BAKU, Azerbaijan, March 24
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and first lady Mehriban Aliyeva have attended the inauguration of the Hovsan residential complex, the second project of the State Housing Development Agency.
Chairman of the Board of the State Housing Development Agency Sadig Sadigov informed the head of state and first lady of the residential complex built in Hovsan settlement of Surakhani district, as well as the second phase of the Yasamal residential complex and the projects implemented in the cities of Ganja and Sumgayit.
The complex occupies a total area of 20 hectares. Eleven residential buildings were constructed here. The residential complex has 2962 apartments.
A 1920-seat school was also built in the complex. The classrooms were supplied with necessary equipment. The complex has two 90-seat kindergartens.
After viewing the Hovsan residential complex, President Ilham Aliyev gave an interview to Azerbaijan Television.
Interview of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev
- We are glad to see you, Mr. President.
- Thank you, hello.
- Mr. President, despite the sharp drop in the oil price, all large-scale social projects are being successfully implemented in Azerbaijan under your leadership and on your initiative. Clear evidence of that is the implementation of this magnificent Hovsan project. Could you please talk about the work carried out in the country in this direction.
- Indeed, Azerbaijan successfully continues its social policy. I have already said this but I want to say it again: despite the drop in the oil price, all our social obligations this year and in subsequent years will be fulfilled. All social infrastructure projects will be implemented and there is no reason to worry. This is once again evidenced by this large industrial complex built through the State Housing Agency.
The foundation of this complex was laid three years ago. Work was carried out over this period successfully and this complex is being commissioned now. There are about 3,000 apartments, a large school for 2,000 pupils, two kindergartens and a clinic here. In other words, all conditions are available to live here. A whole settlement has been built. About 12,000-15,000 people will live here. This once again indicates that social infrastructure projects in Azerbaijan are being implemented at a high level and with high quality.
As for our social policy as a whole, I have repeatedly said that our strong economy allows us the opportunity to implement all the projects and programs we have announced in the social sphere. I believe that last year was quite memorable in this regard. As you know, as a result of the increase in the minimum wage and minimum pensions, the financial situation of 4.2 million people, including those receiving state benefits, improved significantly last year. The minimum wage was doubled and the minimum pension was increased by 70 percent. Today, Azerbaijan ranks first in the CIS for the purchasing power of the minimum pension. Of course, we are still not pleased with the current level. I am sure that as a result of the measures taken, even more funds will be allocated in the future.
In parallel, social infrastructure projects are being implemented this year. This large settlement is one of them. At the same time, there are plans to provide internally displaced persons with a record number of apartments this year – 7,000 apartments will be provided. Last year, 5,000 apartments were built. Martyr families will be provided with 1,500 apartments. I believe that martyr families that are in line today will receive apartments in the next few years and this program will end.
Other social projects are being implemented in our country, including those intended to improve social security and achieve transparency in this area. As you know, DOST centers are opening. Two centers are already in operation and their popular approval rating is quite high. The creation of more than 30 such centers as a whole will lead to great institutional progress in this area. In other words, since the social sector is a vast area, practical steps are being taken in every direction. The declared programs are being implemented and not a single promise remains unfulfilled. All promises are kept, and I am sure that even more ambitious work will be done in this direction both this year and in subsequent years.
- Our next question is related to the coronavirus pandemic that has gripped the whole world. Azerbaijan is taking measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic. These measures are under your constant control and the public is updated on a regular basis and in detail. A message was also circulated yesterday. Mr. President, please tell us about the work done to date.
