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Constitutional reforms to open up ‘New Uzbekistan’: Senate first deputy chair

The Uzbekistan Senate’s first deputy chairperson Sodik Safoev discusses recent infrastructure changes in Seoul during an interview with The Korea Herald at Lotte Hotel, Seoul, Thursday. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald).
The Uzbekistan Senate’s first deputy chairperson Sodik Safoev discusses recent infrastructure changes in Seoul during an interview with The Korea Herald at Lotte Hotel, Seoul, Thursday. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald).
Constitutional reform will create the legal basis for further democratization of Uzbekistan and accelerate economic reforms, Sodik Safoev, the first deputy chairperson of Uzbekistan’s Senate, said in an interview with The Korea Herald Thursday.

Safoev was leading a delegation to Seoul to address a roundtable conference on constitutional reforms in the Central Asian country.

He emphasized the need to simplify several aspects of Uzbekistan’s current Constitution, which was adopted in 1992.

According to Safoev, two largest parliamentary factions in Uzbekistan -- the Liberal Democratic Party and National Revival Democratic Party -- initiated constitutional reforms and Uzbekistan’s parliament created a constitutional commission of 47 people from among members of parliament, senators, civil society representatives, leading lawyers and political scientists.

Safoev applauded President Mirziyoyev’s proposal to adopt the draft constitution through national discussion and a referendum.

The Uzbekistan legislature has the authority to independently introduce amendments to the constitution under the current system.

“The constitutional commission has already received over 60,000 proposals from citizens,” he said.

Citing experts and the population, Safoev said that a new version of the constitution would firmly enshrine fundamental principles of Uzbek society’s life, in particular its secular and democratic character.

Safoev highlighted constitutional reform initiatives by President Mirziyoyev to completely abolish the death penalty, consolidate institutional and legal concepts such as “Miranda rights” and the principle of “habeas corpus,” and lift the constitutional provision that allows punishment and sanctions for the relatives of criminals, including disadvantages in employment.
The Uzbekistan Senate’s first deputy chairperson Sodik Safoev speaks in an interview with The Korea Herald at Lotte Hotel, Seoul, Thursday. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald).
The Uzbekistan Senate’s first deputy chairperson Sodik Safoev speaks in an interview with The Korea Herald at Lotte Hotel, Seoul, Thursday. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald).
Safoev said that the reforms would strengthen constitutional foundations for humane treatment of people deprived of their liberty and consolidate constitutional norms on the right to a private life.

He said that the reforms would also link the constitutional right of every citizen to free and unhindered movement in Uzbekistan and everything related to the issue of choosing a place of residence with unhindered entry and exit.

Reforms would strengthen state support for entrepreneurship to develop economic and business activities, the first deputy chairperson said.

He stressed the need to redistribute the functions of various branches of government and increase regional independence for stimulating domestic and foreign investment. There is also a need to enhance administrative management, he said.

Safoev suggested strengthening the influence of parliament in society at the local level.

Underlining the economic aspects of the reforms, Safoev said that the new Constitution aims to guarantee the protection of private property rights and create legal conditions for agrarian reform.

He cited “openness to the world” as one of the determining factors in the emergence of a new Uzbekistan, applauding the reforms of recent years that have formulated and implemented Uzbekistan’s renewed foreign policy. However, he said Uzbekistan’s foreign policy should be developed further when considering rapidly changing situations in Uzbekistan and the world.

Safoev explained how he thought Uzbekistan could turn into a zone of stability, sustainable development and good neighborliness – and thus achieve mutually beneficial cooperation.

“Ecology should become the main priority of diplomacy,” underlined Safoev.

Safoev said that economic reforms would improve the investment climate and support liberalization as well as entrepreneurship.

“Uzbekistan’s economy has grown by 24 percent over the years of reforms despite external shocks,” said Safoev.

“In 2016, Uzbekistan attracted $1.6 billion of foreign direct investment, and in 2019, $4.2 billion,” he said.

Despite COVID-19, small businesses showed impressive growth, and the number of entrepreneurs almost tripled to 1.5 million people, with enterprises employing about 5 million people, according to Safoev.
The Uzbekistan Senate’s first deputy chairperson Sodik Safoev poses with delegation members and guests after an interview with The Korea Herald at Lotte Hotel, Seoul, Thursday. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald).
The Uzbekistan Senate’s first deputy chairperson Sodik Safoev poses with delegation members and guests after an interview with The Korea Herald at Lotte Hotel, Seoul, Thursday. (Sanjay Kumar/The Korea Herald).
“GDP per capita will increase by 1.6 times over the next five years, and per capita income will reach up to $4,000 by 2030,” he said, adding that such increases will enable Uzbekistan to come up as an upper-middle income level country.

According to Safoev, Uzbekistan has stepped up its push to join the World Trade Organization in order to establish free trade zones in border areas with neighboring states.

Safoev said his country was hoping to attract $120 billion into its economy.

“Now it is necessary to resolve a number of systemic issues, without which there are serious threats of stagnation of the ongoing reforms,” he added.

Uzbekistan strongly supports South Korea’s bid to become nonpermanent member of the United Nations Security Council in 2024-25, said Safoev, who served as ambassador to Washington from 1996 to 2001.

According to Safoev, deepening of bilateral political dialogue, interparliamentary interaction, cultural and humanitarian cooperation and ties through public diplomacy is a powerful element for ensuring peace, security and sustainable development of Uzbekistan and South Korea.

He highlighted Uzbekistan-South Korea trade turnover, and how the number of joint ventures have almost doubled, reaching $2 billion in recent years. The current volume of Korean investments in Uzbekistan exceeds $7 billion, he said.

“Uzbekistan highly appreciates ongoing projects in the field of health care and education,” he said, citing branches of leading Korean universities -- Inha, Buchon, Yeoju, Ajou – established in Tashkent and the Korea International University in Ferghana.

Safoev acknowledged South Korea for its continued support for Uzbekistan in implementing large-scale reforms for political and economic modernization.

“Eighty-five years ago, despite their own difficulties, the Uzbek people warmly and cordially welcomed migrants deported by the totalitarian regime (of the Soviet Union), sharing with them the last piece of bread and shelter,” recalled Safoev.

“A 200,000-strong diaspora of Koreans live in Uzbekistan,” said Safoev, applauding the Korean government and Korean people’s efforts for building Seoul Park in Uzbekistan and a memorial monument.

Seoul Park was established in Uzbekistan’s capital city Tashkent to spread appreciation of traditional Korean aesthetics in 2014.

“Gratitude to the Uzbek people for warmth and kindness” is a memorial monument in Tashkent dedicated to Korean people who were deported to the territory of Central Asia during the Soviet era.

“The majestic monument is a symbol of our indestructible brotherhood,” Safoev said.

By Sanjay Kumar (sanjaykumar@heraldcorp.com)
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