Opening speech by Ilham Aliyev at the conference dedicated to results of fourth year implementation of the State Program on socio-economic development in 2014-2018

29 january 2019, 10:45

The third state program on the socioeconomic development of the regions has been executed. The program adopted five years ago has been over-fulfilled. All the objectives that we set for ourselves in the past five years have been met. The third program is of great importance. This program has enabled us to give an impetus to the reforms carried out in the regions, to the work being done over these years.

As you know, the adoption of programs on the socioeconomic development of the regions of Azerbaijan was one of the commitments I made on the eve of the 2003 presidential election. I said at the time that if the Azerbaijani people showed confidence in me, I would first of all tackle the development of the regions, I will make every effort to solve problems in the regions. The first program was adopted in February 2004 and the program we are discussing today is the third one.

Therefore, when speaking about the work done, of course, we should examine the work done in the past 15 years. This work is manifested in real life, in numbers and in our cities improving and changing their appearance. Over the past 15 years, the Azerbaijani economy has developed at a record pace on a global scale. Our gross domestic product increased 3.3 times. I want to say again that this is a record figure on a global scale. Industrial production has increased 2.6 times. Our exports have increased 4.7 times, foreign exchange reserves 24 times and now amount to $45 billion. This shows that despite major investments in the regions of Azerbaijan, in the oil and gas sector and in the development of Baku, we have managed to increase our foreign exchange reserves 24 times. This enables us to be very optimistic about the future. The Azerbaijani economy is sustainable now.

This successful policy has led to major investments in our country. In 15 years, about $250 billion have been invested in Azerbaijan, and half of that is foreign investments. So Azerbaijan is a very attractive country for foreign investors. The investment climate in Azerbaijan stimulates foreign investors.

I want to bring another fact to your attention. Azerbaijan was mentioned in the World Bank's Doing Business report for the first time in 2006, when it was in 98th place. As a result of the fundamental reforms carried out and the improved investment climate, Azerbaijan ranks 25th in the world according to the latest report. In other words, this gives us grounds to say that both local and foreign investors will continue to invest heavily in Azerbaijan. This investment will continue to create jobs and new enterprises and confidently develop our country.

Over the past 15 years, 2 million new jobs have been created. The population has increased by 1.6 million people. This is also an excellent indicator. The bigger the population, the more rapidly our country will develop. But, of course, we must continue to organize our work in such a way that economic development and creation of jobs outpace population growth, so that the growing population is provided with work. Job creation was an integral part of the programs on socioeconomic development of the regions and, as I have already noted, 2 million jobs have been created. A significant part of them falls on the regions. Agriculture has increased 1.7 times. I am sure that growth will go faster in the future.

In a nutshell, all our economic indicators suggest that Azerbaijan has successfully and confidently developed for the past 15 years. Our increased economic opportunities have allowed us the opportunity to pay great attention to social issues. I would like to voice a few numbers. Over the past 15 years, wages have been increased seven times and pensions nine times. Over the past 15 years, more than 3,200 schools have been overhauled or rebuilt, 640 medical institutions have been built and reconstructed, and 44 Olympic centers have been established in the regions. This shows again that our policy is socially oriented and we primarily channel our revenues into the social sphere.

Problems of the internally displaced persons have always been the focus of attention, and this is still the case. In recent years, more than 100 settlements have been built and provided to the IDPs. Martyr families, war veterans and those disabled in the war have been provided with 6,650 apartments, and this process continues. People of this category will be provided with houses. In other words, Azerbaijan is a country paying a lot of attention to the social sphere. We have managed to combine the principles of a market economy with those of social justice in our country, and I believe that the successful development of Azerbaijan is underpinned by that.

Various processes have taken place in the world in the past 15 years. The world has changed a lot. Fifteen years ago, the situation was completely different. The risks, threats, hotbeds of conflict and wars are intensifying today, and unfortunately this trend is deteriorating. In our region, in the Middle East, in the CIS and in our immediate vicinity, extremely dangerous processes are taking place today. They have led to great disasters. Millions of people are suffering from wars. Millions of people have been killed, injured, went missing and found themselves in the situation of refugees and displaced persons. Most territories of some countries are in complete ruins. This is a major humanitarian disaster. It is possible to say that we observe this in the media on a daily basis and, unfortunately, this trend continues. Against this negative background, our government is realizing a strategy towards confident and dynamic development and is leading our country forward.

Azerbaijan is a space of stability and security. Recent history has clearly demonstrated that when the stability of a country is disrupted, it finds itself in a very difficult and uncontrolled state, the economy falls apart, the industry gets paralyzed, people suffer, and decades are needed to get out of this situation. The main factor of the successful development model of Azerbaijan is that our policy enjoys popular support. After all, this policy is designed to improve the well-being of our people. This policy is designed to turn our country into a strong state. As a result of this policy, Azerbaijan can openly speak from various platforms around the world, conducts an independent policy and fully protects its interests.

The economic and political reforms carried out in Azerbaijan, the strengthening of our country have enabled us to protect ourselves from the risky processes unfolding around the world. I want to say again: the main goal of our foreign policy is to allow us the opportunity to manage possible risks from the outside, mitigate and eliminate them. We are achieving this. For the past 15 years, the people of Azerbaijan have lived in peace and tranquility. The people of Azerbaijan live and create in the conditions of peace. I believe that every patriot can be rightfully proud of his country and the present-day Azerbaijan.

