BAKU, Azerbaijan, Oct. 22
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has received Shahin Mustafayev in connection with his appointment to the post of Deputy Prime Minister.
President Ilham Aliyev said:
- You have been working as Minister of Economy for many years. In general, I am pleased with your work. Therefore, I have decided to appoint you to the position of Deputy Prime Minister. This is a very high post and sign of great trust. I do hope that you live up to this trust and contribute to the sustainability of our country's economic development in your new role.
Over the past 15 years, Azerbaijan’s economy has more than tripled. But we should also know that this growth has been more due to an increase in oil production. Of course, we have made great strides in channeling oil revenues into the non-oil sector, and in terms of economic diversification Azerbaijan is in one of the leading places on a global scale among countries rich in natural resources. It is no coincidence that the leading international financial institution, the World Bank, acknowledges the improvement of the business environment in Azerbaijan. We are in 25th place in the world in terms of the business environment and among top 20 most reforming countries. At the same time, the Davos World Economic Forum, in its annual report, has awarded Azerbaijan leading places in many respects. All this is the result of ongoing reforms.
However, I believe that we should not be complacent with the successes achieved. There are still many problems in the economy, including the need to take additional steps to improve the business environment. In particular, a lot remains to be done in the field of attracting foreign investment to the non-oil sector of the country's economy. True, more than 270 billion dollars have been invested in the country's economy. Half of this is foreign. However, the vast majority of this investment was made in the oil and gas sector. Our goal is to convince foreign investors to invest more in the country's non-oil sector. At the same time, it is necessary to create a wonderful business climate for local companies to eagerly invest in the country's economy.
We also know that one of the main reasons for the growth in economic development at present is associated with public investment. We are investing, as we should, in infrastructure projects, the service sector and other areas. However, from now on, the successful sustainable economic development of our country should be ensured by the private sector. I set this task at a meeting dedicated to the socioeconomic development results in the first nine months. Our main goal is to develop the non-oil sector and increase employment. There is a simple reason for that. since gaining independence, the population of Azerbaijan has increased by almost 3 million people. This is an advantage, a great asset for us. At the same time, it is a great burden on the country's economy, including infrastructure and social infrastructure. It is necessary to build new schools and kindergartens, pave new roads. To build roads, it is necessary to relocate citizens living in buildings that were illegally constructed at the time. The state provides them with compensation. They should be satisfied with that. In other words, we face many costs.
There is no demographic growth in other countries of the South Caucasus. This why these countries do not experience the problems we face. I have repeatedly said that our economic growth must be ahead of demographic growth. To achieve this, we need to identify new sources of growth. One of them is the fight against the shadow economy. Unfortunately, the shadow economy still covers a part of our economy. True, this problem exists in all post-Soviet countries and they are trying to fight it. In Azerbaijan, the fight against the shadow economy is carried out in a more organized manner. I believe that the business taken out of the shadow will, of course, rectify our economic indicators. In other words, indicators will reflect reality. At the same time, businesses should know that the country has unified laws, unified rules. A serious struggle must be waged against monopolistic trends. Sometimes government officials providing assistance to various business circles engage in unfair competition. The fight against monopolism in Azerbaijan should be organized. If we achieve this, then, of course, the best conditions will be created for the business community.
Therefore, it is necessary to ensure economic growth at the expense of the non-oil sector and increase employment.
Tens of thousands of jobs are created every year. This is exactly why unemployment in Azerbaijan is low. But despite this, it may increase. Why? The population is growing, and if economic development does not keep up with the growth rate of the population, then, of course, we may face major problems in the future. We are building our policy on the basis of strategic goals. Our policy is long-term and its main goal is to ensure sustainable development.
Today, the private sector accounts for 85 percent of the country's economy. Our non-oil sector is growing as well – it increased by 3.5 percent in 9 months, agriculture by more than 7 percent, non-oil industry by 15 percent. However, we know that the resources are quite large. Although the share of the private sector in the economy is quite high, we know that our non-oil exports are still at a very low level. Absolute numbers are growing, but the percentage isn’t. The reason for this, of course, is that as a result of the successful energy policy pursued in recent years, we produce more natural gas, so the share of energy resources in the gross domestic product is growing and will continue to grow, exploration and drilling operations are carried out under new contracts. In accordance with this, the non-oil sector and non-oil exports should also grow. So far, the bulk of our exports is provided by oil, gas and oil products. I believe that you, as Deputy Prime Minister, will pay serious attention to this work and ensure coordination between relevant structures.
As the Minister of Economy, you took an active part in the preparation and implementation of the state program on the socioeconomic development of the regions and played an important role in developing this program. I believe that this sphere should always be in your spotlight. You are also a co-chair in a number of bilateral intergovernmental commissions on behalf of Azerbaijan. You should continue your activities in this area. On my instructions, you visited many countries to organize various events to promote Azerbaijani exports. Great help is being provided to business circles, efforts are being made to supply Azerbaijan’s export-oriented goods to foreign markets and organize their sale there. This area should also be given constant attention. I have already spoken about the focus of public investment. It should contribute to non-oil sector growth. It is necessary to create employment opportunities and provide the growing population with jobs.
I hope that you justify my confidence in you. In other words, your experience makes it possible to say this. You are well aware of various sectors of the Azerbaijani economy. I look forward to your hard work and serious results.
Shahin Mustafayev: Dear Mr. President, first of all, I want to thank you for the recognition of my work. Such a high assessment of my activities as a civil servant by the head of state is the highest honor for me. At the same time, dear Mr. President, I want to thank you for the high confidence in me. I want to assure you that I will do my best to live up to this confidence.
Azerbaijan has indeed covered an impressive development path. Everyone, every citizen of Azerbaijan knows and sees this in everyday life. There is an incomparable picture – 2003 and 2019. These are completely different pictures. As you noted, the country's economy has grown 3.3 times. You noted that since the oil sector is the country's main financial source, this sector has developed at a faster pace. The non-oil sector grew at a slower pace – 2.8 times.
At the beginning of your activity as head of state, you set before the government the task of diversifying the economy and developing the non-oil sector. Along with a multiple increase in the country's potential, large-scale work has also been done in this area. You have also mentioned the state program on the socioeconomic development of the regions. It was one of your first programs in the socioeconomic sphere. I have to say that as a result of the program, the appearance of the country's regions has changed in the true sense of the word, the standard of living of our people has increased many times. The poverty level in Azerbaijan has dropped almost 10 times and today is at about 5 percent now. The same holds true for unemployment. The unemployment rate has dropped. Other indicators, infrastructure projects implemented in the country, roads – about 15,000 kilometers of roads have been built. The country has become a transport hub in the true sense of the word. The work done in the transport sector – the Baku International Trade Seaport, reconstruction and repair of railways, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. These gigantic projects have expanded the country's transit capacity. I want to recall one of the indicators for the first nine months of this year – the volume of non-oil transit traffic has increased by 43 percent. Entrepreneurship has covered a serious development path. Today, a middle class, a strong class of entrepreneurs has formed in Azerbaijan.
Mr. President, at the economic meeting held on 15 October, you set very clear objectives for us. I am sure that the upcoming work under your leadership to carry out your instructions will surely produce even better results. I want to assure you that I will do my best in the field entrusted to me to achieve these results.
Mr. President, let me once again express my gratitude to you – thank you very much!
President Ilham Aliyev: I wish you every success and expect good results.
Shahin Mustafayev: Thank you very much!