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John W McCoy

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· Leaving It Behind

· Hidden Money

Short Stories
· My Street in Hanoi

· White Water Rafting on the Zambesi River

· Money Laundering is a Contest of Nerves for the Professionals

· Canoe Safari down the Zambesi River

· Sorting out the Sinks in the Money Laundering Game

· The Charge of the Deadly Cape Buffalo

· Transitional Countries-Financial Crisis Looms

· Money Laundering

· Survival-Life in Cambodia

· New Book Launch centered on bank corruption and money laundering

· In the Skies of Uzbekistan - December 2001

· News from Tashkent Uzbekistan - October 2001

· Author's introduction to Leaving it Behind by John W. McCoy

· Author's Background to Leaving it Behind as described by Ruth Downing

· About the Author - Leaving it Behind

· Author's news update

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Tashkent Uzbekistan News - 30 October 2001

11/6/2001 10:56:00 PM

by John W McCoy

This is an excerpt of a 30 October 2001 message from author John W. McCoy to his adult children in Australia to keep them informed on his life in Uzbekistan. He arrived in Tashkent several months ago to take up an assignment with the financial sector reform programs sponsored by World Bank.
Tashkent Uzbekistan News - 30 October 2001

This is an excerpt of a 30 October 2001 message from author John W. McCoy to his adult children in Australia to keep them informed on his life in Uzbekistan. He arrived in Tashkent several months ago to take up an assignment with the financial sector reform programs sponsored by World Bank. The observations are the author's only. I recently published two novels (works of fiction) through American Book Publishing Group - Hidden Money and Leaving it Behind. Both novels have had popular acclaim from those readers who have read them. They can be purchased via internet with the publisher on or at or or .

