Uzbekistan Offers Risk-Prone Allure

Uzbekistan Offers Risk-Prone Allure

A looming economic crisis could force the Uzbek president to enact long-overdue reforms. Shavkat Mirziyoyev has now taken office, following the death of strongman Islam Karimov. And while some expect the new leader to rubber stamp the autocracy, Mirziyoyev may upend convention. One telltale sign: He unexpectedly opened the nation to visa-free travel this week. The move is modest, but it will generate essential hard currency. Remittances, primarily from Russia, are down at least 70% since 2013, due to the oil-price collapse. The cash crunch led the government to dissolve the Ministry of Labor and Social Security this year; those charged with job growth were terminated without notice or severance. For the frontier-minded, rapid liberalization may be in the cards, with attendant dealmaking opportunities.

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