Gerb President of Azerbaijan

Closing speech by Ilham Aliyev at a meeting dedicated to the socioeconomic development of the city of Baku and surrounding settlements

09 march 2011, 19:10

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I am sure that this meeting will have a great importance because it discussed not only the work done in the city and settlements. Most importantly, we will identify further steps in the near future.

We are well aware of the situation in the country, what problems are awaiting solution in our regions, in Baku and in surrounding settlements. I simply think that in order to resolve all these problems at the current stage, as I have mentioned, we need to develop and adopt a special program in the near future. The issues raised here regarding roads, drinking water, sewage, irrigation, registration of houses will be reflected in this program.

Besides, the program must reflect solution of all the problems existing in our settlements. It will contain special sections for each settlement. We need to ensure a comprehensive approach to each settlement. We certainly need to establish the implementation procedure and schedules. After the program is adopted, additions need to be introduced to the state budget, so that we could start executing it before the end of this year. We shouldn’t waste any time. I repeat that we must fulfill this program within two to three years, we can’t delay it. Even though there is a lot to do, in particular the infrastructure projects that require significant resources and a certain time, I think we can succeed in implementing it within three years.

Speaking about infrastructure projects, issues of electricity supply are being resolved. We can say that this issue has largely been resolved throughout the country. We have built 10 new power plans in recent years. Stable electricity supply is ensured in every region. In Baku, for example, special attention was paid to this issue. A major change for the better has occurred in this area after the establishment of BakiElektrikShebeke. The process is ongoing. Funds are being allocated from the state budget, the construction of new stations, replacement of old lines and installation of transformers are on our agenda for the coming years. Of course, the program shall elaborate this issue for each settlement. At present, the situation is satisfactory, but if we consider that our country is developing, the population is growing and there is a process of industrialization under way, the buildings already constructed and those under construction in Baku, the hotels and industrial facilities require additional energy.

We must ensure that electricity supply is always ahead of our needs. Measures will be taken to that end in the coming years. One of our biggest gas supply problems is that this issue was not dealt with properly for many years in Azerbaijan. The reason for that wasn’t only the shortage of gas. We have now considerably increased gas production, built new underground gas storages and injected 3 billion cubic meters of gas into them. Several years ago the capacity of these storages was only 500 million cubic meters and, of course, we were having certain problems in winter months. However, our problems are explained not only by the quantities of gas, but also by the fact that the gas infrastructure is not at the desired level. At present, the State Oil Company and its unit AzeriGaz are seriously dealing with this issue. There is a process of gasification in all our regions, major programs are being implemented in the most remote areas, namely in borderline districts. This program must be fully implemented in and around Baku.

I indicated in my opening remarks that 97 per cent of Baku has gas supply, while the remaining three per cent must receive gas supply as well. Let me reiterate that we must tackle the construction of gas lines. Where the pressure is low additional measures will be taken to increase it to the required level.

The issues raised here today included those of sewage and drinking water. Unfortunately, these problems have always been typical of our city. Major projects are under way to ensure the supply of drinking water to Baku. The construction of the Oguz-Gabala-Baku water line served exactly this goal. This must be and is being followed by the construction of water reservoirs in Baku and the renewal of water lines. Our losses are very high. If we eliminate them, then even the current level of supply will be sufficient for supplying Baku with water.

We know very well how water supply issues are dealt with in developed cities. If we draw comparisons with some developed cities, we can see that they receive less water than people in Baku, but the level of supply there is 100 per cent. First of all we need to the tackle the issue of losses and the dilapidated condition of old lines. We must approach these issues more comprehensively. Our approach must be the same as in developed cities. This issue requires vast resources, but we must do it and we will. I would like to note that these projects are of a purely social nature, because the price of water in Azerbaijan is very low, perhaps 10 times lower than in developed cities. Azerbaijan also has the lowest water tariffs in the region. So I repeat that these projects only aim to supply the residents of Azerbaijan and Baku with clean drinking water.

I do hope that the reforms carried out in this sphere will soon yield fruit. The program to be adopted to ensure a reliable supply of Baku and surrounding settlements with drinking water must raise serious issues, establish the timeline and, of course, ensure financial resources.

There is a problem of roads between settlements. This problem is being gradually resolved. But I have to say that this is taking place at the expense of trunk roads. To some extent, the expansion and reconstruction of the Baku-Airport motorway serves the development of roads between settlements. But we must also pay attention to the roads linking settlements with each other. Additional funds will also be envisaged.

