Experts assess Uzbekistan’s shadow economy at 40% of GDP

By Muzaffar Ismailov in Tashkent October 4, 2023

Experts have estimated that Uzbekistan’s shadow economy accounts for around 40% of the country's GDP, or $32bn. Their conclusion was discussed on September 28 during a meeting on shrinking the shadow economy held by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (UzLiDeP).

Participants in the discussion looked at the reasons why the shadow economy accounts for such a high level of economic output and considered ways to encourage businesses to legalise.

The main components of the shadow economy include elements of the housing market, parts of the motor transport market and informal activities in trade, services and agriculture, the meeting heard.

Much of the tobacco market is anothe big component. The volume of illegal trading in tobacco products in 7M23 increased by 20% y/y. The state budget is thought to lose around $80mn or more annually from such trading.

The head of the customs committee, Ulugbek Kasymov, said 4.7mn packs of contraband cigarettes worth $6mn have been seized since the beginning of the year. On a year on year comparison, that's up fivefold in the year to date.

"It is necessary to reveal to the public the presence of entrepreneurs who evade taxes and do not perform their duties [as business entities]," said UzLiDeP representative Bakhtiyor Rukhiddinov.

Data on 2019 shows that in that year the shadow economy accounted for up to 48% of Uzbekistan’s GDP, or more than $25bn.

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