Uzbekistan minister touts booming economy

The ex-Soviet republic of Uzbekistan has been posting over eight percent of economic growth over the past seven years and attracted $120 billion of investments since it became independent in 1991, an Uzbek minister said Thursday.

"More than 50 percent of it is direct foreign investment, which has an annual growth of around 20-25 percent, said Elyor Ganiev, Minister of Foreign Economic Relations, Investments and Trade.

The Central Asia's most populous country with nearly 30 million people has attracted $6 billion foreign investment in 2012 with around 80 percent of it being direct foreign investments, according to Ganiev.

Ganiev was speaking at the opening of an Tashkent International Investment and Finance Forum held in the capital annually to showcase the country's investment opportunities.

An International Monetary Fund mission last December said that the economy of Uzbekistan continues to grow rapidly despite the global slowdown.

Uzbekistan's GDP grew by 8.3 percent in 2011 and by 8.2 percent through September 2012, boosted by high prices of major export commodities, and policies focused on domestic consumption and state-led investment, the IMF said.

The country's major economic partners are China, Japan, South Korea and Russia, while Asian Development Bank being the main international creditor.

Uzbekistan is a also key link in the transit of non-lethal goods for Afghanistan and a key base for coalition forces heading into the war-torn neighbour.

On Thursday, a visiting US official said Uzbekistan will remain an important partner of the United States even after the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014.

Uzbekistan has been ruled by strongman Islam Karimov since the collapse of the Soviet Union over 20 years ago.