WASHINGTON - Uzbek leaders, like others in Central Asia, face an additional challenge as they marshal resources to confront a post-coronavirus future – a human capital deficit following decades in which some of its most talented citizens have left to pursue better opportunities elsewhere. Now, the nearly 4-year-old reform-minded government of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev is appealing for some of those expatriates to come home.
“You left or stayed abroad because there were no opportunities to achieve your dreams,” said Minister of Foreign Trade and Investments Sardor Umurzakov in an address to Uzbek professionals in January. “But the times we dreamed of are here.”
The Mirziyoyev government is appealing to altruism and patriotism, but realizes that is not enough. It is putting in place a program of incentives to attract new talent for the country’s political, economic, and intellectual establishment.
The COVID-19 pandemic has also attracted fresh attention to existing efforts such as the “El-yurt umidi” or “Nation’s Hope” Foundation. With an initial government investment of $75 million in late 2018, the program envisioned training 5,000 specialists within two to three years at top international schools.
“The state is funding graduate, PhD, postgraduate, and training opportunities,” said the foundation’s leader, Adham Bekmurodov, with a goal “to place them in government institutions where they can work to speed up reforms.”
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