Closing speech by Ilham Aliyev at the meeting on the socio-economic results of the first quarter of 2020 through videoconference

14 april 2020, 16:30

 I want to repeat that there have been positive changes in the field of agriculture in recent years. The E-Agriculture Program is being implemented. The mechanism for the provision of subsidies to farmers has been improved and cards have already been issued. This is a very positive fact. In other words, agriculture must meet modern standards. This being the case, of course, productivity will increase, people working in the village will work. At the same time, we will provide the domestic market and will be able to supply a wider range of products to foreign markets. The main issue related to agriculture is to increase productivity. The Ministry of Agriculture is already working in this direction. We can say that the yields of all types of produce are increasing every year. However, we should know that the population is growing as well, and so will domestic consumption. Therefore, agricultural production must develop at a rapid pace so that we can meet the domestic demand and supply our products to external markets.

I believe that additional funds should be allocated to resolve the issues you have noted. We should consider allocating funds from the President’s Contingency Fund for the provision of microloans. I believe that 30 million manats can be allocated for this. It is necessary to prepare and submit a draft of the relevant Order to me.

What you said about the drought is a very serious matter that causes great concern, as this trend may continue. As you know, there is great concern in the world about climate change. Some forecasts suggest that perhaps in 10 or 20 years, even desertification is not ruled out in Azerbaijan. Therefore, we already need to prepare for this. Last year’s drought created major problems for us. Even the elderly don’t remember such a drought. Drought is also expected this year. Therefore, the mobilization of our water resources and their rational use are becoming a priority. It is no secret that where there is water, productivity and people's incomes increase. It is for this purpose that several important large-scale projects have been implemented in our country. If the Shamkirchay and Takhtakorpu water reservoirs had not been built in time, the canals had not been laid, then great difficulties could have arisen in the areas that feed on this water. Over the past few years, we have been supplying water to approximately 100,000 hectares of lands. These are lands that were not irrigated at all or were irrigated inadequately. Therefore, in order to continue to meet the needs of agriculture and farmers in this area, it is necessary to draw up a new program. We cannot work with old methods because they are not proving effective. Technologies are developing in all areas in the world today, including the field of land reclamation. We can no longer do this work by old-fashioned methods. New technologies must be introduced. I am told that in some places water loss reaches 40-50 percent even though major investments have recently been made in this area. However, the installations built in the old days and most of the infrastructure have decayed and do not allow for the supply of water. In addition, these leaks lead to the salinization of the soil. Therefore, we suffer damage twice here. We should also know that our water resources are not so large. The main sources of water in our country are formed outside our borders. Therefore, every drop of water is important to us. It is necessary to seriously address this issue. We can say that all the water utilities built in the Soviet era are ground-based. We have been building only concrete canals and concreting the ground-based canals built earlier. We are thus preventing the loss of water. However, I believe that we should look further. Developed countries of the world, in particular, countries with the same climate conditions as ours, have gained experience. They have fairly high yields and their experience should be applied to Azerbaijan.

Therefore, I believe that in order to achieve serious progress in this area, it is necessary to set up a special commission. A commission will be established to deal with the rational use of water resources. I believe that the commission should be headed by Deputy Prime Minister Shahin Mustafayev, since during his work as Minister of Economy he was heavily involved in this issue and regularly reported to me. The commission should include heads of the relevant agencies – the Minister of Agriculture, the Minister of Economy, the Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, the heads of the “Land Reclamation and Water Resources” Joint Stock Company, the “Azersu” Joint Stock Company and other relevant bodies, so that a plan of specific measures can be prepared. We can say that there is material and information available in relation to the analysis. The key question is what we should do, what steps we should take. We should probably also engage foreign specialists to give us good advice. We must appreciate every drop of water.

So our meeting today is coming to a close. I should note, of course, that our economic and social plans remain unchanged. Although coronavirus has had a definite impact on our plans, it cannot make us turn off the main path. Of course, today all our efforts are aimed at combating coronavirus. And this is natural. This is why the Operational Headquarters led by the Prime Minister has been set up by my order. The Headquarters works very efficiently around the clock. I can say that I am in contact on a round-the-clock basis. During the day, we probably call each other five to six times and talk. I can say that if these steps had not been taken in good time, if very serious coordination had not been carried out, we could have faced even greater problems. To date, it is possible to say that we have managed to protect ourselves from major problems. The dynamics of the last two days, i.e. the difference between the number of patients and those who have recovered, instills a certain optimism. But I don’t want to jump the gun as analysis is still under way. As you know, the quarantine regime is valid until the 20th. Next week, both the Operational Headquarters and all other relevant agencies should submit their proposals on what steps we should take after the 20th, whether the quarantine regime should remain in force and, if so, in what form and when we can begin to start mitigating it. We need to know all of this for sure. I want to say this again: the main goal is to protect our people from this disease. The economy can be restored. We are now working hard and will continue to work to overcome this situation with minimal losses.

Consistent action is being taken in related to coronavirus. Currently, patients are being treated in more than 20 hospitals. At the same time, citizens are quarantined in 4-5-star hotels, including the Athletes Village. We have already conducted more than 70,000 tests, and by the number of tests we are in 30th place on a global scale. Attention is being paid to doctors, their salaries have been increased by three, four and five times. We started the production of masks, one enterprise has already begun to operate. I am told that another enterprise is about to be launched. This is also a very positive fact. The construction of 10 modular hospitals has already begun. Six of them will be built by the state and four by the private sector. At the end of last month, our most modern hospital, “Yeni klinika", was commissioned. This is the most modern clinic with 575 beds and it was placed at the disposal of those infected with coronavirus. At the opening of the clinic, I noted that because of this disease, we commissioned this clinic somewhat ahead of schedule, and it gradually begins to operate. According to recent data, 100 coronavirus infected people are already undergoing treatment in this clinic. So, the process of commissioning more beds there continues and all the possibilities will be mobilized as much as possible.

The best assessment of our work in this area is given by the Azerbaijani people. I want to say again that I am receiving thousands of emails. People express their appreciation for the work done. The World Health Organization has praised our work and described Azerbaijan as an exemplary country in the fight against coronavirus.

All this gives us reason to say that we will overcome this misfortune and get the upper hand in this struggle. As a people, we have already shown unity and solidarity. Now we must demonstrate more responsibility and discipline. If this is the case, we will get out of this difficult situation with dignity and small losses.

I wish the people of Azerbaijan good health and happiness. Thank you!