On a more personal side about Tashkent, the living conditions, the people and current events. My day starts normally at 0600H and finishes when I pack it in after dark - usually 1900 / 2000H. Then I walk the darkened streets, uneven sidewalks and dodge the chaotic traffic to go to my apartment to prepare a meal. I am convinced that there are no streets or sidewalks in this country that are even and it is a constant tripping exercise, particularly at night. The street lights, when they work, are about 100 meters apart and casts an spooky yellowish glow in the darkened areas. The speed limit for cars is 50Km but none dare to go over 30Kms as they bounced up and down over the roughed streets, probably designed as an asphalt cornfield by the road engineers in the former Soviet days. It's amusing watching the cars as the front tires go down - to the left and then to the right as they continue to the next gully. At night, it's even more amusing as the auto headlights are never straight and often some lights are missing. Then we have the additional hazard of the trams and the electric buses. They stop at times, but don't count on it. I have decided not to take the buses or the trams taking the safer option of walking everywhere unless we are lucky enough to have a normal car which we don't drive ourselves.
Taxis are an amazing venture all over Uzbekistan and there are very few official taxis companies in the major cities like Tashkent, but they are no fun and more expensive. The secret is to stand on the side of the street and put out your hand. A car will stop within two to three minutes. You negotiate your destination and a price with the owner of the car and away you go in the back seat - always the back seat. But for the foreigner in this country who doesn't speak the language, it's better to have a local friend or colleague with you to negotiate the private taxi fare or you will really be ripped off.
Then we have the amusing sidewalk brigades working during the day. The old ladies (and sometimes older men) who sweep the sidewalks with these long handle brushes. They are employed and their job is to keep the sidewalks reasonably clean in front of all public buildings. In between the sidewalks and streets are huge oak and maple trees loaded with leaves which are now turning a delightful brownish color since autumn has set in. The slow moving brigades sweep the leaves into huge piles to be carted away later. But then the wind starts blowing. They turn slowly and shrug their shoulders. The fifty meters that was clean is now full of fallen leaves so they reverse their direction and start sweeping again. The sidewalk brigades keep very busy from early morning until late afternoon - back and forwards over the same areas - and earning about a dollar a day to support their families.
Saturday morning is usually shopping at the local bazaar for food and any of the other necessities I need for the next week. Just do a little of bargaining and the prices do change, but I know I have paid a few extra soum (local currency) over the local price - must be the language or lack thereof that trips me. Then again when I look at the average salary in the country of about US$30.00 per month (Soum 30,000), I can't complain at all. And I take for granite that there are things that I will not find in the markets - like coat hangers. I have hit every market in the city and stopped searching. So when I travel, the hotels end up missing a few coat hangers. Slowly I am building up a nice supply and before I leave here, I will sell them in the black market at an enormous profit.
Speaking of the black market, when I left here in January 2001, the US$ / Soum rate was 800 soum per dollar. Now it's 1,200 so my US$ 100 converts to 120,000 - which is better than 80,000 last January. The economy is really in bad shape and the people continue to survive. The official commercial bank foreign exchange rate in US$1.00 = 690 Soum compared with 1,200 on the black market. So the experienced foreigners and locals do their dollar conversions in the black market. The experienced foreigners will always let their local colleagues do the black market deals. Its illegal but everyone does it, but cautiously. If you have the connections, you can do black market deals in the central bank and even in the commercial banks - so much for the illegalities. The only people who convert currencies in the commercial banks are the new foreigners or tourist - the poor losers.
Last year, when I was asked to be a member of the Finance & Banking Academy's Board for the graduation presentations of MBA candidates, I thought, at the time, that at least the graduates would start making a with a good salary after graduation. We were voting members and our votes determined if each individual student passed or failed - and each one of the 100 students had worked hard and the presentations went well and only about two of the one hundred failed. Not a bad result with the fifteen hard nosed reviewers sitting out front listening and then questioning the presentations. I was wrong about the higher salary now that I am within their system and not protected from the their real world. Last week, one of those MBA graduates working at one of the banks I am currently working in confided in me and told me her real salary to make a comparison of a few things we are working on. She is paid a grand total of Soum 25,000 per month (US$25.00) and she hopes to have a pay increase to 30,000 by the end of the year. It's an accepted part of their life and they learn to live with what they have.
My assistant on this World Bank project worked with me last year on the ADB project. I would put her up against most of the MBAs coming out of the Universities in Australia, and she would pass them - walk circles around them - in her dedication and her ability to find the answers - and quickly. A few years ago, she was sent to the USA (Alabama University) on a three year scholarship in finance and business by the Uzbek government. But she is locked into a five-year contract to work with any government organization that they choose - no choice. Her current salary is soum 30,000 per month, but her first six months back from the university she was on probation and no salary - so she was supported by her parents.
She worked with me last year on the ADB project during that probation period and I paid her from my pocket - if you work, you get paid is my way of thinking. She is still technically with the Uzbek Banking Association but one of my conditions with the Central Bank was she be seconded to work with me in the government banks. I have a budget for salaries and she is now being paid well in any standard here out of that budget. But, it becomes complicated in that we can not talk about what she is being paid. Only her parents would know. Even the directors at the central bank with over ten years on the job would be lucky to earn US$150.00 per month and with an MBA.
Today is another usual grueling day of trying to change certain parts of a banking system that the powers to be do not wish to be changed. It's all part of a game. If change takes place, they lose control and there is a real fear in losing that control - the old communist system perhaps.
Yes the bombing has started and the ground forces are in Afghanistan. The airbases are being used in Uzbekistan and other countries close by. A lot of humanitarian aid is being funneled through the Uzbek corridors. Fighter planes are active on the border about two hours flying time from here. Things are still calm in the capital city of Tashkent and life goes on as usual. The locals tell me not to go to the mountains about 40 kilometers away as the terrorist are still operating there and the Uzbek military is in the mountains practicing - whatever they practice. But that was also the case last year in the mountains, so what is new.
Next week, we return to Andijan for another three days of banking reforms - I think that is what it is called, but the chairman of that bank wants to change things but he is having a few slight difficulties with the government and central bank. It's his problem and it's all part of the mind games at the top. I just do my side of the work and get paid by the World Bank in US$ converted to A$s and with the A$ FX rate, I keep looking good. Cost of living here is good and I can live on a small budget of US$ 50.00 per week with change left over. Andijan is a place that we watch carefully as it is in the middle of the Muslim strongholds - the agitators. We are watched closely by the bank people and they will not let us move about on our own. I upset them occasionally by doing a silent walk just to see things from my perspective. I do not take any risks - only observing. It's the writer's curiosity.
There is an evacuation plan for the expatriates in Tashkent, but they have forgotten give us any details - but that would come if it were necessary. We now have exit visas for Kazakstan for a quick overland departure if it becomes necessary but I don't think it will happen. We just go on working and living as if nothing is happening in the other part of the country.

Another monthly update on the events happening in this part of Central Asia will be released at the end of November.

John W. McCoy

More News by John W McCoy

· New Book Launch centered on bank corruption and money laundering - 2/6/2005 10:21:00 PM
· In the Skies of Uzbekistan - December 2001 - 1/25/2002 10:09:00 PM
· News from Tashkent Uzbekistan - October 2001 - 11/6/2001 10:50:00 PM
· Author's introduction to Leaving it Behind by John W. McCoy - 9/30/2001 1:40:00 PM
· Author's Background to Leaving it Behind as described by Ruth Downing - 9/30/2001 1:37:00 PM
· About the Author - Leaving it Behind - 9/30/2001 1:35:00 PM
· Author's news update - 9/30/2001 1:20:00 PM
· News from Tashkent Uzbekistan (Central Asia) - 9/30/2001 11:00:00 AM

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