Zone Profile: Jizzakh Free Economic Zone
The Jizzakh Free Economic Zone, Uzbekistan’s 7th SEZ, has been providing new jobs and bringing millions of dollars in investment to the country.
Uzbekistan and Jizzakh
The Jizzakh Free Economic Zone (sometimes spelled Jizzax) was founded as Uzbekistan’s 7th special economic zone (SEZ) in March 2013: The zone was created through presidential decree no. 4516 of 2013 . The zone was named for its location in the city of Jizzakh , an ancient settlement with a population of about 180,000 which was an important stop on the Silk Road between Samarkand and the Ferghana Valley.
Uzbekistan, the home of this SEZ, is a developing, double-landlocked country in Central Asia with an economy based mostly on agriculture and mineral resource exploitation. The country’s first president, Islam Karimov, led the country through its emergence from the USSR, until his death in 2016.
During the last years  of his tenure, he oversaw an approach for industrializing and developing the country, using SEZs as gateways for foreign capital and expertise. In January 2013 the Jizzakh Free Economic Zone was announced and was physically established a few months later.
The Zone at a Glance
The Jizzakh zone is positioned northeast of its namesake city, near the national M39 motorway. The city and the zone of Jizzakh are located halfway between Samarkand  and Tashkent, the country’s two largest cities. Recently, in July of 2021, Uzbekistan commissioned the Abu Dhabi Future Vitality Firm to construct a 220 megawatt solar energy farm, for which construction is to begin in early 2022.
The zone offers amenities such as power and gas lines, internet and water access, but no regulatory one-stop shop. Uzbek SEZs give certain benefits and exemptions: firms and workers in Uzbek SEZs are exempt from land, income, and construction taxes, among other tax exemptions, and exemptions from custom duties on materials and machinery not domestically produced.
These benefits are temporary, ranging from 3-10 years depending on the amount invested by the firm, ranging from $300,000 USD (3 years) to over $10 million USD (10 years) . However, tenants all receive a permanent exemption from custom duties on raw resources meant for export products.
The Zone Garners Interest
In 2016, ZTT Telecom, a part of the ZTT Group and a subsidiary of Chinese electronics manufacturer Jiangsu Zhongtian Technology Co. set up a joint venture with the Jizzakh SEZ. With ZTT Telecom as an anchor tenant, the zone gained traction and in 2016 the industrial park had 19 enterprises operating in the zone. 
Original equipment manufacturers quickly began moving into the zone, and 2016 zone exports equaled $11.9 million USD. The zone in 2016 additionally attracted $91.3 million USD in investment for 14 more projects. 
By the end of July 2017 the Jizzakh Free Economic Zone had a fully functional petroleum refinery prepared to buy Kazakh and Russian crude oil  with a refinement capacity of 1 million metric tons a year. By 2019, a new refinery was already being built as a joint project between state-owned Uzbekneftegaz and Gas Project Development Central Asia, a subsidiary of the Russian state-owned Gazprom. The refinery is able to refine 5 million  barrels of crude oil.
In 2018, the zone proved it was able to attract investment not just from China and Russia, but also from established Western companies. German IT firm Schneider Group  invested in the zone, and French auto manufacturer Peugeot  invested in an automotive plant at the Jizzakh zone, which would employ 600 people and produce 10,000 freight and passenger vehicles for export. By 2018, the zone had attracted $106 million USD. 
In 2019, the zone produced goods valued at $60 million , employed over 3,000 people, and had 20 projects being implemented. These projects brought in $250 million in investment, and was expanded by 180 hectares. The zone seemed to gain momentum up until the recession resulting from COVID-19.
Despite the very promising development of Jizzakh in its industrial capacity, there is always more than meets the eye.
Issues and Controversy
Uzbekistan has had a history of questionable leadership, unsound environmental policy, and inconsistent rule of law. Since its independence in 1991, Uzbekistan  has had only 2 actual leaders. The first, Islam Karimov, ruled from 1991 until his death in 2016, having served 25 years and 1 day Karimov won re-election 4 times, each time with about 90% of the vote; international observers generally considered these elections invalid.
Since then, president Shavkat Mirizyoyev, a member of the same party, seems to have made some reform attempts, which have been developing slowly. A 2020 human rights report described the situation in the country:
“Significant human rights issues included: reports of physical and psychological abuse of detainees by security forces, including abuses that resulted in the death of detainees; arbitrary arrest and incommunicado and prolonged detention; political prisoners; politically motivated reprisal against an individual located outside of the country; restrictions on freedom of speech, the press, and the internet, including censorship and intentional slowing of social media digital platforms..”
