The outward signs in Tashkent, Uzbekistan’s capital, suggest nothing out of the ordinary is going on. But whether or not Uzbek strongman Islam Karimov has experienced a serious heart attack, as some reports suggest, the episode highlights the fact that no clear-cut succession plan is in place.
Uzbekistan is a land almost synonymous with Oriental bazaars. Yet shoppers in Central Asia’s most populous state are hesitantly embracing the shopping mall – at least in the capital, Tashkent. The change in consumer habits seems partially connected to government efforts to pad state coffers.
Uzbekistan has introduced sweeping new banking and import regulations that appear designed to keep hard currency from leaving the country. Observers say residents and entrepreneurs should expect a bumpy ride in the coming months, as the cumbersome new measures are expected to drive up prices for basic goods and encourage an expansion of the shadow economy.
Newly released documents appear to make a connection between executives from a Swedish company accused of bribing its way into Uzbekistan’s telecoms market and Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of the country’s strongman, Islam Karimov.
When members of Team Uzbekistan returned from the London Olympic Games last month, they were hailed at the airport by cheering crowds and enthusiastic television news coverage. But sports fans are grumbling, complaining that Tashkent’s lumbering, centralized way of managing sports is to blame for a disappointing medal harvest.
President Islam Karimov's administration in Uzbekistan wants school-age children to be in school and studying. Yet a new rule imposed on schools and universities indicates that officials are worried Uzbek youngsters are learning too much.