As the temperature drops, and residents scramble to heat their homes, prices often rise in Uzbekistan.
But once again, Tashkent’s economic band-aids don’t look likely to provide much relief from the annual crisis. As he’s done before, on November 9, President Islam Karimov hiked salaries, pensions, and student allowances – this time by 10 percent. Starting December 1, the minimum monthly wage will be increased to about $30.
Can that compensate for the skyrocketing prices of goods and services?
According to the independent news outlet UzNews.net, the price of milk and butter in Tashkent has risen by 18 percent in the past month. Part of the rise in costs, milk sellers say, is to compensate for the 50 percent increase in train tickets on the rail line connecting the capital with its suburbs.
Tashkent residents complain of gas shortages and hikes in taxi fares. What’s more, says the UzNews report, the government is struggling to control the price of coal even though last month authorities set up distribution points for coal in the capital and many parts of the countryside and fixed coal prices and purchase quotas.
No matter what it does, Tashkent’s numbers don’t add up. Maybe because the numbers are wrong?
Back in May, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) advised the Uzbek government to beware of growing inflation. The IMF predicted that the inflation rate for 2012 would be the same as 2011 – 13 percent – and advised Tashkent to work on lowering inflation below 10 percent for 2013.
In response, the Institute of War and Peace Reporting reported, Tashkent simply restricted access to economic data. Uzbekistan’s inflation rate actually may be as high as 30 percent, said the IWPR report.
Certainly the forecasts for the upcoming year are not rosy. The IMF predicts consumer price inflation will stay around 11 percent, meaning that even in a best-case scenario, Karimov’s handout won’t offset rising prices.