President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has received in a video format Rashad Nabiyev on his appointment as Minister of Transport, Communications and High Technologies.

26 january 2021, 14:00

The head of state delivered remarks at the video meeting.

Remarks by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev

- You are being appointed Minister of Transport, Communications and High Technologies. Great confidence has been placed in you, and I am sure you will live up to this confidence.

I have always attached great importance to the areas you will be leading, and I continue to do so to this day. In recent years, these areas have thrived. When I was elected President, we were not pleased with the situation in both transport and communications. At that time, there was no talk of high technology. The roads were in disrepair, and the railway infrastructure was outdated. There was no progress in maritime transport.

On the contrary, our fleet was obsolete. In general, the situation in this area was not reassuring. Thanks to the measures taken, Azerbaijan today is one of the world's leading countries in the transport area. Azerbaijani citizens see this. At the same time, Azerbaijan always occupies leading positions in international organizations' rankings. Suffice it to look at the Davos World Economic Forum report to see that serious reforms are underway in this area. Azerbaijan is a frontrunner in the world in terms of ratings.

We hold 24-27th places for the quality of roads. We are in 11th place in the world for the efficiency of railways. We rank 12th for the efficiency of air transport. In other words, it required tremendous effort and thought-out policies to achieve these high rankings. Of course, the investment in transport infrastructure has created this new situation. Today, investments in the transport sector have a positive impact on developing the country's economic sector, especially the non-oil sector. Because where there are no roads, there is no development. If there are no roads, farmers cannot deliver their products to the market. Where there are no railways, there can be no transit. Therefore, first of all, we have completely rebuilt the infrastructure within the country. Simultaneously, we have created transit opportunities essential for our country that align with our long-term development strategy. Over the past 17 years, more than 17,000 kilometers of roads have been built, including highways, intercity and rural roads. This process continues to this day.

Furthermore, establishing the road infrastructure in the liberated lands began this year. We will do this in a planned manner. The new road from Fuzuli to Shusha shows that we can do this work in the shortest possible time.

Significant projects have been implemented in railway transport in the country. Projects to rehabilitate our railways have been implemented. The Baku Circular Road has been built, which is a significant development for passenger transportation and comfort. Railway stations have been built in various cities.

Of course, the construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway on Azerbaijan's initiative has created a new transportation map in our region and Eurasia as a whole. Our partners are currently using this route to deliver their products in different directions. I must note that the diversity of roads passing through Azerbaijan's territory significantly increases our opportunities. Despite the global economic downturn during the pandemic, I must say that the volume of cargo transported through the North-South Transportation Corridor has risen by about 20 percent. Many countries use our railway infrastructure. There are routes such as the China-Kazakhstan-Caspian Sea-Azerbaijan-Europe and Afghanistan-Turkmenistan-Caspian Sea-Azerbaijan-Europe. We have connected the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway with the Lapis-Lazuli road, and, of course, the diversified transport infrastructure has played a role here because our opportunities have expanded. The Baku Shipyard, which was commissioned on my initiative a few years ago, manufactures all types of vessels, and we increase this production every year. The plant currently produces tankers, Ro-Ro ships and cargo vessels. We have eliminated our dependence on foreign countries in this area, created thousands of jobs and opportunities for companies involved in oil and gas operations. They are also placing their orders with this plant.

We have modernized the Caspian Shipping Company, have the largest fleet in the Caspian Sea and introduce new vessels to the fleet every year. Baku International Trade Sea Port plays an invaluable role in cargo transportation in the Caspian Sea. First, we moved the port out of Baku. It has had a positive impact on the environmental situation in Baku. We have also created a new recreation area. The launch of the most modern seaport in Alat has dramatically increased our capabilities.

When it comes to air transport, suffice it to say that our aircraft fleet is one of the most modern fleets today. Both our cargo and passenger planes are modern and manufactured by the world's leading companies. Heydar Aliyev International Airport in Baku is a five-star airport, and there are about ten such airports in the world. Heydar Aliyev International Airport has been number one in the CIS for several years. The airports built on my instructions in our other cities have significantly boosted our transport potential. Seven airports have been constructed across the country in recent years. Six of them have international status and can receive all aircraft types, including the largest cargo planes. As you know, the construction of a new international airport has begun in Fuzuli, and a second international airport will be built on the liberated lands – either in Lachin or Kalbajar.

In short, the attention being paid to the transport sector and our thought-out policies have created this new reality. Today, our transport sector is modern and allows us the opportunity to fulfill the tasks our country is facing. At the same time, billions of dollars of investment in this area are already having a positive impact on our non-oil economy. Investments in the transport sector are not the ones that will be recovered in a year or two, not even in five to 10 years. It is a long-term investment. These investments are made to ensure comfort for people and the country's long-term sustainable development.

