President Ilham Aliyev: Current period for us is a time when we must increase spending and help vulnerable citizens and entrepreneurs
BAKU, Azerbaijan, May 1
The current period for us is a time when we must increase spending and help vulnerable citizens and entrepreneurs, said Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev during a videoconference with President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Suma Chakrabarti, Trend reports.
“Mr. President, thank you and senior representatives of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development for this meeting. This is evidence that the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is a close and reliable partner of Azerbaijan. Therefore, you have come up with such an initiative in difficult times. This will allow us the opportunity to review the ongoing projects, discuss upcoming work and outline plans for further cooperation. Regarding the question on the virus, we began to take measures based on the real situation from the very beginning,” said President Ilham Aliyev.
The head of state pointed out that it was very important for us to assess the situation correctly and set up an effective team to deal with this crisis.
“This virus came to Azerbaijan from outside, we took appropriate steps to prevent it and closed the borders on the basis of an agreement and joint decision with neighboring states. I believe that we made that decision in a timely manner and earlier than similar decisions were taken by other countries. As a result, we gained some time. We see that time is the most important factor in the fight against this virus, because the health system of no country is capable of treating such a large number of infected people. Therefore, our main goals were to gain time, prepare the healthcare system, mobilize specialists and doctors, and build management correctly. Then we started witnessing the spread of the virus in the country and began to apply restrictive measures in March. We are in constant contact with the World Health Organization, and these contacts are ongoing. We asked the World Health Organization to send specialists to the country to evaluate the situation. They did that and then made a statement that Azerbaijan was taking the necessary measures. They also provided certain recommendations. Later, the World Health Organization issued a statement citing Azerbaijan as an example in the fight against coronavirus,” said President Ilham Aliyev.
The head of state noted that the decision to introduce restrictive measures was not an easy one.
“We understood perfectly well that it would create inconveniences for people, a major blow would be dealt to our economic development despite the fact that this year's indicators were quite reassuring. But we had two options. The first option is to protect the life and health of our people and the second is to prioritize the saving of the economy. Therefore, we chose the protection of people's lives from the very beginning. This is the goal of all our work, and we fully mobilized our efforts in this direction. We conducted more than 120,000 tests and are in one of the leading places for their number per capita. We have set up additional laboratories, which are currently 18. Patients infected with coronavirus are being treated in 22 public hospitals, including the recently commissioned modern hospital with 575 beds. Currently, about 2,000 of our citizens are in quarantine, and this figure is decreasing. These are the people who came from abroad and those who were in contact with them. They have been placed in four- and five-star hotels and have the conditions that meet high standards,” said President Ilham Aliyev.
“The result of the restrictive measures being occasionally tightened was positive, and we have been observing positive dynamics for two weeks now, i.e. more people are recovering than become infected. The relatively low mortality rate suggests that the work is being done right. We started to relax restrictive measures yesterday. As for the impact on our economy, it will be negative, of course. At the beginning of the year, we had positive prospects. If you look at the first quarter of the year, growth was still at 1 percent, growth in the non-oil sector was 3 percent and in the non-energy sector 23 percent,” noted the head of state.
The head of state pointed out that a large package of support for the areas of the private sector worst affected by coronavirus has been provided.
“The state has paid a large share of the salaries of 600,000 citizens and micro businesses working in the service and other sectors. Along with this, money was paid to 600,000 low-income, unemployed and unofficially employed citizens in accordance with the minimum criterion. Of course, this is a huge expense for us. If we also consider tax benefits, this figure exceeds 3.5 billion manats, or 2 billion dollars, today. This is a large burden for our budget, because the sharp drop in the oil price will have an adverse impact on our foreign exchange reserves. However, the current period for us is a time when we must increase spending and help vulnerable citizens and entrepreneurs. At the same time, we have doubled the number of paid public jobs this year,” said President Ilham Aliyev.
The head of state noted that minimum wages are paid here as well, and these are jobs usually related to the public sector.
This year the number of such jobs will be 90,000. We have also increased the number of citizens receiving social assistance. Each such family receives 222 manats every month, and their number has reached 80,000. Along with this, self-employment opportunities have been created for 12,000 people – there is also growth of 70 percent here. So this is the information about the economic and social package presented to our citizens working in areas that have been adversely affected and also have lost their jobs,” said President Ilham Aliyev.