Cash Shortage in Uzbekistan

Cash Shortage in Uzbekistan

Monday, 25 May, 2009
A shortage of cash has led the authorities in Uzbekistan to delay paying pensions, say NBCentral Asia observers.

On April 18, the Uzmetronom website cited a report from the Uzbek trade union newspaper Ishonch that some 8,000 people in the central Jizak province were finding it impossible to get their pensions.

Saifutdin, a 69-year-old from Jizak region, says he is in real hardship because of the hold-up in getting his pension.

“I’ve got asthma and I spend all my money on medicines,” he said. “Now I don’t have any money at all.”

Pension payments are also being delayed in other regions of the country.

“This is the second month we’ve been told the money hasn’t come in yet,” said Oydin, 70, from the capital Tashkent. “We used to get [our pensions] on the 5th or 6th of the month, whereas now we’re having to borrow money from friends and neighbours.”

Maria, who works at a post office in Tashkent, said the difficulties first arose three months ago, with money for pension payments transferred too late.

A media-watcher in the Bukhara region of western Uzbekistan says elderly people in the province have not received their pensions for two months now.

“The pensioners are still waiting patiently, seeing that even public sector employees aren’t getting their salaries,” said this commentator.

The situation seems to be even worse in Khorezm in the northwest, as the cashflow problems are affecting the entire population. Most people’s wages are paid onto special plastic cards, but when they go to withdraw banknotes at a cash machine, they find there is no money.

“There’s no cash in the ATMs,” said a local analyst.

The authorities have started deducting payments for electricity, gas and other utilities at source, apparently so as not to have to hand out so much cash.

Samarkand resident Khalida, 75, said about a third of her 80 US dollar pension was being withheld.

“There’s hardly anything left over, and I am having to borrow money,” she said. “We eat poorly and we can’t afford meat.”

Tashpulat Yoldashev, an Uzbek political analyst based abroad, thinks the benefit delays are a direct result of falling government revenues as businesses slow.

Other experts agree that the payment delays have coincided with the global financial crisis. One of the major impacts the crisis has had on Uzbekistan is that migrant workers in Russia and Kazakstan have been feeling the pinch and are sending less money home.

“The cash problems are going to get worse,” said Yoldashev.

(NBCentralAsia is an IWPR-funded project to create a multilingual news analysis and comment service for Central Asia, drawing on the expertise of a broad range of political observers across the region. The project ran from August 2006 to September 2007, covering all five regional states. With new funding, the service has resumed, covering Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.)

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