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MADISON, Wis. – Months after three new credit unions opened in Uzbekistan, a country poised for economic rebuilding, the Credit Union Association of Oregon has signed a partnership agreement with the Central Bank of Uzbekistan through the World Council of Credit Unions, Inc.’s people-to-people exchange. The Oregon partnership agreement will foster a mentor relationship with the fledgling credit unions which are looking to come into an established credit union system, said Michael Beall, WOCCU’s manager of government affairs and partnerships. “Oregon will be there to provide real life examples and mentoring especially in the lending area,” Beall said, adding that lending is green territory for the new credit unions. For that reason, CUAO “stands ready to assist the partnership in any way we can to help facilitate that journey,” said Ralph Goodwin, board member of the Credit Union Association of Oregon (CUAO) and president/CEO of Grant-Baker Federal Credit Union. “Oregon credit unions wish the credit unions all the best as they begin their journey to serve the financial needs of the people of Uzbekistan.” Oregon’s ties to Uzbekistan go back to 2000 when CUAO and Grant Baker Federal Credit Union first hosted Nizom Muradov, a representative of the Central Bank of Uzbekistan. The visit enabled Muradov to gain exposure to the operations of U.S. credit unions and lead to the drafting of enabling legislation for Uzbekistan. Since 1997, WOCCU’s Rural Savings and Credit Union Development project funded by the ADB and USAID, began its work by assisting the government in establishing a legislative and regulatory framework for the operation of credit unions in the country. A savings and credit union law was passed in April 2002. Last July, the first two Uzbek credit unions their doors for business. By October, three more credit unions were up and running. Five credit unions are now operating in Uzbekistan with a total membership of 3,000 members. All offer savings accounts and loans for small and micro businesses. WOCCU is also working with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Asian Development Bank (ADB) to start 12 more credits unions, Beall said. Uzbekistan, a former republic of the Soviet Union with 24 million people located in Central Asia, achieved its independence in 1992 and is working towards a more open political and financial system that utilizes a market-based economy. The country is an ethnically diverse nation comprised of Uzbeks, Tajiks, North Koreans and Russians with 88 percent of the total population being Muslim. WOCCU CEO Arthur Arnold accompanied the Oregon delegation to Uzbekistan from March 15 to 22 to further develop support of a credit union system there, which is gaining ground since the passage of chartering and supervision legislation in 2002 that allows for such growth. “We are excited to be a part of the beginning of a credit union system in Uzbekistan,” Arnold said. “WOCCU-Uzbekistan has made some outstanding achievements in the facilitating of credit union legislation that now enables members to save and have affordable access to financial services.” -

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