Uzbekistan is a country with GNI per capita of USD 460 and PPP equivalent of USD 1,860. Economic production is concentrated in commodities. Uzbekistan is now the world's fourth-largest producer and the world's second-largest exporter of cotton and the seventh world major producer of gold. It is also a regionally significant producer of natural gas, coal, copper, oil, silver, and uranium. Agriculture contributes about 37% of GDP, employing 44% of the labour force. Unemployment and underemployment are estimated to be at least 20%. Much of Uzbekistan’s GDP growth comes from favourable prices for certain key exports, especially cotton, gold, and, increasingly, gas, but the revenues from these commodities are distributed among a very small circle of the ruling elite, with little or no benefit for the populace at large.
Following independence in 1991, the government sought to prop up its Soviet-style command economy with subsidies and tight controls on production and prices. While aware of the need to improve the investment climate, the government still sponsors measures that often increase, not decrease, its control over business decisions. A sharp increase in the inequality of income distribution has hurt the lower ranks of society since independence. In 2003, the government accepted the obligations of Article VIII under the International Monetary Fund (IMF), providing for full currency convertibility. However, strict currency controls and tightening of borders have lessened the effects of convertibility and have also led to some shortages that have further stifled economic activity. The Central Bank often delays or restricts convertibility, especially for consumer goods. Potential investment by Russia and China in Uzbekistan's gas and oil industry would increase economic growth prospects. In November 2005, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Uzbekistan President Karimov signed an "alliance" treaty, which included provisions for economic and business cooperation. Russian businesses have shown increased interest in Uzbekistan, especially in mining, telecom, and oil and gas. In December 2005, the Russians opened a "Trade House" to support and develop Russian-Uzbek business and economic ties.