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Window on Eurasia — New Series: ‘Hidden Urbanization’ Threatens Uzbekistan, World Bank Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Mar. 21 – Rapid urbanization threatens the stability of all the countries in Central Asia, but Uzbekistan has concealed just how serious a problem that is by using Soviet-style registration procedures to force rural people coming to urban areas to live in the suburbs rather than in the cities themselves.

            As a result, according to the World Bank, Uzbekistan has released figures showing that the growth of its rural population still outpaces that of the cities in general and the major cities in particular. But in fact, that country suffers from what the Bank calls “hidden urbanization” (ia-centr.ru/publications/skrytaya-urbanizatsiya-uzbekistana-chem-ona-opasna-dlya-strany/).

            That term, the bank’s experts say, refers to a phenomenon unique to Uzbekistan among the countries of Central Asia in which the density of urban populations doesn’t increase but the number of urbanites does because they are not counted as such given that they are forced to live outside the center of the cities in suburban areas.

            According to the World Bank researchers, this pattern “slows down the development of the country’s industrial and service sectors because business activities within the cities doesn’t increase.” Moreover, it conceals just how much pressure rural flight to the cities is putting on urban centers.

            To overcome these problems, the Bank says, Tashkent must eliminate the “propiska” registration system and also come up with new and updated master plans and building codes for its cities. Otherwise, just below the radar screens of most observers, a potentially explosive situation is brewing.

2644322 Window on Eurasia — New Series

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