One working day each month will now be "Car-Free Day" in the capital of Uzbekistan. The plan is to reduce the environmental impact of vehicles and encourage people to use bicycles to get around the city. Restrictions will not apply to public transportation, or emergency vehicles. Government officials have been instructed to "set a personal example by arriving at the workplace on public transportation." The idea for car-free days originated in Switzerland in 1973, during a fuel crisis, before spreading to other European countries. In 1998 the European Union initiated a campaign called "In town, without my car!," which is held from September 16 to 22 every year. The need to reduce air pollution in Tashkent is especially acute. The Uzbek capital is among the five cities worldwide with the worst air quality -- and often tops the ranking. This was the case on February 21, for example, when the content of fine particulate matter (PM2.5 measurement) in the city's air amounted to 140.3 µg/m3 (micrograms per cubic meter) -- which exceeded the WHO recommendations by a whopping 28.1 times (5 µg/m3). The public is sounding the alarm and calling on the Tashkent authorities to take urgent measures to prevent an ecological disaster. Specialists believe that single actions are not enough to preserve clean air in big cities; comprehensive work is needed to address the root causes of the pollution. This critical situation has prompted the government to include measures to improve the country's ecology in the large-scale state program for implementing the "Uzbekistan-2030" strategic roadmap. For example, it plans to phase out vehicles from the capital and regional centers that do not meet Euro-5 standards by 2030, and to ban trucks weighing more than 10 tons from driving through Tashkent -- except for those of the Armed Forces and municipal services. From March 1, the population will be notified about excessive content of fine particles in the local atmosphere, and measures will be taken to protect against dust at large construction sites (500 square meters and larger) in the country. Special attention will be paid to persons with diseases of the cardiovascular system and respiratory tract. In addition, Uzbekistan plans to abandon the production of 80-octane (AI-80) gasoline by 2026, in part to help popularize the use of electric cars and electric urban transport. Currently, the only countries that still produce AI-80 gasoline are Uzbekistan and Afghanistan. Medical experts believe that automotive exhaust is one of the main causes of lung cancer in humans. Yahye Ziyayev, Secretary General of the Uzbekistan Oncology Association, noted that "when AI-72 and AI-76 were banned in Uzbekistan, the incidence of lung cancer decreased over the course of ten years."
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In April 2023 a new version of Uzbekistan's constitution was adopted following a national referendum. The country's legislation is still being amended, and the composition of government is being molded to these new laws. At the 49th plenary session of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis of Uzbekistan, senators approved a law that gives the Senate the right of self-dissolution. At the same time, new elections to the Legislative Chamber will be held within two months, and the new Senate will be formed within one month. They also reduced the number of Senate members by a third -- to 65 from 100 previously. Senators will now be elected proportionately from the Republic of Karakalpakstan, the regions and Tashkent city -- four people each -- and nine are appointed by the president himself. Previously, there were six and 16, respectively. The number of deputy speakers of the Legislative Chamber has also been reduced -- now there are only two compared to the previous seven. This was done because many of the powers of the upper house are duplicated. The number of permanent senators hasn't changed; it remains at 25. From now on, a representative holding the post of speaker must suspend their membership of a political party. One important innovation is that now a bill submitted by a group of 100,000 voters, the Senate, the Ombudsman or the Central Election Commission can be submitted to the Legislative Chamber for consideration. Members of the Legislative Chamber and members of the Senate, as part of a special commission, may conduct a parliamentary inquiry. Representatives also approved a number of exceptional powers for the Senate. Now the upper chamber of the country's parliament, among other things, can cancel the decisions of local representative bodies of state power -- if it concludes that they don't meet the letter of the law. Also, the Senate has the right to strip any of its members of immunity at the request of Uzbekistan's Prosecutor General.
Officials in Uzbekistan held an online meeting under the direction of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev on February 20th to discuss the top priorities in the realm of social services. One topic raised at the meeting was that the work of juvenile legal and social-assistance centers needs to be improved. It was stated that these centers ought to be transformed into facilities that deal with childhood issues inherent to those who have challenging upbringings, and that the center should offer complex social services to help children adjust to society. The President directed that institutions like the School of Life be reorganized. It was also underlined how important it is to give orphans land for farming, and also provide training in entrepreneurship and professions in order to help them fulfill their potential. The Cabinet of Ministers was set the task of establishing a system to enable orphans and young people who lack parental guidance and affection to find work in state organizations. To help complete this task, a list of young people in dire need of housing will be compiled by the Inson (People) social-service centers. The value of the housing provided to them is set by region and is based on fair market value. The amount of money set aside for these projects this year will total 140 billion som (~$11.2 million). Officials were instructed to provide housing for 500 orphans who are on the waiting list before June 1st.
