Uzbekistan is a land almost synonymous with Oriental bazaars. Yet shoppers in Central Asia’s most populous state are hesitantly embracing the shopping mall – at least in the capital, Tashkent. The change in consumer habits seems partially connected to government efforts to pad state coffers.
Uzbekistan’s challenging economic climate and protectionist policies have hampered the expansion of retail trade, but locally-owned malls have been springing up around the capital in recent years. Like much else in this often impenetrable economy, the ownership structures of malls are opaque, though without friends in high places few businesses prosper in Uzbekistan.
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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.