22 june 2017

Central Asia news

Uzbek industry is short of qualified personnel

27.08.2007 09:38 msk

K.Nordonov

Business Uzbekistan

Preparations for celebration of Mustakilik take place in the Ferghana Valley the way they do all over Uzbekistan. The republican economy in the meantime is in need of specialists. The problem of checking their immigration into Russia and distant foreign countries remains pressing on the sixteenth anniversary of Uzbek sovereignty.

UzA news agency reported a special festival, Technical And Artistic Endeavor, at the Ferghana refinery not long ago. It became an exhibition of employees' successes, new products, patents, and masterpieces.

"Sovereignty offered us a great deal of opportunities," Assistant Director Alisher Gafurov said. "The productive capacity is up and so is quality. What counts is that our people here are cheerful. They take justified pride in their contribution to everything independence made possible." The actual state of affairs at the once prosperous refinery, however, is not as rosy as this flowery oratory indicates.

The situation did greatly improve over the last couple of years. Wage arrears were frequent in 2003. The personnel eventually called a strike and the refinery was brought to a halt. Criminal charges were pressed against refinery management. Some administrators were replaced.

It was whispered maliciously that the refinery owed this critical situation to Gulnara Karimova, the president's daughter controlling vital assets of the national economy. Whether she had been involved or not, wage arrears did stop after a purge in the refinery management.

In any case, the Ferghana refinery is one of the best effective enterprises in the namesake region again. It is located in the settlement of Kirguli, industrial satellite of Ferghana. The refinery is running at full capacity. Salaries of the personnel have been steadily growing and average 150,000 sums (about $130) these days which is an impressive figure for an Uzbek province.

"The population mostly increases in rural areas, the trend that demonstrates abandonment of the industrial-agrarian status of Central Asian societies reached in the Soviet period... Four or five years from now and domestic and external immigrants will lack even the minimum skills. Needless to say, this factor will have a negative effect on their employment in any sector of modern economies."

(Excerpt from Immigration Risks of Central Asian Countries by Borishpolets and Babajanov of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, 2006)

Salaries or not, Russian-speaking engineers and specialists leave Ferghana all the same. Overwhelming majority of the active and educated Russian population left Ferghana in the early 1990s, fleeing the overall decay of economy. There is nobody left to replace them. Ferghana refinery management is therefore doing what it can to keep the professionals. Salaries of setup men, engineers, and suchlike were doubled to 300,000 sums or $260 this August.

The so called "civilized divorce" cost Uzbekistan untold thousands of specialists who chose to return to their native country leaving the newly established sovereign state without qualified personnel. Left to its own devices, Uzbekistan failed to set up an effective system of higher professional education.

What is happening in Uzbekistan cannot be appraised as a rapid economic growth, but some enterprises are being whipped up into shape. Their level of output even approaches parameters of the Soviet past. Promises of substantial investments from abroad make one wonder about availability of personnel for major economic projects.

When Uzbekistan and Russia signed the alliance treaty in 2006, the rumors swept the former over how "300,000 specialists" were about to come from Russia to help restore the national economy ruined by the years of independence. Expecting them was of course naive. Russia needs all professionals it can lay hands on. It does not have engineers and assemblers to share with Uzbekistan.

Even the Russian investors made welcome in Uzbekistan after the events in Andijan in May 2005 face a shortage of qualified personnel. This personnel is not to be had for love or money despite the extremely high level of unemployment, particularly in rural areas. Before sending exploration teams to Uzbekistan, LUKOIL was compelled to organize crash courses there for welders, assemblers, drivers, and other workers.

In other words, population of Uzbekistan is leaving their country to become menial workers in other countries. Foreign companies in their turn are compelled to train their own personnel for their Uzbek projects.