Baku, Azerbaijan, June 1 /Trend/
"This traditional exhibition, which is of great importance for Azerbaijan, is held at a new exhibition hall this year. We are also celebrating the opening of this new exhibition hall," the Azertaj state news agency quoted Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev as saying in Baku while addressing the 17th International Caspian Oil and Gas Exhibition Incorporating Refining and Petrochemicals.
The Azerbaijani president said it is significant that namely the Caspian oil and gas was the first exhibition held at the new hall. "This exhibition has a special place amongst the events held in Azerbaijan," Aliyev said.
"The first similar exhibition was held in 1994. At that time, few companies wished to conduct exhibitions in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan was a newly established independent state and there were different opinions about Azerbaijan's future. Therefore, the exhibition held in 1994, which coincided to beginning of Azerbaijan's oil strategy, was an important event. I think it is quite fair that the Caspian Oil and Gas has become the first exhibition held at this grand and beautiful Baku Expo," Aliyev said.
Aliyev said Azerbaijan was on the verge of big affairs in 1994. Then, the country's economy faced tremendous difficulties, and steps were taken to establish stability in the country.
There was not an unambiguous vision for the future of Azerbaijan in 1994. The country was to tackle many questions: In what way the country will develop, how the economy will be shaped, and in what direction Azerbaijan sees the path of its strategic development.
Of course, the strategic solution made in those years ensured the current successful development. The new oil strategy of Azerbaijan, successful policy of Azerbaijan's integration into the international community, economic reforms, huge foreign investments in the country's economy commenced namely in those years. All these factors have led to current development. Now Azerbaijan is a country successfully developing at an international level," said Aliyev.
"We all know that if the National Leader Heydar Aliyev would not take definitive steps in 1994 and the Contact of the Century would not be signed, perhaps Azerbaijan's development would take place in a completely different direction," said Aliyev.
According to the President, signing the Contract of the Century, Azerbaijan not only opened the rich resources of the Caspian Sea for foreign companies, but also ensured sustainable and successful development of the country
"We had large and extensive plans in 1994, we were aware of our goals, and also we knew that our way towards achieving the goals will not be smooth. Azerbaijan successfully passed large test, successfully solved the tasks. The projects to attract investments, successful relations established with foreign companies based on the mutual interests, increasing production, ensuring Azerbaijan's development, constructing oil pipelines and transporting natural resources to world markets via these pipelines demonstrate the realities of contemporary Azerbaijan," said Aliyev.
"Today we can say with feelings of great gladness that Azerbaijan's economy does not particularly depend on the oil factor, despite that the oil and gas factor will ensure the economic interests of Azerbaijan, strengthen our position in the world for long years. In general, this factor will play its role to improve the welfare of the Azerbaijani people for long years," said the President.
"However, Azerbaijan's non-oil sector rapidly grows currently. Particularly oil policy and strategy provided a boost to this. And the successful implementation of the oil strategy presented Azerbaijan to the world as a reliable partner," said Aliyev.
According to the President, Azerbaijan has been successfully cooperating with foreign companies for already 16 years. "This cooperation has been established based on mutual interests and brings high benefits both to foreign partners and Azerbaijan," said the President.
Aliyev said all efforts were made to implement these plans. "And I believe that the next stage of Azerbaijan's development will be successful as well," said the President. After signing the Contract of the Century in 1994, a contract was concluded on Shah Deniz gas field in 1996."
"The gas factor had not such a significant place in the world oil and energy policy in those years, and it was not so easy to attract investments and loans in this project. But I can say that some big changes have been made to the world energy policy today. Gas factor began to play a larger role and ensure not only economic interests. Furthermore, particularly the gas factor has a significant impact on energy security issues in some cases," the President said.
According to the President, Azerbaijan is a country with large oil and gas resources.