The roads built in the Baku-Airport and Airport-Zykh directions, of course, are linked to inner roads too. If we consider that the construction of this road is ongoing and that it will be extended to Sumgayit, several settlements will also be linked with each other. The work done has enabled us to connect Bulbula, Bina, Mardakan, Buzovna and Bilgah settlements. This road will stretch from Bilgah to Sumgayit, including Nardaran, Kurdakhany, Pirshagy, Fatmai, Novkhany, Masazir and Jorat. This will be a road meeting international standards. But again, this is only one direction. We must incorporate all inner roads and the roads between settlements, all these projects into the program. Special instructions will be issued in this regard.

There is a problem of the registration of houses. We are aware of this problem and must resolve it. But in tackling this issue we must prevent all unpleasant phenomena. I personally am more concerned over the possibility of such negative phenomena. These houses must be registered. But it is no secret that some unfounded claims may be put forward, cases of bribery and groundless interests. And this is a reality. Therefore, I have instructed Hajibala Abutalibov: we must develop a transparent mechanism to resolve this problem, so that we could completely eliminate corruption and bribery. Otherwise, our well-meant initiative may again cause us problems due to the cupidity of certain people. So this mechanism must be designed, it is necessary to conduct serious revision – what houses must be registered, how they were built. In the future, the construction of such illegal houses must not be allowed. Or else, we will register these illegally built houses that have no documents, and then land will be illegally allocated and houses built on it again. Unfortunately, we have seen this in the past. People bring in a truck of stones, build a house, then claim to be living there and ask for documents.

That won’t work. Today we are living in a modern city and modern state. There must be a rule of law everywhere. All these issues must be regulated within legal frames. Therefore, a very effective plan needs to be developed and submitted to me. Then the issue may be resolved soon.

Issues of road construction between settlements must be resolved as soon as possible. I can say that I am not pleased with the situation in this sphere. You know, you should solve this issue on the ground. This is not something the President should deal with, not even the mayor of the city. Even though we are also dealing with these issues, they should be handled on the spot. There are municipalities now, and they should do this work. It is their work. Local roads are in a poor state, in many cases there are earth roads, there is no asphalt. When it rains or snows, they become impassible. This is intolerable. This is happening in Baku, why should there be such problems?! Look at the quality of the roads we are building. Road junctions, tunnels are built. I want to repeat that if we hadn’t started to implement these projects several years ago, the whole city traffic would be gridlocked now. But that can’t happen. I can see that some roads linking to highways are earth roads. I have repeatedly issued instructions to the Ministry of Transport in this regard. So far I am not pleased with the situation. Therefore, there must be a division of responsibilities – who should build what. Most of this money is allocated from the state budget anyway. The funds raised by municipalities can be used to do some work, but there must be state support. These resources are provided to the Mayor’s Office, to the Ministry of Transport. Roads in the city center are built by the Mayor’s Office and have very good quality, up to the smallest detail. We can see that the new manholes are no longer creating problems for the traffic. They are placed in such a way that when a car drives over them, one doesn’t feel anything. But roads between settlements must also be of the same level. Therefore, this issue will be reflected in the program. There must be a mechanism of control here.

There must be responsibility and a normal attitude to work. We all live here. The citizens living both in the center of Baku and in settlements, in the most remote locations, must be able to use normal roads.

All these issues must be analyzed in a short period of time. The program must allocate specific instructions regarding the construction of roads. I think this issue must be resolved over a short period of time, within one year.

During our last meeting in this room representatives of settlements raised issues regarding the construction of schools. There was a quick response to the issues then and schools were built. Today this problem wasn’t raised because it is mostly resolved now. But the need for schools is still there. There are schools in Baku and on its outskirts that are in emergency condition. I have issued an instruction that a serious revision be conducted. We must restore the schools that are in emergency condition this year. Over the last several years, 34 schools were built in settlements, but there is still a need for them.

Besides, the process of establishing, renovating and restoring medical institutions must be continued. A total of 11 sports and health facilities have been built in our settlements in recent years. Two Olympic centers have been commissioned – one in Shagan, the other in Hovsan. There must be opportunities for people to do sports in all settlements – either playgrounds or small football pitches and gyms. Attention must be paid to these issues.

All culture centers in our country, in particular in Baku, are being refurbished. I have already mentioned that. Historical and architectural monuments, mosques in the city center, the Old City and other places are being restored. The Gala historical and ethnographic reserve has been set up. This is a unique museum in the open air. It is unique not only for Baku but also for the region. There is also the Gobustan reserve where we are also implementing a project on the construction of a new museum because this is our unique culture center of the world scale. These rock engravings are evidence of the fact that people lived here tens of millennia ago.

