Uzbekistan’s Social Policy Response to Covid-19: A Test for the Mirziyoyev Regime

In 2016, after 25 years of international isolation, Uzbekistan started to open up and modernize its economy. In this phase, the Covid-19 pandemic hit the economy and society hard. The government reacted with a harsh lockdown. As an immediate crisis response, it allocated funds from international donors and the national budget to protect the economy and vulnerable groups. Due to a lack of data and public and scientific discourses, it is difficult to assess the effectiveness of these measures. As in other countries, the pandemic revealed well-known structural and institutional problems, such as inequality, poverty and the informal labor sector as well as the vulnerability of labor migrants. The budget for the healthcare system was increased significantly in 2020 and again in 2021. It is not yet possible to predict whether the pandemic will lead to policy changes in the long term. In addition to restrictions on personal liberty in the wake of the lockdown and curfew, the government also enacted a law that criminalizes the dissemination of false information, which has been criticized by human rights experts. It is safe to say that the reforms and opening up of the country since 2016 have significantly improved the government's crisis response capabilities. However, problems with the continuation of top-down decision-making also became apparent.