September 28 2017, Fergana region
On September 26, 2017, the Central Bank of Uzbekistan sent a letter to the heads of its regional branches and commercial banks, requesting each employee to recruit five people for the cotton harvest.
The order, signed by the deputy chairman of the Central Bank, Shukhrat Atabaev, states that in order to “facilitate the collection of cotton in 2017”, a report listing those workers who have been sent to pick cotton should be submitted “every day by 7 pm”.
According to unofficial data, if a bank employee fails to send five collectors to the fields, he is obliged to pay half a million soums (almost $ 190) to his manager in order to pay for hired workers.
The letter is in stark contrast to a speech given by the President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, on September 19 at the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, in which he declared that his country would no longer use child or forced labor in the cotton industry. Two days later, the head of the Uzbek government, Abdullah Aripov, held a conference call, demanding that students, teachers and medical workers be immediately called back from the fields. Most of them returned, and the vacancies were filled with other workers.
Formally, the demand of the Central Bank is set out in the form of a request, but it is obvious that there is no choice other than to implement it. Nevertheless, there is a possibility that some bank managers will dare to ignore it and it remains to be seen what consequences that will have.
Currently, there are 28 commercial banks operating in Uzbekistan, including three state-owned banks, twelve joint-stock companies, eight private banks and five banks with foreign capital. Data on the total number of employees of these institutions is not publicly available.
Source: International news agency “Fergana”