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Quest Means Business

Trump Falsely Claims Gag Order Keeps Him From Testifying; Trump Hush Money Trial Set To Resume After Tense Day; NYPD Continue To Take Action At New York City Colleges. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired May 03, 2024 - 08:00   ET



REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC): We must not stop any protest. This great country was born out of a protest. This great movement where was demographic union,

over time, many times over, born out of protest. So, we must protect that. But, we cannot condone lawlessness. And when you use violence in order to

manifest your protest, you have stepped over the line.


RICHARD QUEST, HOST: It is 5 o'clock in the afternoon in Tashkent in Uzbekistan. We are here in Uzbek for a special edition of QUEST MEANS

BUSINESS at an earlier hour so that we can enjoy the weather.

Tonight, Donald Trump's lawyers on the attack, trying to undercut credibility of Stormy Daniels' lawyer. Secret recordings played in court,

and that trial begins in the next hour. We will have full coverage as and when it happens. Uzbekistan is undertaking economic reforms. It wants to

boost foreign investment. On this program today, we're going to hear from the U.S. Ambassador. You'll hear from the head of the EBRD, and the digital

minister will be with us along with the CEO of Masdar, the UAE energy company.

I'll be exploring the metro, the subway, the underground, call it what you will. We went for a ride in Tashkent because we all have 14 cents. You'll

see those palatial stations, well, with a space thing. That's something that you'll not see anywhere else, except arguably possibly Moscow. Live

tonight from Tashkent in Uzbekistan, it is Friday. It's May 3. I'm Richard Quest, and it is Uzbekistan. You better believe, I mean business.

And a very good day to you, and a warm welcome wherever you're joining us. We are live tonight in Uzbekistan's capital, which is a central Asian

nation at the crossroads. The difficult parts, of course, between China, East, West, Russia, Europe, the country has an ambitious reform plan, which

the country is aiming to attract $70 billion in direct foreign investment over the next five years. And this is the numbers according to the Ministry

of Investment and Trade. If history is to go by, they will meet those targets. The question, of course, is where the money is coming from?

Business leaders gathered here for the Tashkent Investment Forum, and I'll be speaking to them throughout the course of the hour ahead.

We must now return to New York in the United States where the Donald Trump hush money trial begins in just 90 minutes from now. There was a tense day

of testimony when we had Stormy Daniels' lawyer who was giving evidence and being cross-examined, Keith Davidson. Now, the Donald Trump team was cross-

examining him, trying to undercut his credibility, as indeed of course the prosecution will now have to show it back up again. Trump's lawyers accused

him of near extortion, and said that Davidson wrapped many celebs, and Donald Trump said the deal was nothing new, and at that point, Davidson

became defensive.

Another gag order hearing took place yesterday. This time, it was the prosecutors who wanted Trump said -- they said violated it four times. He

says he attacked Cohen and talked about David Pecker in a way to intimidate future witnesses, basically believing that he'd said nice things about

Pecker. But, this time, they weren't asking for jail, just a fine of $1,000 for each infringement. Donald Trump has been warned of possible jail time.

The former President spoke about the order and falsely claimed it barred him from testifying.


DONALD TRUMP (R), FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT AND 2024 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I'm not allowed to testify. I'm under a gag order, I guess. I can't

even testify in that. Now, we're going to be appealing the gag order. I'd love to answer that question. It's a very easy question, the easiest

question so far. But, I'm not allowed to testify because this judge, who is totally conflicted, has me under an unconstitutional gag order.


QUEST: Zachary Cohen is in Washington, joins me now. Zachary, this morning over my breakfast here in Tashkent, I chose to read a large part of

yesterday's trial transcripts, which we get at the end of the day. I was fascinated, because particularly on this gag order issue, we're dealing

with fundamental issues here of Trump's right as running for President to speak outside the court.


The court basically saying, yes, Mr. Trump, and that's why we let you have that setup, that we've just seen in the picture, but it's pretty

fundamental stuff they're dealing with.

ZACHARY COHEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: It really is. And Judge Merchan again reiterating that in court yesterday, saying he is not

stopping Donald Trump or forcing Donald Trump to go speak to reporters when he leaves court or when he enters court every day. He is has a very strict

and a very specific set of guidelines. Trump cannot talk about the jury. Trump cannot talk about potential witnesses. And Judge Merchan's concern

here, and he voiced it again yesterday, was that by talking about these witnesses, even a witness like Michael Cohen is a little bit combative in

the press himself. It could impact the other witnesses in this case, as it's sort of a trickle-down effect. So, that's really the concern that

Judge Merchan voiced as far as the gag order goes.

