have been provided with 119 billion soms of financial assistance.

In accordance with the decree of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev from July 30 “On additional measures to provide financial support to segments of the population in need of social protection and assistance during the coronavirus pandemic”, more than 650 thousand families will receive financial assistance from the state. In particular, financial assistance will be provided to:

– more than 400 thousand families that are included in the list of those in need of social protection during the pandemic will receive around $38 million from the national budget;

– about a million people for the Holy holiday of Eid al-Adha will receive $20 million through local branches of the “Kindness and Support” Foundation;

– $15 million will be allocated from the national budget as financial incentives for representatives of the religious sphere;

– over $10 million will be allocated as financial assistance to doctors, nurses and drivers of emergency medical teams. This amount will be presented to 26 thousand families.

In addition, it is planned to increase the number of recipients of social benefits to 1.2 million by the end of the year. $42,6 million worth funds will be allocated from the budget for these purposes.

To prevent food price hikes and reserve the necessary volumes of food products, Uzbekistan has taken appropriate measures. The Committee for State Reserves Management compiled a list and the required volumes of foods to be imported and subject to intervention. Prices for socially important food products in the markets and artificial price increases are monitored and controlled daily to prevent artificial shortages and excessive demand.

The Committee for State Reserves Management was entrusted to ensure that food products are sold under contracts or exchange trading in sufficient volumes to keep the market full and stabilize prices for products on the domestic market at free prices. Customs duties and excises (by the end of 2020) on importing 13 types of food products, as well as seven types of hygiene products, have been set at a zero rate.

Amid the possibility of the global shortage of food products, there is a need for a mechanism to introduce modern approaches to the use of land to tap resources and opportunities available in agriculture, commission lands and allocate them to the population on favorable terms for growing agricultural products, doubling the number of crops, obtaining high yields, and creating new jobs in the agricultural sector.


Source :economictimes.indiatimes.com

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