As for other areas, there are positive dynamics and progress there too. I think that Azerbaijan plays a central role in the region in communications and high technologies. It is no coincidence that the "Bakutel" exhibition, which has already gained an excellent reputation worldwide, is traditionally held in Baku. My numerous meetings with the International Telecommunication Union leaders show that international organizations highly value our investments and attention to this area. I think we have solved all the major issues in the country's communications area. The number of Internet users is above 80 percent. Everyone knows that the Internet in Azerbaijan is free – there is no censorship, and there are no restrictions.

Of course, I must mention the satellites among the work done on technological development. As someone previously in charge of this area, you would know it well. When we launched the satellites into orbit, some people asked why this was necessary. But life has shown that we need it very much. Both during the war and in the post-war period, satellites gave us a great advantage. Both our telecommunications and Earth observation satellites have allowed us the opportunity to fulfill all our objectives. We are a member of an exclusive club of space-faring nations. Of course, staff training plays an important role here. Personnel working in this field are already strengthening our overall intellectual potential. At the same time, it gave us an additional advantage to monitor the enemy's movements online during the Patriotic War and prevent their provocations. It is no coincidence that military experts worldwide have branded the Patriotic War and the operations Azerbaijan carried out as a war of the 21st century because it was a novelty in technological development.

After the war, satellites are also vital for our reconstruction plans. Based on the information you provided to me, we are now working on deme clearance with greater efficiency. At the same time, satellite data on the future development of agriculture, forest resources, water resources and the environmental situation are of particular importance. We do not depend on any country in this area. At the same time, these opportunities, of course, give us a great advantage for the proper organization of future restoration work. In a nutshell, the job done in transport, technology and communications in Azerbaijan can be unequivocally assessed as positive. This acknowledgment has also come from the world's leading financial institutions and the Davos World Economic Forum.

As far as objectives for the future are concerned, this positive trend must be maintained, of course. It is no secret that technology develops fast globally, and we must take steps to match this development. Of course, even greater steps must be taken to develop technology in Azerbaijan. We need to involve young people in this work on a larger scale. During meetings with talented young people, I saw that some choose to go abroad to use their knowledge and innovations. For example, our policy on startups is undoubtedly positive. However, during the meetings with these talented young people, it turned out that many of them work abroad and come to Azerbaijan on visits. We must create conditions for our talented young people to work in Azerbaijan, fully realize their knowledge here, serve the country's economy and strengthen our nation. Therefore, the application of new technologies in Azerbaijan is a priority issue. First of all, of course, we are talking about applying the most state-of-the-art technologies in Azerbaijan. We must do that. The most modern technologies should be used in all areas in Azerbaijan. Simultaneously, the activities of talented people must be better organized so that Azerbaijan can play its role as a producer of technology and have a say in this area. For example, why have we become a country that invents and exports technology in public services? Because the right goals have been set, the staffing has been chosen correctly, and the President has always paid attention to this area. However, all institutions should pay attention to that. In some cases, my instructions are implemented only for a certain period, after which they are not implemented, are forgotten, or another unpleasant situation occurs. Therefore, government agencies, ministries and state-owned companies must follow my instructions to the end, and there will be no disruption in that case.

The introduction of new technologies will allow us the opportunity to maintain our military strength at a high level. Today, Azerbaijan has shown its superiority on the battlefield. The courage and self-sacrifice of our heroic sons and technical equipment and, of course, the application of new technologies have been the key contributors to our victory in the war. Technological support, of course, created additional opportunities for us. I have said this many times, and I want to say again that it was Azerbaijani soldiers and officers who liberated our lands. Azerbaijani citizens brought the flag to the liberated lands and raised it high.

Nevertheless, we must always focus on technological development and bring military innovations to Azerbaijan. Given that we have very close friendly relations with leading countries in this area and there are no restrictions on technology exports to Azerbaijan, we must always take proactive steps in this area. We must always build our policy so that Azerbaijan's military potential and defense capabilities are always high, and no-one ever resorts to any provocation against us.

Advanced technologies must be applied during the restoration work on the liberated lands. The demining process is underway. At the same time, urban development projects are being implemented. Once the urban development projects are ready, we will start hands-on construction work. Along with infrastructure projects, transport and technology must be in the spotlight at all times. I have already stated that the liberated areas should be a green energy zone as a whole, and there are ample opportunities for that. Our water resources are quite abundant. There are opportunities for the creation of solar and wind energy. We should involve foreign partners and investors in this work and create conditions for local companies. Liberated lands should be areas of high technological development.

Along with the green energy zone, cutting-edge technologies should be used in agriculture. Given that the lands in the liberated territories are very fertile, there are extensive opportunities for crop production and livestock breeding. There are vast pastures where agriculture development based on the latest technologies must be ensured. We must plan this work now so that productivity is high.

Cities and villages to be established in the liberated areas should be based on the concept of a "smart-city" and "smart-village". It would be best if you planned this work now to use the world's most advanced technologies in urban planning and project implementation. After that, perhaps even in parallel, we need to implement similar projects in other cities and villages. Because if we don't do it today, we will be left far behind tomorrow. We can't fall behind.