As you know, they did not -- Judge Merchan did not issue an order on the gag order, whether or not he is going to impose sanctions for those

supposed four more violations of the gag order the prosecution brought up yesterday, but he has threatened Trump with jail time, as you mentioned.

So, it will be interesting to see how he handles that going forward.

QUEST: If we look at the actual evidence that we're now hearing from Davidson, the significance of managing to discredit him is nothing more

than a sleazy lawyer who reps for celebs who want to sell stories. I mean, I guess the jury would say, well, that wasn't really much in doubt. So, in

what way does the Trump defense make headway here?

COHEN: Yeah. It's really interesting. Their strategy yesterday was essentially comparing Donald Trump to Hulk Hogan, the wrestler, to actress

Lindsay Lohan, to other celebrities who Keith Davidson help facilitate payments for, essentially saying, look, he is slimy. They tried to paint

him as slimy, paint him as somebody who walked right up to the line of extortion. That's what Trump's attorney said yesterday, sort of walking the

jury into that framing of Keith Davidson. Now, it remains to be seen it the jury will buy that law. As you mentioned, it -- that's probably a foreign

concept to them. As you know, it's not normal for journalists to pay for a story not to run one.

And it really is at the core of the prosecution's case here that they had to convince the jury that this was an extraordinary payment, an exceptional

payment, and one that was intended to influence the outcome of the presidential election. That is still the bridge that prosecutors have to

build, and it's the one that they're going to try to continue to do so today. But, look, they made progress on that yesterday too by introducing

these audio recordings of Michael Cohen, trying to show that Donald Trump didn't know about these payments. So, we'll pick back up with a forensic

analyst today and we'll see where they go from there.

QUEST: Creating that bridge or building that bridge is essential if they're going to prove the alleged crime had been committed. Zachary, I'm grateful

for you. Zachary Cohen, you'll be watching over events today.

The other major story out of the United States that we're following is the campus unrest that's currently existing in the U.S. Now, the police

attention and action was at The New School, which is in New York City. The New York Police Department is seen here outside one of the school

buildings. They are conducting an operation, and they detained, arrested a number of officials. It, of course, follows the actions that were seen at

NYU and Columbia as well, of course, which were cleared out pro-Palestinian encampments earlier.

Polo Sandoval is with me to the latest. So, we've seen Columbia. We've seen NYU. Now, we have The New School. And are more joining or is it abating?

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: These scenes are certainly repeating themselves, Richard. Spending well over a week at Columbia University, you

really get a sense that among many of these students that there is still hope that this presence on sidewalks, on campuses will pressure university

officials into divestment from companies with Israeli ties. So, they are quite determined here. But, despite that, when you see these pictures, it

is clear, Richard, that universities certainly are drawing that line in the sand, and today, it was crossed, according to the NYPD, not only at The New

School, but also at New York University. Both, we should remind viewers around the world, in the heart of Manhattan, saw that police action. Both

universities requesting assistance from the NYPD to clear out those encampments.

What we know about what took place on the NYU campus just a couple of hours ago, actually, was that there was an encampment on a sidewalk, nearly seven

days there, the university saying that those people that were on the sidewalk are blocking a walkway, were trespassing, after those talks with

members of the encampment proved unsuccessful. That is when yesterday, New York University reached out to the NYPD for assistance. And I watched some

of the images coming in, some of those images that were posted by New York Police in which you see officers really calling on members of that NYU

encampment to clear out or face trespassing charges, face arrest. We do not know if they actually went through with that threat, if anybody was

arrested at NYU.


But, when you see the pictures from The New School from overhead, Richard, that you just referenced a few moments ago, you do see members of that

other separate occupation, as they described it, being taken into custody. So, yes, we do continue to see these situations unfold throughout the

country. But, we also are seeing universities reach out to law enforcement for assistance in clearing them out.

QUEST: Polo Sandoval who is in New York with that story for us, grateful to you, sir.

