BAKU, Azerbaijan, March 19
President Ilham Aliyev has congratulated people of Azerbaijan on the occasion of Novruz holiday.
- Dear fellow compatriots! I sincerely congratulate you on Novruz holiday and wish the people of Azerbaijan good health and happiness! Novruz is our national holiday, a national asset. The people of Azerbaijan have been celebrating this wonderful holiday for centuries.
This year, large-scale events are not possible because of the coronavirus. I am sure that the Azerbaijani people understand this situation well. All measures being taken by the Azerbaijani state are necessary to protect the health of the people and the security of our country. Therefore, I ask every citizen to realize their responsibility and to pay special attention to representatives of the older generation. The elderly have always enjoyed great respect in Azerbaijani society. I have expressed my thoughts on this topic in sufficient detail, but I want to say again that this is one of the main pillars of our society. Our traditions, national values, respect and attention to representatives of the older generation are our national feature, and we must protect these values. In the current circumstances, representatives of the older generation need to be treated with special attention. Respect for them should be demonstrated not in word, but in deed, because it is the elderly people who have the most serious implications in connection with this disease. I am sure that together we will fight this disease that has gripped the world and turned into a pandemic, and this struggle will yield results.
The work done since the beginning of the year once again confirms the successful development of our country. Azerbaijan is modernizing and renewing. It is possible to say that the reforms carried out in Azerbaijan cover all areas. The reforms carried out in 2019 contributed to major changes in the economy. It is precisely due to the application of the principles of transparency that the state budget received more than 1 billion manats, and every single gapik of this money was spent on resolving the social problems of our people. As you know, last year, as a result of the measures taken by the government, 4.2 million Azerbaijani citizens improved their financial situation. Wages, pensions and social benefits were significantly increased. This is further evidence that Azerbaijan is a social state, and the main focus of all our economic opportunities is the social security of our citizens. Work in this direction will continue to be carried out. The first two months of 2020 indicate that further measures can be taken in this area.
Since the beginning of the year, processes in our country have been going in a positive direction. Stability and security are being provided in Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani people and the unity between the people and the government are the guarantor of this stability. This unity was once again manifested in the parliamentary elections. The parliamentary elections held on 9 February are an important event in the life of our country. The parliamentary elections once again confirmed that the policy pursued in our country is highly appreciated by the people. The will of the Azerbaijani people is reflected in the parliamentary elections and Azerbaijani society is pleased with their results.
At the parliament’s first session, I spoke about the goals of the new parliament. I want to add that the parliament was formed anew. For the first time, representatives of the opposition also became leaders of the parliament. At the same time, representatives of the opposition became leaders of parliamentary committees. This event has happened in the history of our country for the first time and it is further evidence of our intention to improve the multiparty system. It is no secret that the majority of votes in the parliament belongs to the New Azerbaijan Party. Of course, these reforms would not have taken place without the consent of the New Azerbaijan Party. This indicates that the actions being taken in this direction will have a positive impact on the further successful development of our country, that a new configuration of the political system is shaping up in our country.
At the same time, the Presidential Administration has offered a dialogue to all political parties. This is also a very serious step. It is no secret that the Azerbaijani authorities today are stronger than ever before in our history. We believe that the strong side should take the first step, make the first offer and show the way to those who, if I may say so, have lost their way. So we did this, and I am glad that the vast majority of the political spectrum responded positively to this initiative and the political dialogue has actually already begun. I am sure that its results will also be positive for our people and for the further development of the country. As for the groups that rejected the dialogue proposal, they know better. In any case, I have already said this but want to reiterate that we will not be the losing side and there will be no place for traitors and corrupt representatives of the fifth column in the new political configuration. Azerbaijan is cleaning up, as it should, from traitors and representatives of the fifth column. At the same time, the Azerbaijani people are well aware that a very serious fight is being waged against negative factors. The fight against corruption and bribery will be continued in the future too. This is further evidenced by the recent events and the steps being taken in this direction.