As you know, during my participation in the Davos World Economic Forum, I meet with about ten companies, the vast majority of which are technology companies. During these meetings, I see what is new globally, what positive development there is, and I try to attract those companies to Azerbaijan. Therefore, the "smart city" and "smart village" concept must be developed and applied.

Staff training holds a special place. I think that there is sufficient professional potential in this area now. We have implemented large-scale programs to educate our youth in leading universities abroad, and this process continues to this day. I am glad that the vast majority of our young people studying abroad have returned to our country, strengthening our human resources. I think that your Ministry should be in close contact with relevant universities in this area, in the area of education. Personnel training must be consistent with our country's economic and technological development. Only in this case can we achieve what we want.

Major transport projects have been launched in the liberated areas, and the construction of the Fuzuli Airport has begun. As I mentioned, a second airport will be built in Kalbajar or Lachin. We have started the construction of the Fuzuli-Shusha highway. In the meantime, major projects in transportation and communications areas are under discussion for this region. Here, of course, the Horadiz-Zangilan railway, then the Zangilan-Nakhchivan railway, the Nakhchivan-Turkey railway projects are a priority, and so are other projects. I think that the situation after the war opens up new opportunities for countries of the region. Azerbaijan is ready to cooperate in this field and contribute to this work. I have ordered to start designing the Horadiz-Aghband railway. Other projects have already been launched as well. The most modern technologies must be applied here so that Azerbaijan can always maintain its leadership in this area. I do hope that you will fulfill all these tasks with dignity.

New opportunities have now opened up for the development of our country. Azerbaijan has asserted itself in the world as a dignified, responsible and robust country. The war has shown to many Azerbaijan's potential. We have won the war on the battlefield. We have also triumphed in the civil field because if we hadn't built a strong economy, we could not have built a strong army. Therefore, the synthesis of all these factors preconditioned the victory and will further determine our development dynamics. Even during the pandemic, our non-oil industry grew to a great extent. Last year, our non-oil industry grew by 12.5 percent. Why? Technological development, industrialization, investment, concessional lending, public-private partnerships – all these factors have played a role. Many local companies have already been established in technology and telecommunications and operate both in Azerbaijan and abroad. We must support them as well. We must support their activities abroad, and here, too, public-private partnerships should be an example. It is a crucial area for each country for every country's future. Whoever is ahead in technological development will win, and whoever is left behind becomes dependent. It is no secret that there are traits that will disappear five years from now. New professions will emerge, and we must be ready to master these professions. We must be prepared. Our human resources must be aligned with the ongoing processes of industrialization in the world, especially the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and ensure Azerbaijan's development. It is no coincidence that the Davos World Forum chose Azerbaijan as one of the Fourth Industrial Revolution centers. It was on their initiative that this happened, and we signed a relevant document.

That is why your Ministry has extensive functions. I am also pleased with the performance of your predecessor. He has also fulfilled his duties with dignity, resolved many important issues and ensured the development of Azerbaijan in this field. But reforms are happening everywhere, they are inevitable, and the country faces new challenges. I think you have the capacity to tackle these issues – at least I hope so. Again, I want to emphasize that this is great confidence and a great responsibility for you. You have to live up to this responsibility through your work.

Minister Rashad Nabiyev said:

- Thank you, Mr. President. First of all, if you allow me, I would like to congratulate you on the great victory achieved under your leadership. Our Army's professionalism in the 44-day war demonstrated that Azerbaijan has a robust human resource potential in any field. Thank you very much for your confidence in me despite the extensive choice, which in itself increases my responsibility.

Regarding your assessment of the work done, I would like to note that it is both honorable and responsible to hear these words from you. Of course, if our country did not have the image of a reliable partner thanks to your foreign policy, no state would export high-tech products such as satellites to us. At the same time, Mr. President, owing to your domestic policy agenda, if our country did not have the economic power and financial resources, we would not have had access to these satellites. Most importantly, Mr. President, your continued attention and care for the space industry's development has been a critical factor in our success. All my colleagues and I had to do was live up to your confidence in us by taking advantage of these opportunities. I fully acknowledge my responsibilities that come with the new appointment and my personal responsibility arising from that. In addition to understanding the importance of corporatization of enterprises under the Ministry as soon as possible, our main task is to implement an effective state policy in the field, i.e., to create fair regulatory mechanisms and, thus, a competitive environment.

Mr. President, you always say that if a fair, competitive environment is there, then there would be an influx of foreign investment in that sector, which in itself encourages the development of innovation and technology in that sector and the country as a whole.

Mr. President, in the end, let me assure you that we as a Ministry will do our best to contribute to the objectives you have set for the deepening of economic reforms. The main evaluation criterion of all the decisions we will make and all the steps we will take within the Ministry's powers, together with my colleagues, will be the protection of the social interests of Azerbaijani citizens, which is an integral part of your policy. Thank you again for your confidence. We will try to live up to your trust in all our work. Thank you very much, Mr. President.