It's coming up to 10 past five here in Tashkent. Uzbekistan, as far as the argument goes, people would have said a few hours ago, can you find it on a

map? Well, the country has ancient origins, and it is absolutely at the crossroads of the world trade, the Great Silk Road, the Belt and Road

Initiative. It is a key stop in the global trade routes, and it's emerging from its Soviet past. Independence came in the early 90s. But, arguably,

it's only in the last decade when there was a change of administration. It was only then that modernization truly arrived in this country. And now

Uzbekistan is recapturing its position as a trade hub.


QUEST (voice-over): From its roots in antiquity, Uzbekistan is trying to chart a modern path. The territory that now makes up the country once

connected East and West, on the ancient Silk Road. Its cities such as Samarkand and Bukhara date back more than 2,000 years.

QUEST: Uzbekistan is doing an impressive job in balancing its various histories. Take for example this 16th century ancient Islamic mosque and

the new Islamic learning center being built right now. It's the same with the Soviet-era. How to keep that which is important from the past, whilst

making sure the country is ready for the 21st century digital future?

QUEST (voice-over): Its capital, Tashkent, is undergoing a major reconstruction. Cranes are everywhere, as its leaders move further and

faster to leave its Soviet past behind. It's a shift increasingly important after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Uzbekistan is trying to become a new

connector of East and West, strengthening ties with countries like the United States, France and China. The country's geography is one of the many

challenges to its growth. It's double landlocked making the management of scarce resources like water extremely important.

It's also working to address corruption, and its citizens still lack many political freedoms. Through opening up to tourists and bolstering its high-

speed train system, its leadership hopes to speed its way forward in the right direction.


QUEST: The fascinating architecture that's changing between old and new. Well, Jonathan Henick is the U.S. Ambassador to Uzbekistan. We wanted to

have him live on today's program. But, he said to me, he couldn't come today because the embassy has its July 4th Independence Day celebration

today because it's too hot in the middle of July. Well -- but, he did tell me when he did join me to discuss this, that this country has a very

interesting place, both in history and in the future.


JONATHAN HENICK, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UZBEKISTAN: Uzbekistan occupies a very strategic geography. It's a difficult neighborhood, as our Uzbek friends

will often point out. You have Russia to the north, China, Afghanistan, Iran, doubly landlocked country. But, for all those reasons and for

historical reasons as well, it's also this, historically the center of a major trading route, has -- is very rich in terms of natural resources as

we surrender critical minerals, energy resources, if we're talking about the whole region, of course, and therefore for the United States, it's

strategically very important.

QUEST: So, how do you avoid this idea of a mercantilistic approach? The U.S. is interested in the rare earths. It wants to get won over on China,

therefore, it will play nice with this Uzbekistan.

HENICK: Yeah. I don't think our policy is ever that way. I mean, I think what we want to make sure is that the rare commodities that you have here

are not locked up by any one country and are available for global use and for development purposes for any countries that choose to purchase them. In

the end, Uzbekistan has its own agency in this. And what we want to do is offer Uzbekistan choices. So, to take the strategic frame out a little bit

more, Uzbekistan has been very clear that they want to diversify their relationships. For much of their history, they've been overly dependent on

one nation or another. And they've been very deliberate over the last several years about pursuing better relations, not only with the United

States, but with the European Union, with Korea, with Turkey, and the United States wants to be one of Uzbekistan's partners.


QUEST: But, is it your fear that at times of tensions, Russia-Ukraine, U.S.-China, that Uzbekistan could slip into the orbit, if you use that for

strategic-wise, it could slip into the orbit of countries that you would prefer not to?

HENICK: Our policy is to support his Uzbekistan's independence and sovereignty, and Uzbekistan can't be independent and sovereign if it's

totally dependent on any one country. So, obviously, we would prefer that Uzbekistan have choices, and we want to be one of those choices.

QUEST: When you look at the issues, reform is here. The President said the reform is irreversible. You heard him say it.

HENICK: Many times.

QUEST: Do you believe him?

HENICK: I believe and he believes it. And I believe that he is absolutely committed to the -- to his vision for the country, and he has done

incredible things here. I mean, if we look at the elimination of child and forced labor, if we look at this -- making the currency convertible, if we

look at systematic reduction of tariffs, he is really making this a much more attractive place for foreign investments. But, I think you and I both

know, historically, that these things can be reversed. And so, I think more needs to be done, I think, before we can be absolutely confident that

Uzbekistan is firmly on this path.

QUEST: LGBT remains criminal in this country. Does the United States, at suitable opportunities, point out that this should change?

