Long serving Uzbek central bank chief dies at 67

Long serving Uzbek central bank chief dies at 67
By bne IntelliNews May 24, 2017

The long-serving Central Bank of Uzbekistan chairman, Fayzulla Mullajanov, died in Tashkent on May 23 at the age of 67, the central bank’s press service said.

Despite being one of the longest serving officials in the ex-Soviet Central Asian country, Mullajanov’s death will likely have no visible impact on the course taken by the central bank, given that first President Islam Karimov and recently his successor Shavkhat Mirziyoyev have been the driving forces behind policy on the critical issue of currency control. 

Mullajanov held the post of chairman of the central bank since 1991, and had worked in the banking system since 1971.

A statement issued by the bank said that Uzbekistan’s banking and financial system “has suffered a heavy loss”, and described Mullajanov as “one of the founders of the banking system of Uzbekistan”. 

Under Mullajanov, Uzbekistan maintained its ongoing stringent restrictions on the local currency, which were originally imposed back in 1996. The controls resulted in a wide gap between the official and black market rates for the Uzbek som, distorting the country’s economy and providing lucrative pickings for well-connected insiders. The som’s unofficial rate fed double-digit inflation, unacknowledged in official figures, during the regional economic downturn in 2015-2016.

The currency controls cannot be directly attributed to Mullajanov in any way, as the initiative was the result of the late President Karimov’s effort to combat an enormous trade deficit, which had formed following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Mirziyoyev, who came to power following Karimov’s death in September, has revealed a plan to liberalise the currency market. Both in official statements in November and anonymously, Uzbek officials have confirmed the government is working on the programme.

Mullajanov’s first deputy, Khodjayev Saidkamol, was named as the bank's acting chairman, according to RFE/RL’s sources. Khodjayev previously worked as chairman of the board of the Uzbek Industrial and Construction Bank, according to the bank’s press service.

Mullajanov had been suffering from diabetes and chronic kidney disease over the past couple of years. He attempted to resign a number of times during Karimov’s rule, but the late Uzbek leader repeatedly refused his resignation even after Mullajanov briefly fell into a coma from kidney failure.