A February 12th meeting chaired by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev focused on the topic of increasing fruit and vegetable production and exports in Uzbekistan, and an additional 60,000 hectares of land will be given to the local farmers with this goal in mind. Government data indicate that an extra $200m can be made in exports on an additional 1.5 million tons of agricultural products from such a move. The meeting also underlined the significance of teaching young people how to farm and keeping them employed across the farms of Uzbekistan. It was also noted that an extra $1bn worth of goods could be produced by introducing industry and collaboration to the farmsteads and land plots that the local population is being awarded. Credit resources worth one trillion som will be allotted for this. These loans are provided for cooperating to produce goods, purchase machinery, and fund working capital up to 100 million sum ($8,100) without collateral, or up to 150 million sum ($12,100) with 50% loan collateral. Ten thousand machines will be leased to farmers and farm laborers for a total of 10 years, with an additional three-year grace period. The three-year customs privilege will be extended for mini tractors and imported/leased cultivators. At the meeting, further steps were taken to encourage the production of fruits and vegetables in greenhouses. Officials mandated a revision to the crediting system for greenhouse farms. Mirziyoyev assigned the task of constructing up to 200 compact greenhouses measuring 10 square meters each, which must be handed over to farmers for use, after endorsing the experience of constructing fuel-free, small greenhouses. Unsecured loans up to 100 million sum ($8,100) will be made available for those greenhouses under the Family Business farm-credit program.
Uzbekistan has adopted a law focused on the pharmaceutical industry, meaning that on July 1, 2024, the country will introduce the GVP (Good Pharmacovigilance Practice) standard already in place in the European Union (EU). GVP standards relate to monitoring the safety of, reducing the risks from, and increasing the benefits of medicines. It will therefore become mandatory for wholesale medicine distributors to have certificates of compliance in the pharmaceutical industry. The law for chain pharmacies will come into effect in 2025, and for all other pharmacies from 2026. The law also tightens the rules for storing medicines in warehouses. Changes are also expected in the advertising of medicines, and from now on, the decision regarding any medicine's advertisements on television will be made by the Ministry of Health. Tougher measures for the pharmaceutical industry are rooted in the scandal caused by deaths from the "Doc-1 Max" cough syrup in 2023. In Uzbekistan, 69 children died and 18 were left disabled as a result of taking the medicine. Uzbekistan ranks among the first in the world in the number of pharmacies per capita, most of which are small outlets on the first floors of residential buildings. The new law may lead to the closure of thousands of pharmacies which fail to meet the new standards, and is likely to lead to an increase in the price of medicines. Pharmacy operators are already subject to strict requirements regarding pharmacy equipment, staff qualifications, and drug storage. According to the Agency for the Development of the Pharmaceutical Industry under the Ministry of Health of Uzbekistan, the number of pharmacies in the country reached almost 16,000 in 2022. The country's pharmaceutical market is growing at a rate of 8-10% per year, making it one of the fastest growing in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Uzbekistan also has eight research institutes and centers, and the only plant in Central Asian specializing in the production of insulin.
The deaths of several children in Uzbekistan caused by Marion Biotech's Dok-1 Max cough syrup have prompted the Indian government to make significant reforms in the pharmaceutical sector. In December 2022 the deaths of 18 children after taking Dok-1 Max were reported, but the cases didn't receive much publicity -- despite Marion Biotech then losing its license to sell that drug in March 2023. Sales of the syrup continued, and in August 2023 details emerged about 65 more child deaths from the same syrup. Local media reported that during the trial prosecutors said that officials had received a $33,000 bribe to not test the drug. As a result, 21 managers and employees of Quramax Medikal LLC, the Pharmaceutical Industry Development Agency and the Indian State Center for Expertise and Standardization of Medicines, Medical Devices and Medical Equipment were put on trial. The Indian Ministry of Health conducted inspections of all pharmaceutical plants in the country and, as it turned out, in addition to a lack of testing of incoming raw materials detected at 162 plants, less than 25% of the existing 8,500 small pharmaceutical plants meet the requirements of WHO international standards. India has introduced new standards in 2024 to which every company operating in the pharmaceutical industry will have to adhere. According to Tafsilar news agency, the new decrees gave large factories no more than six months to bring everything in line with international standards, while smaller factories were given a year.