HENICK: We do. It is our policy around the world to support human rights, including here in Uzbekistan. But, on some of these issues, I think the

best approach is that countries are not going to change at the point of a gun. They're not going to change simply because of outside pressure.

They're going to change when the societal attitudes towards these issues change and at a time and place of their choosing. But, we'd like to see

that happen sooner rather than later.

QUEST: Finally, what do you like most about being here? Because you're an extremely experienced diplomat, and you've had some pretty tough postings.

Haven't you?

HENICK: I have.

QUEST: I mean -- so, now this -- this isn't a soft posting, but it's an easier. What do you like here?

HENICK: This is -- for a professional diplomat, it's a dream assignment. It's culturally fascinating every single day. I'm blessed to be here at a

time when our relationship is good and getting better, which is not something that's always within our control. I have this nice, healthy

distance from Washington, which gives me a certain degree, a certain measure of independence, which is professionally satisfying. But, maybe

most importantly, it's a country that matters to U.S. national security interests. And so, I come to work every single day, understanding what the

mission is and understanding that my job is important.


QUEST: That's the U.S. Ambassador here in Uzbekistan. The country's architecture tells a story, a story of this rich history in the country. I

took a tour of Tashkent. I heard how new attitudes, how the city is changing, and you'll see what's happening.


ALEXANDER FEDOROV, ARCHITECTURE EXPERT: Young people, new people is thinking that we have some new. We have new architecture. We have new way.





QUEST: A developing nation moving on to OECD standards, the Uzbek economy is projected to grow by some 5.2 percent. It's a sizable number, according

to the International Monetary Fund. But, there is a lot to balance here. You've got the recent reforms, and some of them are extremely recent, by

the way. And yet, at the same time, the geopolitical headwinds. You look at -- just think of Russia-Ukraine. Remember, this country was part of the old

Soviet Union.

Well, the head of the EBRD, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Odile Renaud-Basso, says that Central Asia and Uzbekistan is

in a delicate position.


ODILE RENAUD-BASSO, PRESIDENT, EBRD: I think, globally, the economy has weathered quite well with all the shocks and (inaudible) and then the

impact of the war on Ukraine and all the geopolitical consequences for the region, Central Asia, which is really in the middle in the epicenter, are

in the way of the tension. But, I believe the economy has weathered quite well, six percent growth on a steady wave, macroeconomic stability,

inflation going down. So, I mean, I believe that they really managed well. Reform are continuing.

I think that the big question was whether after a first wave of reform in the first mandate of the President there would be -- we have the energy to

continue, and I think what we are seeing now is a new wave of reform, which are very important because -- to open up.

QUEST: But, that new wave of reform is based on what?

RENAUD-BASSO: Opening up -- I mean, opening up state-owned enterprise, reforming privatization, energy sector reform that has taken place, but

that has unlocked a lot of investment in the energy sector, taking advantage of the big potential in renewables, solar, wind, and so forth,

but also financial markets, reform, banking sector reform, that's part of the privatization, that would also should facilitate unlocking the

potential of SMEs development and growth.

QUEST: They have to avoid the kleptocracy and the -- particularly as you do privatization, you have to avoid the old Soviet Union to Russia, sell off

to the oligarchs, and ensure that there is a proper distribution, and ensure proper safeguards.

RENAUD-BASSO: Absolutely. Transparency, competition is very important, and rural flow. That's a key element for success -- I mean, being successful in

the reform implementation, and that's something -- having open competition, transparent processes, and so forth, this is absolutely key to have the

right incentive, to have the best prices, and to have the best outcome for the people, because all the -- the objective is really to develop the

country, but for the benefit of the people.

QUEST: Can we talk about Ukraine? You're still -- you're very committed now in Ukraine, and the situation is not getting any better there. In fact,

it's getting worse. How concerned?

RENAUD-BASSO: I mean, we are -- there is a positive news in the element, which is the U.S. package, which I think will really -- I mean, it's a big

relief. I think it's an important moment and important decision to help the situation, in particular on the military's front, but also in the economy.

I mean, the situation is not easy. But, we've also seen the resilience of the country, their capacity to react, to address and to force. And so, we

will -- we are continuing to invest. We are supporting them in adjusting to the new challenge. For example, the electricity generation is becoming a

new challenge and we are going to help them with that.

QUEST: But, you are now investing into a country where -- which may not be successful, ultimately. What happens then?

