Developing a system of social protection is a fundamental part of building a nation, but I’m not banging on about Scotland again. I’ve been looking at a short report from the Center for Economic Research in Uzbekistan, which is not a place I know anything about. Their figures can be difficult to interpret, and they’re not helped by claims that “Taxes in Uzbekistan are considerably lower than in Scandinavia” or that “As in the Scandinavian model, Uzbekistan has large social expenditures” (hardly). Uzbekistan is a very poor country, with income per capita less than a sixth of neighbouring Kazakhstan (though, intriguingly, with a better record on infant mortality). The plan envisages steady growth of 7-8% over the next twenty years (without being very clear how this is going to happen) and assumes that the relative costs of social protection will fall as income increases (which is questionable). The issues they identify are that the problems of industrialisation – people are moving out of agriculture at speed – and they point to the need to develop better education, health services and labour market policies. I’ve argued before that growth, and greater consumption, are basic to the aspirations of people in poorer countries. This is what many of the world’s emerging countries have been created to do, and social welfare provision is a major part of it.