"I’m going for a swim," says Pelle Bendz, a 52-year-old Swede, as he rummages in the jeep for his bathing trunks. The other tourists look at him, bewildered. What’s left of the Aral Sea is reputed to be a toxic stew, contaminated by pesticides and other chemicals. But the weather’s hot and Bendz insists his travel agency told him “swimming” was part of the package.
Any hopes that Jameson Irish Whiskey had of making inroads into Central Asia's emerging spirits market have suffered a blow after Uzbek officials ruled that it did not have the right to use the brand name in the country.
Uzbekistan’s energy sector is sputtering, and blackouts are becoming more common in the Central Asian nation. To help keep popular discontent in check, Islam Karimov, the country’s strongman president, has come up with an ambitious renewable energy program.
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.
Just a week ago at a cabinet meeting, Uzbek leader Islam Karimov hailed the achievements of the Uzbek economic model, which is basically a retrofitted command system. But Karimov clearly hasn’t gotten out of the capital much lately. For many citizens in Central Asian most populous state, electricity cuts and gas shortages have become a defining feature of this winter.
The recent sentencing of a executive connected with a troubled British gold mining venture in Uzbekistan offers fresh evidence that Tashkent has foreign investors in its cross-hairs. Some observers suspect a behind-the-scenes power struggle is responsible for a string of incidents involving foreign-operated companies in Uzbekistan.