RENAUD-BASSO: So, first of all, we believe in the success of Ukraine, and we measure our risks. So, in the first two years that we invested with risk

sharing with our shareholders, so we had some guarantees and so forth.


And now, in end of last year, our shareholders agreed to give us capital increase, and so we have more resources in order to be able to absorb the

risk on our balance sheet. So, we are equipped with the capacity to have a buffer needed in terms of financial buffers that we use to absorb the risk

we are taking.


QUEST: That's the head of the EBRD talking to me here, the change that's taken place. It is interesting, many of the changes have actually only

happened in the last seven or eight years. For instance, they used to need exit visas to leave their own country, even after independence in 19 --

early 1990s. That continued right the way through until just seven years ago.

Here in Tashkent, the remnants of those Soviet rules and the Soviet past do remain. (Inaudible) most in terms of the architecture, from apartments to

the metro. Even a daily commute will offer a reminder of times gone by.


QUEST: All right. I'm going to try with my Apple Pay.

FEDOROV: And I've tried with the local pay system work. It doesn't work.

QUEST: Yes. Look at these.

FEDOROV: The metro station and a solid unit in Tashkent looking like the palace. It's a place for the people.

QUEST: (Inaudible). It is 30 years since the fall --


QUEST: -- of the Soviet Union. How do people regard that past?

FEDOROV: Many people different regard the past. Someone is nostalgic, thinking the people who was 40 years or the 50, oldest people, they are

thinking that dream about this. In Soviet times, we have good life. But, young people, new people, it's thinking that we have some new. We have new

architecture. We have new way. You see, all the people is young people.

QUEST: That's a very young country.

FEDOROV: Yeah. Yeah. It's a very young country.

QUEST: That people off the train first, universal rule. What will most people be texting here? What language?

FEDOROV: Now, the young people using the (inaudible) Uzbek in Russian. Yeah. Yeah. It's most beautiful station. This architect of this station

(inaudible). It was structured in 1974. There is a chandelier collards, the Milky Way, like they look the Angelus.

QUEST: Yeah. Yeah.


QUEST: Yeah. Limitless.

FEDOROV: Limitless.

QUEST: Kind of heavens. That's beautiful. When I travel, I do like to see things that are done better. And this is a really good idea if you've got a

suitcase. Where are we?

FEDOROV: We are in the square of the Kosmonavtlar. There is a monument dedicated of cosmic era from the Icarus (ph) --

QUEST: Yeah.

FEDOROV: -- till the Mirzo Ulugh Beg.

QUEST: What do we got going on here?

FEDOROV: (Inaudible).

QUEST: Just cakes, biscuits.

FEDOROV: It is biscuits. Yeah. It is Soviet-style biscuits.

QUEST: This is so nice. Let's have a few of them. Good coffee and good cookies. What more do you need? What sort of architecture is this?

FEDOROV: (Inaudible) residents are building. They have on the first floor jewelry store. And all people in Tashkent call it that this building The

Pearl, Zhemchug.

QUEST: Is a building like this, is it listed and protected now?

FEDOROV: Yeah. Now, it's protected. Today, it's day of the fountains in Tashkent.

QUEST: Is it?



FEDOROV: Today, because in the first (inaudible). Yeah.

QUEST: Today is the day of the fountains.

FEDOROV: Yeah. Yeah.

QUEST: Let us celebrate the fountains. Let us celebrate the fountains.

FEDOROV: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.


QUEST: Celebrate the fountains, Fountain Day. It was actually earlier this week on May 1. It's the day when all fountains are switched on, flowing,

and children can frolic in the fountains. I have to say the fountains that we saw just over there by the side of me, they were very glamorous, as you

can see, doing lots of twirls, and I didn't see too much frolicking going on.


Well, maybe, it'll be more frolicking before we're finished. Frolicking in the fountains. It's QUEST MEANS BUSINESS tonight, coming to you live from

Tashkent in Uzbekistan.

In New York, a moment or two away, in Washington, U.S. jobs report, and we'll get some fresh insights into the U.S. economy, and that, of course,

arguably takes us to where interest rates will go. We'll be talking to the Digital Technology Minister. He had the unenviable task of dragging the

country's technology into the latest century. And if I say the word plov, no, I'm not being vulgar. I'm talking about one of the most delicious meals

that you might have while you're here. We'll have a bit of plov before we're finished.


