>> Hikmat Abdurahmonov says he can feel a change in the air. The 36-year-old lives in Uzbekistan, one of the world's most isolated states. For years, its economy and politics were ruled with an iron grip by former President Islam Karimov. He came to power during the Communist era and distrusted both Russia and the West.
>> Because unpredictability in the market was really frightening our customers, and obviously that was affecting and damaging our business as well.>> But since President Karimov's death last year, foreign delegations have been turning to Uzbekistan for its oil, gas, and cotton crop. Economic reforms have been introduced by his successor, Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
Reuters correspondent Olzhas Auyezov says the new president wants to be the leader that opens more to the outside world.>> What he appears to be doing now is essentially catching up with neighbouring countries in terms of implementing the basic most important reforms.>> Uzbekistan was named one of the World Bank's top ten global improvers this year.
Abdurahmonov says business is changing, but more still needs to be done.>> Especially if we are expecting foreign companies to come and to work in Uzbekistan, I think we need to think about reforming the tax policy.>> The president has also set out to eliminate Islamist extremism. This year, several Uzbeks have been arrested for attacks on civilians in New York, Istanbul, Stockholm, and Saint Petersburg.
A national idea has been launched called Enlightened Islam, which focuses on Islamic modernization. The Uzbek government has elevated the authority of locally elected councils, met with human rights observers, and freed thousands from harvesting cotton under forced labor.>> People we talk to sound very optimistic and very hopeful that the change will continue.