There is a project on the restoration and reconstruction of the Atashgah historical museum center. In other words, even more attention must be paid to these issues. All our religious monuments must be restored. This process is under way in settlements, mosques are being restored and new ones built. It is necessary to pay attention to this issue as well.

The construction of the underground, an important part of the city transport, is ongoing. In 2008-2009, we commissioned two new stations – Nasimi and Azadlig Prospekti. This process is continuing. Some time ago I chaired a meeting on the development of the Baku underground. A program is being prepared for adoption. Foreign consultants have been engaged, and at least six new stations are to be commissioned in Baku before 2015. At present, there are 22 stations. According to the master plan, the number of stations may reach 70. Such major development, however, may take up to 2030. In any case, six stations must be commissioned before 2015.

Very good job is being done to resolve environmental issues. Namely, large green belts are being established along trunk roads. Since last year was the Year of the Environment, as I have mentioned, over three million trees were planted in Baku. This process must be continued. The spring has come now. A further impetus must be given to this process in spring and autumn by the Ministry of the Ecology and Natural Resources. Local executive authorities have contributed to this work again, and I appreciate that. I want to repeat that we must establish green belts around and in the center of Baku. We have relocated the trade fair that used to operate near the airport. That was a major issue. No-one believed we could do that. But we have done it, provided places, and business people built modern shopping malls there.

Subsequently the circular road was connected to the trade fair and those coming to Baku from abroad and districts can reach the shopping center from the northern or south-western directions without entering the city. We have established a green belt in the place of the former trade fair, and I am sure that there will be a large forest there in several years. I want to reiterate that we also plan to set up new parks, green belts and gardens in various parts of the city. Relevant instructions have been given to the Mayor’s Office in this regard. The situation is now being analyzed. I think we can start specific measures over this issue next year. To resolve the problems of our settlements, I repeat, we must first of all implement projects on gas, electricity, water supply, sewage, irrigation, social infrastructure, build schools and medical institutions and conduct landscaping. In some settlements landscaping is at the proper level, while in others it is not done at all. The program must have specific clauses on that, so that the appearance of our settlements is nice and modern. We must create modern conditions in all settlements. Besides that, we must also resolve employment issues for those living on the outskirts of Baku.

Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been created in our country. This process is mainly observed in our districts. And it is the key component of our policy to ensure the development of all our districts and regions. However, we should take even more serious measures towards opening of jobs in Baku settlements.

I have already issued relevant instructions, including those to the Ministry of Economic Development. Most of the funds are channeled into our districts through the National Fund on the Support for Entrepreneurship. I have made suggestions and issued instructions that loans be allocated from these funds for Baku settlements. Or we could establish a special credit fund on the development of Baku settlements. We should use this fund only for the development of the small and medium-sized enterprise. In any case, the Ministry of Economic Development is working on these issues, and I think it will submit proposals soon. I believe that all the suggestions made today and those that will be coming from the ground must be analyzed. We must ensure that this program is approved after the Nowruz holidays. I think additions will be incorporated into the state budget in April because our financial capabilities are expanding and we should not postpone the work that can be done this year until next year. Therefore, this program must be prepared in April at the latest to be incorporated into the state budget. As regards the opening of new jobs, I am urging local and foreign investors to invest in Baku settlements because this is necessary. We have established the Azerbaijan state investment company to attract foreign investment for the required areas. The investment company must also join this work. Of course, the Azerbaijani state will take on most of the workload, and we will succeed thanks to the provision of low-interest loans and infrastructure projects. Of course, different activities may already be under way in this area in the settlements. I want to point to some directions of the future work. I think we should develop olive-growing. We have remarkable traditions, and the climate is quite favorable. The process of establishing olive-growing farms and modern processing facilities must be bolstered. Production of olives in Azerbaijan is picking up now. There are very good opportunities for that in Baku settlements.

The establishment of poultry factories has already begun. Poultry units are being commissioned in some settlements. In general, we can provide ourselves with poultry meat by about 80 per cent. I have issued the instruction to allocate extra funds for the development of poultry breeding. We should also consider this issue in Baku settlements. Domestic production will also create conditions for keeping the prices stable, or at least it should. But I want to stress one aspect in this regard. In some cases we think we should fight monopolistic trends only by imports. There is an element of truth and justice in that. We are and will be fighting monopolistic tendencies. But it is also true that thanks to the work done in our country in recent years, thanks to the investment and economic policies, our domestic production has significantly expanded.