QUEST: Hello. I'm Richard Quest. We have more QUEST MEANS BUSINESS from Tashkent. We'll also be talking about the new nonfarm payrolls, the jobs

numbers, which have just been released. Matt Egan will be with me to discuss that. And I'll try a regional delicacy. This is a hearty plate of

plov. I think I pronounced it right. I'm sure it's got some more esoteric versions. Anyway, we will have plov before we're finished. Well, there will

be no plov before the news headlines, because this is CNN, and on this network, the news always comes first.

A Hamas political leader says the group is studying the latest hostage and ceasefire proposals with a positive spirit. Ismail Haniyeh spoke to the

Egyptian and Qatari officials on Thursday. Hamas says it plans to send a delegation to Egypt as soon as possible to continue ceasefire talks.

Pro-Palestinian protests are taking place, continuing at universities now in Paris.


This demonstration was held outside the Sorbonne on Thursday. And protesters are also chanting in support of Palestinians at Sciences Po

University. The college is closed for the day. It is the alma mater of many French presidents, including Emmanuel Macron, and has strong ties to

Columbia University in New York.

Parts of Southeast Texas are underwater after heavy rainfall, flooding submerged homes and swept away vehicles. Areas in and around Houston have

seen some of the heaviest downpours. There have been evacuations ordered in several areas.

Now, we have some job numbers, economic news in the United States. U.S. job numbers, 175,000 new jobs created. That was below expectations. And

unemployment ticked up to 3.9 percent.

Matt Egan is with me. These numbers are not dramatic, but they do show a cooling of the labor market, which is exactly what the Fed wants.

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: That's right, Richard. These numbers do speak to the slowdown that we had really been anticipating for quite some time. Now,

this is just one month after a series of really hot jobs numbers. So, we don't want to read too much into it. But, 175,000 jobs added, that is

slower than expected. The expectation was 232,000. And this is a significant slowdown from what we saw in March. That was revised higher.

March was 315,000. So, this is almost half the pace. The unemployment rate was expected to tick. It was supposed to be flat, but it actually ticked

higher to 3.9 percent.

And a number that I know people on Wall Street are paying attention to right now and officials in the Fed is wages. We saw wage growth cool down

below four percent on an annual basis. We haven't seen sub-four percent wages in almost three years. Now, for workers, I know workers don't want to

hear that their paychecks are not growing rapidly anymore, but for 3.9 percent wage growth, that's still ahead of inflation. So, that means

paychecks are beating prices.

But, the Fed is going to be happy to see that the rate of change is slowing down. That's going to make them a little bit less worried on the inflation

front. And when we look at the reaction over on Wall Street, we do see stock futures at session highs. At last look, the Dow Futures were up about

500 points. So, markets do seem to like this. We see NASDAQ futures up 1.6 percent here. So, this is being viewed as good news by Wall Street.

One other point here is to put all this in historical context. With the latest month of sub-four percent unemployment, that now marks 27 straight

months where the unemployment rate is below four percent. That's tied for the longest streak in U.S. history, tied with the streak that was set

between 1967 and 1970. So, Richard, this does still look like a historically strong jobs market, maybe just a little bit cooler than it was

a month ago.

QUEST: Matt Egan in New York. Matt, thank you.

EGAN: Thank you.

QUEST: We are back in Uzbekistan. There is this phenomenal digital push, if you will. The country wants to be an information tech hub, Central Asia,

bearing in mind all the other countries, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, all of them. Well, can Uzbekistan steal a march in a sense? IT exports surged.

There were $600,000. Yes. $600k in 2017 is $142 million now, two years ago. And the government wants that to be $5 billion by 2030, which is what

they've got their current policy at 2030. It's still just less than two percent of the economy, and the World Bank loans are being used to boost

this expenditure.

Joining me is Minister Sherzod Shermatov. He is the Uzbekistan Digital Technologies Minister. Good to see you, sir.


QUEST: Thank you very much. I mean, dragging the country into the 21st century, because to a certain extent, even though you got independence back

in the early 90s, a lot of the reform still has to only be done now.

SHERMATOV: Yeah, definitely. Thank you, Richard, for this interview, because Uzbekistan now offers very good value for those Western companies

who are thinking about decreasing their costs through outsourcing, because when you are thinking about decreasing your costs through outsourcing, you

are looking for established market like India, Philippines, etc. But, not so many people are aware about Uzbekistan. And if you look in more detail,

we offer much better value proposition to them.