Our international positions have further strengthened since the beginning of this year. The meetings I held with foreign partners in a bilateral format once again showed that Azerbaijan enjoys great respect in the world and our policy is met with great approval. At the same time, my participation in international events has further strengthened the positions of our country. As you know, the Davos World Economic Forum is the most important political and economic forum in the world. The political and business elite of the world takes part. I have been consistently participating in this forum for many years, and each participation brings new dividends to our country – both political and economic. This time I was once again convinced that they are very interested in the processes taking place in Azerbaijan. It is possible to say that all my interlocutors noted one thing: Azerbaijan is a stable country, and to maintain stability in an unstable region today requires great skill and political competence. Thanks to stability, investment is being made in Azerbaijan. Last year, foreign investments worth $13.5 billion were made in our country. In January this year, relevant documents were signed in relation to foreign investments of $440 million to be made in renewable energy. In general, our participation in the Davos Economic Forum was very successful. It is in Azerbaijan that the regional center of the Davos World Economic Forum on the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be established. This center will cover the Caucasus and Central Asia and a corresponding document has also been signed. This once again testifies to our strong position.
At the same time, I believe that the Munich Security Conference is another important security conference in the world. I regularly participate in this conference and every time I communicate the Azerbaijani realities to a wide audience, including Azerbaijan’s position on the Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. I demonstrate that we are right and show historical aspects. This time there was an even more favorable opportunity for Azerbaijan to demonstrate its advantage again in front of the Azerbaijani people and indeed the whole world. The historical truth and the norms of international law are on our side. During the Munich Security Conference, a devastating blow was dealt to the propaganda that Armenia and the Armenians of the world had been carrying out for many years. It is safe to say that their propaganda was smashed to smithereens with evidence, historical facts, as well as decisions and resolutions and adopted by international organizations. I believe that this crushing blow put an end to Armenian propaganda. The audience for the Munich Security Conference is quite broad. Given that direct debates of the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia were held for the first time, it is not difficult to imagine how much interest these debates aroused: a million people followed them both live and afterwards. Therefore, our fair cause was once again reaffirmed and the whole world was once again convinced that – as I said live at the Valdai Forum – Karabakh is Azerbaijan and an exclamation mark!
The successes we achieved in the economic sphere this year are very pleasing, of course. In the first two months, our gross domestic product increased by 2.8 percent. The economy in the non-oil sector grew by 6.7 percent. Industrial production in the non-oil sector increased by 21.7 percent. Cash incomes of the population increased by 9 percent and inflation is only at 2.8 percent.
Again, as a result of the reforms and the measures to ensure transparency, 252 million manats were transferred into the state budget in excess of the forecast in the first two months. This is further evidence that the measures being taken in connection with transparency and the policy against the shadow economy are bearing fruit. I am sure that this positive trend will be maintained until the end of the year and the part of the Azerbaijani economy that is still in the shadow will come out. The activity of state bodies alone is not enough. Businesses should also be aware of their responsibility and not go the wrong way, withdraw their activities from the shadows and pay every single gapik of tax. They should know that these taxes are intended to raise people’s wages and pensions.
This year, a lot of work is planned in the social sphere. Since the beginning of the year, I have attended the opening of three large hospitals – in Goranboy, Shamkir and Gazakh. More hospitals are to be opened. Work will be carried out to create social infrastructure. Although the oil price on world markets has fallen sharply, all our social obligations will nevertheless be executed. Even though our budgetary expenditure for the social sphere increased significantly as a result of the measures taken and decisions made last year, our social obligations will be fulfilled nevertheless. All social infrastructure projects will be fully implemented.
There are plans to build and commission 7,000 apartments intended to improve the living conditions of internally displaced persons. A total of 1,500 apartments intended for martyr families will be built and commissioned. There should be no doubt about this. I am sure that we will successfully complete 2020. Many countries have encountered great difficulties these days. Political stability in these countries is disrupted, they experience an economic crisis. Some oil-producing countries have already begun to experience difficulties due to the falling oil price. The coronavirus, of course, aggravates the situation. Despite all this, I believe that Azerbaijan will overcome this test with dignity and small losses. To achieve this, we all need to show solidarity, responsibility and unity. To protect our people and state in this difficult period for the whole world, we should once again demonstrate the whole world the best qualities of our people.
