Opening speech by Ilham Aliyev at the meeting on the measures being taken to fight the coronavirus pandemic and the socio-economic situation in the country

06 august 2020, 13:45

There is a positive dynamic in the fight against coronavirus. The positive trend observed as of 16 July allows us to say that all the measures have been undertaken in a timely manner. Thanks to these measures, the situation remains under control to this day. Since 16 July, the number of new cases of infection is far lower than the number of people recovering from the disease. This positive trend suggests that we will continue to keep the coronavirus disease under control. We are very pleased with the positive dynamic in the fight against coronavirus in the past three weeks. In principle, from the very first days, immediately after the outbreak of this disease, all preventive measures were taken. Thanks to that we are recovering with minimum losses.

Certainly, all organizational issues had to be addressed properly and we have achieved just that. In a short time, we managed to bring our hospital availability in line with the situation pertaining to the disease. The merit of our doctors is immense and owing to their tireless activity the mortality rate from this disease in Azerbaijan has remained at a minimum. As you know, 46 hospitals are there to serve only coronavirus patients today. I must also say that 41 of these 46 hospitals were built or overhauled and provided with state-of-the-art equipment in the past 17 years. Had we not taken these steps on time, we would be faced with great problems and a dire situation today.

I believe we are taking successful steps in connection with the tests. Azerbaijan has held a leading position in the world in terms of the number of tests per capita. Of course, testing requires the presence of opportunities. We have multiplied the number of our laboratories by five times in a short span of time. The new laboratories to be acquired shortly will enable even more tests. We must increase the total number of laboratories to 45. New ambulance vans have recently been delivered to the country. There are plans to deliver a total of 100 ambulance vans, and 40 of them are already in Baku. These vehicles are and will be sent to all the regions. These vehicles are certainly of great importance in providing the necessary medical and emergency care to our citizens.

In the meantime, because the number of patients was on the rise, there was still a need for the construction of new hospitals, even though the existing hospitals had significantly boosted our capabilities. For this purpose, the construction of modular hospitals was organized. Nine modular hospitals have been commissioned to date. Four of them started operating in one day – on 29 July. These hospitals were opened with my participation in Gobustan, Ismayilli, Gabala and Shaki. Soon, the total number of modular hospitals will reach 16, thus a total of 3,200 coronavirus patients will be treated in these hospitals alone. An 800-bed hospital was commissioned through the Ministry of Emergency Situations and another 1,300-bed hospital will be commissioned before the end of this month. This will provide additional 2,100 beds. At the same time, two Olympic Sports Centers have been turned into hospitals in a short time. About 300 patients can be treated in each of these centers if necessary. There is no need for that right now, but if it arises, we will certainly be able to use these capacities as well.

When we talk about preventive measures, all of these factors are taken into account, of course, because we must be ready for the most critical scenario. It is thanks to such swift and goal-oriented steps that the disease is now under control. I want to say again that the number of patients has been decreasing for the last three weeks. All of these steps, of course, allow us the opportunity to recover from this situation with dignity and protect our people’s lives.

We were faced with natural difficulties associated with the need to increase the number of doctors. Therefore, the possibility of inviting them from abroad was looked into. Doctors have now been invited from several countries and they are already treating patients in Azerbaijan. Teams of doctors from Turkey, Russia, Cuba, Italy and China have come to Azerbaijan and have already started working. Of course, this creates additional opportunities for us because the healthcare system in these countries is developed and there is a lot of experience there. At the same time, of course, issues of treating patients and exchanging experiences are resolved here in a complex.

All necessary measures will continue to be taken to protect people’s health. I want to say again – I have repeatedly said this and our position is known to the Azerbaijani people – the primary issue for us is the life and health of our people.

As far as economic and social issues are concerned, they are also being addressed. Suffice it to look at the work that has implemented in recent months to see the amount of work that has been done. The extensive social package we have introduced covers nearly five million people. The vast majority of the 900,000 public sector employees have, in fact, stayed at home, their salaries have been paid by the government. A total of 760,000 people were provided with the necessary financial support and their jobs were preserved. Otherwise, 760,000 people could have lost their jobs because the sectors in which these people are employed have been worst affected by the pandemic. Of course, entrepreneurs and employers are no longer making money and hundreds of thousands of people could have lost their jobs. As a result of prompt measures taken, the government immediately intervened in this matter again. Indeed, significant financial resources have been spent on all this.

A total of 600,000 unemployed people, including those working unofficially, those who temporarily lost their jobs and other vulnerable categories of the population, are provided with government care. They have been receiving 190 manats as an allowance for several months now. I believe that this social support should be continued. A strict quarantine regime is in place in 13 cities and districts of Azerbaijan now. People of this category living in these districts should continue to be provided with this support. I am instructing you to pay them 190 manats in August as well.

This is only a part of the work done if we take into account the fact that large social projects are being implemented in our country. Their volume reached a record high in 2020. Even though the pandemic and the decline in the oil price had a very negative impact on our revenues, none of the envisaged social projects remained unfinished and reduced. I must note that a record number of IDP families will be provided with houses and apartments this year. More than 7,000 families of displaced persons will take advantage of this opportunity this year. A record number of 1,500 families of martyrs and those disabled in the Karabakh war will be provided with apartments this year. More than 400 servicemen with an impeccable service record in the army will be provided with free apartments by the government. In other words, overall, the government will provide apartments for at least 9,000 families this year. All these apartments are of high quality. Almost all of them are in newly constructed buildings. So if one family has an average of five people, this means that 45,000 people in our country are provided with free, quality housing by the government. I can say with full confidence that this is the highest achievement in the world in per capita terms.

This demonstrates our intentions and our policies. It shows that citizens of Azerbaijan are at the core of our policy. All this is a reality we are creating ourselves, without receiving assistance from anyone, without seeking financial support from any international financial institution. The vast majority of countries in the world have applied for financial assistance, but we rely on our strength. We have secured such opportunities thanks to the talent of our people and calculated policies.

I should also note that significant steps have been taken in the economic sphere and issues of business support as well. This will be reported on today. Business support programs should be continued. I believe that the projects planned at the beginning of the year, the provision of loans and subsidies to entrepreneurs on preferential terms, the stimulation of agriculture and the work done in connection with the pandemic fully reflect our policy.

We are introducing amendments to the budget. This issue is already being discussed. The Milli Majlis is already holding discussions on this issue. This shows once again that we want to support every citizen of Azerbaijan in this difficult time because when our budget was being approved, the pandemic had not started yet. Our declining revenues and increasing expenditures have necessitated a revision of the budget and adjustments to provide citizens with maximum assistance. I hope that the Milli Majlis will have its say in connection with the adjustments in the coming days. The government proposes to take the oil price at the level of $35, not $55 so that we could plan our expenses based on this indicator for the rest of the year.

This shows that the Azerbaijani state is ready for any crisis because we have created a solid foundation to be able to take the right steps in the face of any crisis. And even if the oil price remains at $35, Azerbaijan will fulfill all its social obligations and implement the necessary infrastructure projects in our country. There will also be enough to secure additional funds to strengthen the country's military potential. As for the adjustments, of course, we primarily mean social and other projects.