QUEST: Right. But, how realistic is it to become a digital hub?


SHERMATOV: It is definitely realistic, because in Uzbekistan, we have a young and growing population.

QUEST: All the region has young and growing populations.

SHERMATOV: And we are heavily investing in education reforms. You have witnessed yesterday that we are doing educational reforms across all those

parts of education, from pre-school, from school to the higher education. In the office, the best conditions for IT companies to come to open their

offices here. And for the last two years, the number of companies with foreign capital increased 20 times.

QUEST: I know the country has done an enormous amount in terms of opening up, whether we're talking about democracy, whatever we talk about, that a

lot has been done. But, I can hear people at home saying, yeah, more needs to be done. What does the minister say about what still needs to be done?

The President, to me, yesterday told me the reforms are irreversible. The fear is they are going to be reversed.

SHERMATOV: Definitely. What we are doing now is decreasing the risk component of the investment. We have created the enterprise in Uzbekistan,

International Digital Technology Center, where you can see the Bridge Law, and the international arbitrage as part of this deal, so that you don't

have to worry about the risk component of investing into this country. And of course, we are heavily implementing -- I mean, inviting the

international players. Already you have witnessed yesterday that (ph) is opening up a new data center, fully green for $5 billion. It's

fully foreign direct investment without government guarantee, without (inaudible).

QUEST: How do you need to reform the place itself, do you think? So, it's a lovely place to visit. People are extremely friendly. What do you think is

the next stage of social reform in this country? I realize you can get as much fun. We're broadcasting here. We're using fiber up the wazoo (ph).

It's working very well. Touchwood. But, what's the next stage of reform that you would like to see for your people?

SHERMATOV: Definitely. We are still moving on with the upskilling of our workforce, because we have so many young people coming to the market, and

they have to know better -- first of all, foreign languages. English is the key. So, U.S. helped us to this implementation of English speaking nation

project where, as part of my job where I was the former Minister for Education, we have implemented this important project so that more and more

graduates of schools will be able to speak English freely. And of course, the legislative changes. I mean, we used to have a kind of outdated the

Soviet-type of legislation. And now, we are trying to make the best legislation possible for international companies to come.

QUEST: You talk about this, the former Soviet. I mean, nobody -- everybody I've spoken to, nobody wants to go back to that sort of time. But, you are

-- let's be men and women of the world here. You are caught in a very tricky part of the world, China on one side with its problems with the

U.S., Russia, Ukraine, and the problems of the war. You're in the middle of it all. You don't take sides. But, it's very difficult for this country at

the moment.

SHERMATOV: Definitely. Of course, if you are looking from the threat sides, there are many threats. But, this is also creates opportunities. Uzbekistan

has been historically the center of the Great Silk Road, which was connecting the Asia with Europe. Now, it's becoming another center for this

kind of international companies to consider about relocating their regional headquarters. For those companies who used to have the headquarters in

other parts of this region, now they're moving with the regional headquarters to Tashkent, and this creates an extra opportunity.

QUEST: This is Josh. Thank you, Josh. This is plov.


QUEST: How do I say it correctly?


QUEST: Oh, palov.


QUEST: Plov.

SHERMATOV: Plov in kind of in Russian or English. Palov in Uzbek.

QUEST: Palov, that's better. Isn't it? And what's it made from?

SHERMATOV: It's from rice, meat, carrots, and it's very delicious. You should definitely try it when you visit Uzbekistan.

QUEST: Well, I enjoy some palov. I thank the Minister indeed. It is approaching dinner time. Palov is very much the dish, traditional Uzbek

dish, and I think I'm going to have to try it. You are welcome to join me. Very good.




QUEST: Uzbekistan wants 30 percent of its power to be renewable by 2030. Now, that sounds -- we've actually switched around the corner really. It's

all part of the larger strategy. Now, if they're going to hit that sustainable 2030 30 percent, all the numbers, then it has to achieve key

partnerships with major international companies, and that includes the experts from the UAE. Amongst them, Masdar, which we visited and spoken to

on numerous occasions on QMB, because Masdar is one of the region's biggest renewable energy companies, and it's going to provide the necessary

infrastructure and experience for solar power and wind here in Uzbekistan. They've got a lot of wind, if you will, big wind projects in this country.