We have reached the level of self-sufficiency on key foodstuffs and will reach it on the other goods – we are aware of those – in the near future. However, prices on domestic products are sometimes groundlessly and artificially increased. There has been a hike in the prices of eggs. I have ordered that this issue be examined. We can provide ourselves with eggs. Eggs are produced in Azerbaijan, it is possible to say that they are not imported. Then why did the prices of eggs rise several times over a short period of time? Now an egg costs over 20 gapiks. Who is doing that? We are studying the issue. This is nothing but monopolism, monopolism in the manufacturing sector. It is known as the “cartel agreement” in the world. This is nothing but a “cartel agreement”. I immediately issued the instruction that those who artificially raised egg prices be brought to book. A criminal case has been started and those responsible will be punished.

We support private enterprise. I have repeatedly said that private enterprise must develop. So many loans have been provided! If the state didn’t provide loans, where would they take money to build farms? If the state didn’t support them, create the infrastructure and build power lines, how could entrepreneurship develop? I have said so many times that entrepreneurship must develop! I have told the attending heads of executive authorities so many times: don’t touch them, let them work, don’t hamper them, help them. And in many cases we can see that. Local executive authorities do support the private enterprise. But entrepreneurs must be responsible too. What does this mean? Why do they artificially raise prices?! Eggs are just one product, while prices are raised on other products in the run-up to holidays. Why? You know, people must be responsible and conscientious. When this is not the case, punishments will be applied. The businessmen that have been acting dishonestly, the producers of eggs who have artificially raised prices will see what punishment the state will apply to them. Let this be a lesson for others. If someone intends to artificially raise prices here, let them draw the right conclusions and think what may be in store. Prices in Azerbaijan are regulated on the basis of market principles, but we also know what prices there are in the world and in Azerbaijan!

The oil price has now risen in the world. This will certainly affect the goods being imported – maybe not immediately, this process will be felt after some time. We witnessed this several years ago: several months after the oil price had risen, the prices of imported goods also soared. But why should prices of local goods go up? We can practically provide ourselves with meat, fruits and vegetables, other products. We are even exporting them. Why should these prices rise? Who is taking advantage of that? So, let those doing that stop before it is too late, otherwise our punishments will be very severe and effective.

I think new bakeries should be established to develop private enterprise in Baku settlements. In general, we should pay more attention to this sphere on the nationwide level. We have built modern processing factories, canneries, dairy farms, meat cutting and processing facilities. All of them are modern. In recent years, however, bread baking has not received sufficient attention. This process is quite old-fashioned. I have instructed the Ministry of Economic Development to encourage the establishment of bakeries through provision of loans. This process should be stepped up, especially in and around Baku.

Our future work must cover the establishment of greenhouses operating on the basis of modern technologies. People can grow rathe-ripes and flowers in greenhouses. This is a traditional activity for Baku settlements. We must bolster it. There are greenhouses in Baku and elsewhere where modern technologies are used, and this process must be further boosted by the National Fund on the Support for Entrepreneurship. Local executive bodies must also help the businessmen establishing such greenhouses. All relevant decisions will be made in this regard.

The issues raised here are awaiting solution. But this is only a fraction of all the issues on our agenda. We must ensure complete development of Baku settlements. Let me repeat that we must comprehensively approach all issues – infrastructure, industrialization, jobs, roads, public utilities. I want to repeat that this is an extensive program. It is tantamount to creating the infrastructure of a whole city. I am sure that as a result of its implementation, all the work in Baku and the settlements will be carried out at the highest possible level.

The development of Baku is ongoing, our city is becoming prettier and improving. We have now started implementing another major project – the White City. This project carries a remarkably symbolic meaning because it envisages development on an area that was historically dubbed as the “black city”. The White City project is being demonstrated at international exhibitions. This will be a large residential center. It will be a development project equal to the establishment of a small city. In other words, we are talking about a new, modern, environmentally friendly and beautiful construction project to be implemented in the most environmentally unfavorable location of Baku, on lands polluted with oil and oil residue. Residential houses, offices, shopping centers, recreation parks will be built there, and a boulevard overlooking the sea will be built. So this is a project requiring vast resources. We will finance it from the state budget, but most of the workload will be assumed by the private sector. We have taken all the measures necessary to develop the private sector and protect foreign investment in Azerbaijan. I think the White City project will secure a place on the map of world cities as a manifestation of a new strategy on the development of our city and country. I repeat that this project must be implemented mainly using private funds. Therefore, we must attract investors, including foreign, and I hope we can do that.

The instructions issued today must be realized in the coming years. All the work in our city must be done at a high level. All the conditions are and will be created for the convenience of our people. The adoption of the new Program on the development of Baku settlements will breathe a new life into them, will give them a powerful impetus. All state bodies, local representatives must take an active part in its implementation. Baku is our capital, a dear and native city for us. We must ensure that all the work in Baku is done at a high level. Thank you.