The Ferghana NPZ, a large Soviet-era oil refinery in the country’s Ferghana Valley region, was controlled by Akbarbali Abdulaev , a relative of the late dictator Islam Karimov. The refinery was recently the epicenter of a large scandal.
Abdulaev was charged  with embezzling hundreds of millions of dollars, after which he fled the country and received asylum in Ukraine on grounds of execution upon return to Uzbekistan. Since this has happened, Jizzakh Petroleum has taken control of the Ferghana refinery, despite the distance between Jizzakh and the Ferghana Valley being over 400 kilometers.
China in Uzbekistan
Another fact to note is that almost all of the Jizzakh anchor tenants  were based in China. Many of these firms export their products to China, their largest trading partner. In the period between January and July 2021, Uzbek exports to China were valued at $1.3 billion USD, making up more than 15% of Uzbekistan’s exports and showing a 28.6% growth from the same time the previous year.
The reasoning behind this is not purely economic, but also strategic: Uzbekistan is a partner in the Belt and Road Initiative, China’s Trans-Eurasian  megaproject that would not only build infrastructure between China and Europe, but also ensure Chinese control of that infrastructure.
If the Belt and Road Initiative develops fully, Uzbekistan would find itself greatly advanced in terms of infrastructure and industrial abilities, but would also find itself unable to pursue its own transport policy, as these resources would be Chinese-operated. 
Regional Stability and the Water Crisis
The Caspian region is unstable. Uzbekistan and its neighbors emerged during the collapse of the Soviet Union with strongman leaders - once these leaders leave office, (as in the case of Karimov) a power vacuum remains. Such gaps attract political purges and even Islamic extremism: Uzbekistan borders the tumultuous Afghanistan, with Jizzakh resting only 630 kilometers from Kabul. 
Traversing the region is problematic: Traveling from Jizzakh to the population center of the Ferghana Valley requires one to drive in a U-shape  around the mountains dividing the two. A mountain pass exists, but this pass is controlled by Tajikistan. In the pass, ethnic conflicts have been present since Soviet days. The conflict has recently evolved into water rights disputes over the Syr Darya river, which make the pass even less safe for travel.
The zone has grown massively in size and volume. Each year, the zone provides new jobs and brings in millions of dollars in investment, through established industries moving into Uzbekistan. It has lived up to becoming a regional hub for light and heavy industry.
However, the zone remains troubled by the region it’s in. Uzbekistan is known to be corrupt and opaque in its governance, with seizure and destruction of property not uncommon. One case of Jizzakh being included in a political scandal is known, and more may take place before lasting stability takes hold.
See Jizzakh Free Economic Zone on our Open Zone Map.
- Special Industrial Zone "Jizzakh"; Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Uzbekistan
- About Uzbekistan: Jizzakh; Uzbek Travel
- Uzbekistan, China to Develop Special Economic Zone in Jizzakh; The Gazette of Central Asia
- Infrastructure; Directorate Free Economic Zone “Jizzakh”
- Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan "About additional measures for expansion of production of modern construction materials and creating favorable conditions in the territory of SEZ "Jizzakh"; CIS Legislation
- ZTT settles in Uzbekistan industrial park; ZTT International Limited
- Enterprises of SEZ Jizzakh produce goods for 255.2bn soums in 2016; UZ Daily
- Uzbekistan ready to purchase oil for Jizzakh refinery; Trend News Agency
- Kazakhstan to send 2 million tons of oil to Uzbekistan; Eurasianet
- About Us; Schneider Group
- Single Portal For Free Economic Zones And Small Industrial Zones Republic Of Uzbekistan; SEZ
- Free Economic Zone “Jizzakh”; Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan to the Republic of Lativa
- Jizzakh Special Economic Zone of Uzbekistan increases its exports; Trend News Agency
- Uzbekistan 2020 Human Rights Report; United States Department of State - Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
- Uzbekistan's Largest Oil Refinery Changes Hands, Shaken by Dismissals, Theft; Uzbek Forum for Human Rights
- Under New Uzbek Leadership, Even Predecessor's Widow, Family Are In The Crosshairs; Radio Free Europe - Radio Liberty
- ZTT settles in Uzbekistan industrial park; ZTT International Limited
- The Seventh Meeting of the Uzbek-Chinese Subcommittee on Trade and Economic Cooperation was held; Investment Promotion Agency Under the Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade of the Republic of Uzbekistan
- South Caucasus and Central Asia: The Belt and Road Initiative Uzbekistan Country Case Study; World Bank
- Conference on the Aral Sea: Women, Children, Health and Environment; JSTOR
- High and Dry: Central Asia’s Failure to avert the impending water crisis; JSTOR