Mohamed Jameel Al Ramahi is the CEO of Masdar.


MOHAMED JAMEEL AL RAMAHI, CEO, MASDAR: We are a commercial entity. So, all of our project has to be commercial, and it has to be sustainable from an

economic perspective. In fact, all of our projects, for example, in Uzbekistan, in this beautiful city Tashkent, are structured to be bankable.

So, all of our projects here are our bankable projects. It means that we are putting our capital, our equity, but also obtaining financing mainly

from multilateral institution and DFIs, such as the IFC, the EBRD, Asian Development Bank, JICA, the Japanese as well, and some of the project has

also been financed through commercial bank.

QUEST: But, you have to put your own risk capital over there as well.

RAMAHI: Of course. Of course.

QUEST: So, it raises the question -- everybody seems to be coming here, all the major players in energy, whether it's Russia or UK, U.S., China,

yourself, everybody. It's like a new -- it's like a modern day gold rush.


QUEST: You got here.


QUEST: What protections and securities and safeguards and sustainability need to be put in place to ensure this doesn't just become one big


RAMAHI: You've heard it from the President today, without reforms, without proper policies regulations, it will not attract direct foreign investment.

We are here in Uzbekistan and we are committed to Uzbekistan, not only because it's a beautiful country and it has a lot of history, we are

committed to Uzbekistan because of the reforms that they have done. They were able to attract. You have seen the numbers, doubling the direct

foreign investment. We are the first to actually see the potential of the country. We were also the first to see the opportunity of renewable energy.

And we have worked closely with the government.


The government has been very supportive from day one. The President himself is actively engaged in ensuring that we are well protected and our

investment is well protected.

QUEST: What would you like to see them do more of?

RAMAHI: For us, honestly, honestly, they have done everything that we have asked for.

QUEST: Really?

RAMAHI: Yes. So, what we would like today is that Uzbekistan becomes the sunlight and the example for its neighboring countries. That's the most

important thing. And honestly, every time I visit the neighboring countries, they always ask me about our experience in Uzbekistan, and how

did the Uzbeks attract Masdar and attract other companies? So, we are actually working closely with our partners here. One good example, we are

working with great French utility company, EDF, and developing projects across Central Asia, in Kyrgyzstan, and potentially in Tajikistan. So, we

are happy to be here. We feel very comfortable. And I think Uzbekistan is a great example for its regional brothers and countries.


QUEST: The opportunities are so huge. This is Josh, my producer. Have you tried plov?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have tried plov. Yes, it's very good. The first day here, I was at a plov center where they have these giant walks --

QUEST: Well --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- that they're making the stuff in giant walks.

QUEST: Yeah. Yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People open fires. It's quite good. You drop some a little bit there.

QUEST: I'm sorry. Did you --



QUEST: Bit of plov. Thank you, chef. We will have -- I will not call you over. We'll have a profitable moment after the break. QUEST MEANS BUSINESS



QUEST: Tonight's profitable moment from Tashkent. I've got a bit of plov stuck in my tooth. Whenever you visit the countries, which we used to call

the CRTs, countries in transition, you see dramatic change. And sometimes, you don't see as much change as you would like. I think here in Tashkent

and in Uzbekistan, there have been, if you will, two sort of revolutions, the first, obviously, when the Soviet Union fell and there was



But then, this country went into several years of stagnation and backsliding, which only really changed in about 2016 with the election of

the new President. For instance, the changing of the exit visa rules, for instance, the changing of the convertibility of the currency, the Digital

Minister who was turning up. Now, don't get me wrong I am not saying that everything is fine and dandy. There are many reforms on social issues in

terms of a democratic front, freedom of speech, and that like that this country is still needs to address full throttle.

But, if you accept that there is a transitional nature to all of these things, then at least they're moving in the right direction. Being here to

do QUEST MEANS BUSINESS and attending the forum, there has been no question of what we can do or people saying you can't do this, that's all the other,

that'd be very keen to show that we can do what we like, say what we want, and go and do as we seem fit. Now, reform has to be entrenched. And let me

quote back the President to himself, if you will. He says, the changes, the reforms are irreversible. The proof will prove -- well, the future will

prove if he is right.

And that's QUEST MEANS BUSINESS for this Friday night. I'm Richard Quest in Tashkent, whatever you're up to in the hours ahead. I hope it's profitable.

I'll see you next week in Osaka, Japan.