- You know, I have openly expressed my opinion about this. I want to say again that thanks to the adoption of preventive measures, we are keeping the situation under control now. However, we are all aware of the processes unfolding in the world. The pandemic has led to extremely tragic consequences even in large cities of developed countries. In some countries, hundreds of people die every day – 500, 600 people. In other words, this shows that even the most developed countries cannot consider themselves fully insured against this situation. Therefore, I believe that the very specific decisions we have adopted and the roadmap allow us the opportunity to keep the situation under control. We started paying very serious attention to this issue from the very beginning. Even when the disease started spreading far from us, we already began preparatory work. As you know, the Task Force was immediately set up under the Cabinet of Ministers. This headquarters operates around the clock and on my instruction people are regularly updated about the measures being taken. At the same time, we are in direct contact with the World Health Organization. Representatives of this organization visited Azerbaijan at our invitation and got acquainted with the situation. They praised the work done by the government of Azerbaijan. Of course, their recommendations are important to us. Most of the decisions we make are based on their recommendations, experience and the negative experience of countries where the pandemic is widespread today. In other words, we should not and do not repeat these mistakes. All our land borders were immediately closed and specific steps were taken to evacuate Azerbaijani citizens from foreign countries. To date, 10,000 Azerbaijani citizens have returned to their homeland. The number of flights has fallen sharply. It is possible to say that very few flights are still operated today. All this is a part of preventive measures.
We have acquired new laboratories. Everyone probably knows that purchasing medical supplies and equipment has also become a problem because all countries want to buy them and there are not many manufacturers. Therefore, having obtained these laboratories in a timely manner and delivered tests to the country, we acquired great opportunities. More than 10 hospitals have been allocated for both quarantine and treatment of those infected with this disease. These hospitals are located both in Baku and in various regions of our country. Schools, kindergartens and universities have long been closed. Working hours of catering facilities have been limited. It would take a very long time to list all these measures. Reports about this are provided on a regular basis anyway.
To improve the financial situation of doctors serving patients and give a worthy assessment to their work, the issue of increasing their wages has been resolved. Their wages have been increased three to five times. Instructions have already been given and funds allocated. Taking this opportunity, I want to once again express my gratitude to Azerbaijani doctors. They are showing true heroism, putting their own lives and health on the line and serving their duty with dignity. I urge all citizens to support doctors. Also, addressing those infected with this disease – of course, we understand that both physical and psychological condition of these people is affected by the disease – I recommend that they be attentive to doctors.
In other words, all measures have been taken. I believe that the additional restrictive measures announced on 14 March and yesterday are a timely step because we are taking steps in accordance with the current situation. By taking measures to prevent the development of the situation in a negative direction, we also protect ourselves. We must protect the state, our people, citizens, especially the elderly. Their actions have also been limited to some extent. I believe that this can be understood because it is the elderly who are in the risk group.
To ensure that the lone and elderly people are provided for, social workers will be mobilized on my instructions and they will carry out this work. At the same time, taking this opportunity, I want to turn to the army of thousands of volunteers. I believe that our volunteers should also be involved in this work, keep in touch with the Task Force, the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of the Population. In any case, the ministry has also been instructed to provide older people with services at their place of residence – whether it is the provision of medicines or products – in order to protect lone and elderly people.
I believe that the customs and traditions, the national values of our people will help us in the fight against this virus because the elderly are always treated with a great deal of respect. They rarely live alone. There are not too many such people in Azerbaijan, approximately several thousand people. However, their provision will be organized as well.
In a nutshell, I think that all the work done so far represents the right steps taken in a timely manner. The state is doing and will continue to do everything possible. But a lot also depends on citizens in the fight against this tragic disease. I urge our citizens to be responsible, they must comply with the new rules, the special quarantine regime, and take this issue very seriously. They need to know that their health and the health of their loved ones is in their own hands. The state is doing everything possible but thanks to the responsibility and discipline of citizens, our struggle in this area will become even more focused and successful.
- Mr. President, a Fund to Support the Fight Against Coronavirus has been set up on your Decree. You and first lady Mehriban Aliyeva donated your annual salaries into this fund. This is a great example. Individuals and other entities are also transferring money into the fund. What is your assessment of this?
- You know, Azerbaijan is a pioneer country in this area. I was informed this morning that similar funds are also being set up in some other countries. We can only be glad because this is not the first time the initiatives put forward by Azerbaijan have been subsequently taken as a basis by other countries and led to the adoption of similar measures.
