In May 2020, UNDP launched the Business Clinic programme in Uzbekistan with the purpose of providing free legal and business advisory services to small and medium businesses (SMEs) and to individual entrepreneurs both during and after the quarantine. The clinic also serves to deliver complete and sound information about support measures envisaged in decrees of the President of Uzbekistan.
18 May 2020, Tashkent – In March of this year Uzbekistan’s leadership put in place stringent quarantine measures to prevent COVID-19’s spread. These included restricting vehicle traffic, closing outer and interregional boundaries, suspending attendance at kindergartens, schools and universities, and cancelling public events and meetings.
While placing constraints on the lives of all citizens, these quarantine restrictions have seriously impacted small businesses activities in Uzbekistan, as they have in other countries. For Uzbekistan this is a particular concern, as SMES make up 57% of the national economy. Reduced remittances from abroad, a severely hampered tourism industry, and challenges in trade and supply chains, have all created problems. Most companies have had to reduce both their production volumes and workforces, which has in turn adversely impacted the national employment rate, and the income generation of citizens.
With the purpose of mitigating the crisis’s economic impact, the President of Uzbekistan has developed a comprehensive package of support measures for legal entities and individuals. This has been based on Decrees of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan released so far in 2020, including #5969 dated March 19, #5978 dated April 3, and #5986 dated April 27. The Anti-Crisis Fund has also been established, and both supporting entrepreneurs and facilitating the population’s employment have been determined as its key priorities.
The Rapid Response Facility that UNDP has launched in Uzbekistan, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has proposed activities across three areas:
1) Undertaking rapid needs assessment, and finding ways of addressing those needs;
2) Implementing efficient anti-crisis management;
3) Supporting early recovery.
Within the third area, UNDP has joined the Chamber of Commerce and Industry to launch the Business Clinic programme for SMEs and individual entrepreneurs. This clinic will deliver free advisory services for entrepreneurs facing financial difficulties during the pandemic, on all issues related to reviving one’s business, as well as the benefits and preferences offered by the government.
The clinic has established a number of communication channels for engaging with entrepreneurs, including the hotline short number 1094, the t.me/biznes_klinika Telegram channel, and the www.businessinfo.uz website. UNDP invites all SME owners affected by the pandemic to receive qualified advice from experienced experts, and to access support measures (tax exemptions, custom clearance, concessional loans provided by the government), through the Business Clinic.
It is expected that the clinic will not just help SMEs weather the quarantine but will also offer ideas and opportunities for relaunching their operations in new directions. The clinic will help businesses to gradually move on from the crisis, revive their previous business connections, and achieve new levels of success.
Alongside the Business Clinic programme, a series of training courses for SMEs and entrepreneurs have been planned for launch online during the quarantine, and offline after the quarantine passes. These include courses aimed towards stimulating SMEs, developing business management skills, ensuring business sustainability and vitality, and helping businesses adapt to any changes they may face in the future.