As I have already mentioned, over the course of 15 years we have taken important steps to improve the business environment and provided tremendous support for the development of entrepreneurship. The size of the loans provided to entrepreneurs on favorable terms alone exceed 2 billion manats. It is gratifying that only one billion of this amount was allocated from the state budget. The rest, exceeding one billion manats, was provided from the already repaid earlier loans. We have thus created fairly large financial resources. This enables us to alleviate the burden from the state budget and provide further financial support to entrepreneurs on favorable terms.

The process of industrialization is successfully powering ahead. The launch of industrial estates has gained momentum lately. This process is currently ongoing in several cities and we have 67 residents in industrial parks. Forty of these are already functioning.

The establishment of agricultural estates can also be regarded as a very positive development. The program provides for the creation of 51 agricultural estates. Of these, 17 are already functioning. As a result of the launch of the remaining agricultural estates, jobs will be created in the regions and the production and exports of our agricultural products will further increase.

Over these years, we have become a space-faring nation. This is also a source of pride for us. We already have three satellites. Azerbaijan is one of a handful of countries to have joined the space club. This is about innovation, business and modernity. As for innovation, there is a brand called "ASAN xidmət", which is known in the world as a product of Azerbaijan. It was created by us. It is our intellectual product and an expression of our will. Today, "ASAN xidmət" operates in several countries and the number of countries using this system is growing. Fifteen "ASAN xidmət" centers have been established in our country. By the end of this year, their number will reach 20. These centers have processed over 26 million applications. The approval ratings are close to 100 percent. "ASAN xidmət" provides more than 200 services in a completely transparent manner and without any violations. This area, as you know, has always been of great concern. Our people had legitimate complaints. There are no complaints now and the successful operation of "ASAN xidmət" is a reflection of our policy. Everything in Azerbaijan should be transparent, everything should be within the frames of law. This shows again that serving the people is one of the main tasks of our policy.

Of course, the oil and gas sector is the main branch of our economy. It is the case today, it was the case before and it will be the case in the future. We are simply trying to rapidly develop the non-oil sector and are achieving that. But regardless of the public and political formation, this has been the key economic driver ever since first oil was discovered in Azerbaijan. We are using these natural resources very rationally. The commissioning of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum oil and gas pipelines is a great historic event. If these projects had not been implemented, we would not be able to receive such revenues because our export opportunities are limited, we do not have access to the world ocean and we definitely need oil and gas pipelines. The construction of these pipelines was a very difficult project both financially and politically, and also from the point of view of international cooperation. We managed to do that. Today, these two pipelines are delivering our resources to world markets. The construction of the Southern Gas Corridor, one of Europe's largest infrastructure projects, is currently under way. This megaproject consisting of four projects is already in its final stages. Three of the four components have already been commissioned. The TANAP and the Southern Gas Corridor were inaugurated last year, and this is a historic event.

We have channeled our oil and gas revenues into the transport sector in order to turn Azerbaijan into a transport hub not only in this region but also of Eurasia. We are already achieving this. The commissioning of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway is a historic event. It is an extremely important project, as it enables us to transport large volumes of cargo from East to West and from West to East through the territory of Azerbaijan. This enhances our geopolitical significance. At the same time, we will always earn currency thanks to this. The creation of the North-South corridor is also of great importance. A lot is being done in this direction. Of course, this work requires large-scale international cooperation. Azerbaijan has played a positive role in this area as an initiator. Today, the number of countries connected via the East-West and North-South transport corridors exceeds 10, and their number will grow. But only Azerbaijan participates in both projects. Therefore, we are turning into a strategic transport center of Eurasia. The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, the Alat international trade seaport, our road infrastructure, modern and modernizing infrastructure have all been created in recent years. If we had not paid so much attention to infrastructure projects, there could be no talk of any development today.

Fifteen years ago, we could not provide ourselves with electricity. We either imported it from abroad or some regions of our country were left without light. Over the past 15 years, 31 new stations have been built and a new capacity of 2,500 megawatts have been created. Today we don't simply provide ourselves, we also export electricity. Fifteen years ago, the supply of natural gas was at about 50 percent; today, this figure is at 95 percent. The provision of drinking water was at 26 percent, but today it is at 70 percent. In 15 years, 15,000 kilometers of roads have been built.

In other words, we could talk for hours about the work done. I have simply brought the key points to your attention. I am sure that in today's speeches and discussions we will talk about the work that has been done and our plans. We will ensure the implementation of further development plans.

Other speakers at the event included chairman of Khazar car plant in Neftchala Industrial District Emin Akhundov, head of Shaki City Executive Authority Elkhan Usubov, head of “Nakhchivan Baghlari” Ltd Elchin Baghirov, head of Aghjabadi District Executive Authority Shahin Mammadov, director of Saloglu Tajaddin Mustafayev, head of Masalli District Executive Authority Rafil Huseynov, director of Mughan Agroservice Ltd Rajab Orujov, head of Gusar District Executive Authority Shair Alkhasov, and director of “Hajigabul Gushchulug” Ltd Nemat Babashov.

The head of state made a closing speech at the conference.