The main goal of the fund is to further strengthen national solidarity. It is no secret that Azerbaijan is a strong state today and we have fairly large financial opportunities. A vivid example of that is this beautiful urban development project. A lot of work requiring major funds is being done. The main goal behind establishing the fund is to ensure that everyone, within the limits of their capabilities, can show a civic position, solidarity and mercy, which are the main pillars of our society, so that we can show ourselves and the whole world that we are a great nation.
I am glad that despite the short period of time, donations into this fund already amount to large figures. When the fund was established, 20 million manats were allocated to it from the President’s Contingency Fund. The fund has been receiving donations for several days now. However, I was informed last night that the fund has already accumulated 60 million manats. This is further evidence of high qualities of our people.
On my instructions, the names of all citizens, the names of companies and the amount of their donations are listed in alphabetical order on the koronavirusinfo.az web site. We are all equal, and regardless of the funds contributed, the names of all people and the names of all companies are published in alphabetical order.
Taking this opportunity, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to all people and companies that have made donations into the fund. This shows our unity, our strength, demonstrates that together we will overcome this disease.
- Mr. President, one billion manats were allocated to the Cabinet of Ministers by your executive order. How will these funds contribute to stimulating the economy?
- Of course, we are thinking about that as well. Among the measures taken, employment issues are in the foreground because it is no secret that countries are now self-isolating, economic ties are being disrupted. Although a normal situation is still observed in cargo transportation, the weakening of economic ties and economic activity may certainly have an adverse impact primarily on employment. Therefore, the main goal of allocating one billion manats has been to provide support to entrepreneurs, to provide financial support to entrepreneurs affected by the disease and its consequences.
At the same time, we have already made very serious calls. Taking this opportunity, I want to once again appeal to all entrepreneurs not to lay off workers because in the current conditions this may run counter to our initiative of solidarity. Of course, if an entrepreneur’s activity is restricted and he suffers losses, then the state should provide assistance. The state will do that. Due to the disease, special financial support will be provided to the most vulnerable groups of entrepreneurs, tax benefits and other privileges will be introduced. But our main requirement and recommendation is that entrepreneurs should not lay off workers. Therefore, people will be regularly updated on the spending of one billion manats. After all, employment issues are in the foreground here. It is necessary to ensure macroeconomic stability.
We started this year with good results, good indicators. Inflation is only at 2.8 percent, while household incomes have increased by 9 percent. The economy has increased by 2.8 percent, growth in the non-oil sector constitutes 6.7 percent. Industrial production in the non-oil sector has increased by 21.7 percent. In other words, we have started the year with excellent performance. Tax and customs authorities have collected over 250 million manats in excess of the forecast. However, we understand perfectly well that this trend is somewhat limited because we cannot grow at such a pace today. Therefore, these funds will be used to maintain a stable macroeconomic situation. At the same time, as I said, these funds will be used to develop entrepreneurship, provide support to entrepreneurs and maintain the stability of our overall financial situation. By taking this important step, Azerbaijan has become the first country in the region in this area too.
I want to reiterate that all the work being done by the state pursues one goal – we should overcome this difficult and complicated situation with minor losses. At the same time, all citizens should know – the experience of leading European countries also testifies to this – if there is no unity between the government and citizens, then we will have to experience the bitter consequences of this disease. Until now, we have always achieved development thanks to the unity between the people and the government. Today, it is this unity that is the main driving force for Azerbaijan. Our policy has always been supported by the people and we feel this support today. We require our citizens only to be responsible. We ask you to be responsible, to support your loved ones, to support representatives of the older generation, to take care of them, to take care of yourself and your children. A special quarantine regime was introduced yesterday, so you should observe it. I am sure that national solidarity, responsibility and our national unity will allow us to defeat this disease. Together we are strong.
- Thank you very much, Mr. President. Thank you for your comprehensive answers to our questions.
- Thank you!