As you know, coronavirus is the number one problem on the global agenda now. The World Health Organization has already declared a pandemic, stating that Europe is the center. The extensive spread of this disease indicates that even developed countries cannot prevent it. There are no medicines and vaccines for this disease and it is not known when they will appear. Therefore, in order to contain this disease and prevent it from spreading, we began to take practical steps from first days. On my instructions, on 24 January, a Task Force was established under the Cabinet of Ministers. It operates on a round-the-clock basis, manages the activities of all government agencies, monitors and coordinates work related to the disease. Serious measures have been taken. Since 24 January, we started working in a new format of cooperation with the World Health Organization. We invited them to our country. Following their recommendations, we took the most serious measures in our country. It is no coincidence that the representatives of the World Health Organization who arrived in Azerbaijan in March to familiarize themselves with the situation noted that the country’s leadership is taking very important and effective measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus. This is really the case.
As you know, all kindergartens, schools and universities are now closed. A ban on public events has been introduced. Since 14 March, special rules of conduct have been applied and the public is sufficiently informed on this issue. On my instruction, people are regularly and fully updated about the disease, its spread and consequences. Quarantine measures are being taken, new laboratories have been acquired. In a short period of time, four state-of-the-art laboratories have been acquired and currently their number has reached 10. If necessary, additional laboratories will be acquired. Ten hospitals operate in a special mode. They are located in various regions of our country, including Baku. In hospitals, patients are treated and quarantine measures are taken.
Communication with many countries is already limited and has practically been discontinued. Many flights have been canceled, practical action has been taken in connection with the closure of borders, the issuance of electronic visas has been suspended, the arrival of persons from countries with a wide spread of the disease in Azerbaijan is prohibited. I am sure that all these measures will have a positive impact. Our main goal is to prevent the spread of the disease in Azerbaijan. To achieve this, measures taken by the state alone are not enough. The state does everything necessary and allocates funds. In early March, 10 million manats were allocated to combat this disease. I declare that today, an additional 20 million manats will be allocated from the President’s Contingency Fund both to enhance the effectiveness of the fight against this disease and to further increase material support of the doctors providing services to patients with coronavirus. We are taking this into account as well. I want to thank Azerbaijani doctors once again. They are selflessly fighting this disease and putting their own lives at risk. However, of course, they are driven by a high sense of responsibility, by the oath they took. Patients should also treat doctors with great care. This is a disease not yet known in the world and the pace of its spread is not known either. In several developed countries, this disease became widespread in a matter of days. This shows that the disease has an accumulation period, after which it spreads widely. Along with all the measures being taken by the state to avoid the spread of this disease, citizens should also feel responsible in the first place. If someone feels symptoms of the disease, they should immediately consult a doctor, isolate themselves, not visit crowded places and not participate in public events without a critical need. These events have already been stopped but some irresponsible people may take action that does not comply with the rules. I want to warn everyone that rigorous measures will be taken because it is a nationwide issue, the health of our people and the security of our state. Everyone should know that in case of non-compliance with the rules announced on 14 March, they will be brought to account.
Unfortunately, we are receiving information about facts related to irresponsibility. At the same time, we see open provocations. Where do these provocations come from? From the very fifth column, from the enemies who are among us, the elements calling themselves opposition, the traitors who receive money from abroad. Their main goal is to destroy Azerbaijan. The worse for Azerbaijan, the better for them. Look at their addresses on social networks, they are full of hatred and provocation. They seem to want riots to happen. They want turmoil. They want panic. And then they claim that they care about the Azerbaijani people. They are our enemies, and we must openly state this. It is not known what this disease will lead to. Therefore, during the existence of the disease, the rules of completely new relationships will apply. Let everyone know this. It is possible that a state of emergency may be declared at some point. In this case, the isolation of representatives of the fifth column will become a historical necessity. The Azerbaijani people have long thrown them into the dustbin of history, and they have been there for almost 30 years now. But we cannot allow the anti-Azerbaijani forces, the fifth column and national traitors to take advantage of this situation to commit various provocations. Let everyone know it. Our policy is unequivocal and we have a strong will. We, as always, are solving and will continue to solve the problems of the Azerbaijani people. The actions being taken by the Azerbaijani state in the current situation, during the coronavirus, once again testify that the health, safety and well-being of the Azerbaijani people are above everything else for us, and to achieve this we will take any step necessary. Let no-one doubt that.
Dear compatriots, brothers and sisters, the world is entering a new stage. It is rather special because no-one knows when the disease will end and what consequences it will lead to. Therefore, I once again urge the entire Azerbaijani people to be together and responsible. I am sure that together we will overcome all these ordeals with dignity.
I congratulate my native people on this wonderful holiday again and wish all the citizens of Azerbaijan good health, longevity and happiness!