"You know that Azerbaijan is an ancient oil region. The oil was first produced in Azerbaijan with industrial method. Oil from the offshore fields was also first developed in Azerbaijan," said the Head of State. Celebrating the 65th anniversary of the victory over fascism and looking back, we saw that if there would not be Azerbaijani oil and intense activities of Azerbaijani oilmen, the results of this war could be different. So, Azerbaijan has long ago asserted itself in the world as an ancient oil region," the President said.
"We, as an independent country, as an independent Azerbaijan, had to assert and present ourselves again, and we successfully did it. Our oil policy is quite open, clear and sincere. We fulfill all our commitments. We, as a reliable partner, successfully cooperate with the worldwide energy companies," said Aliyev.
According to the President, State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) is one of the world's leading companies today and successfully cooperates with other leading companies, and also introduces new modern experiences. Currently Azerbaijani companies make huge investments in other countries. Azerbaijani companies make investments estimated at billions, and this process will continue in the future.
"We faced other tasks in mid 1990s - rapidly carrying out work on Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli field, building pipelines, including gas pipelines, and all these tasks were implemented. Azerbaijan's oil and gas not only cover country's needs today, but also provide large export resources," said the President.
According to President, oil production in Azerbaijan is expected to reach 52 million tons, natural gas - approximately 30 billion cubic meters this year. It is three times more than the domestic demand of Azerbaijan.
"Azerbaijan exports its energy resources in various directions via its oil and gas pipelines. And our geography of exports expands each year. I am completely confident that we will enter new markets, because the new markets have the demand for Azerbaijan's natural resources. And our interest is to maximally realize our oil and gas potential," said Aliyev.
"We can say the volume of current production is even more than our export opportunities. But we must ensure equality between our production, domestic consumption and export opportunities. And we certainly need new markets or it needs to expand existing markets to achieve this goal. Azerbaijan pursues purposeful, exact and targeted policies in this regard. Azerbaijan is one of the countries that do not dependent on any direction particularly due to this policy. We have three oil and four gas pipelines, which fully provide energy diversification, and we have all facilities to expand the export of our energy resources in any desired direction," said the President.
"The current work carried out in Azerbaijan and technical work done based on this will increase our gas export opportunities. We make huge investment in this sector and this investment will justify itself, because it will provide long-term successful development of Azerbaijan," said Aliyev.
The President said that Azerbaijan is a very attractive country for investment.
"About $82 billion has been invested in country's economy since 1995, of which, almost half was invested in the oil and gas sector. Most investments were made in oil and gas sector in early years of our oil strategy. Some experts were concerned that this could lead to "Dutch disease", there were fears that Azerbaijan's economy may develop unilaterally. However, our purposeful policies and concrete steps showed that the path chosen by Azerbaijan is true," said the President.
According to Aliyev, Azerbaijan's economy is multi-vectoral today.
"Half of the investment portfolio invested in non-oil sector shows that this sphere is very attractive in Azerbaijan. Both foreign and domestic investments, funds from the public budget and private sectors provided to non-oil sector have created a new situation. Azerbaijan less depends on oil and gas factor today, and this dependence will decrease even more in the future," said the President.
The statistics of Azerbaijan's economic achievements clearly demonstrate this. "If to look at figures of 2009, we can see the example of work carried out in recent years in Azerbaijan. Because world oil prices dropped by 3-4 times in 2009. Economic and financial crisis negatively affected almost all countries. Despite this, Azerbaijan's economy grew by more than nine percent last year. The sharp decline in oil prices had not a negative impact on Azerbaijan's development. We implemented all social programs and infrastructure projects. The opportunities were more mobilized, and we could successfully survive from this difficult situation," said Aliyev.
According to President, Azerbaijan's economy is developing rapidly. "Our oil strategy is the base of all these issues, along with the purposeful economic policies," said the President.
"I again return to the period 15 years ago. If brave and deliberate steps counted for the future would not be taken in those years, Azerbaijan's situation could be quite different today. Both the economic and political situation would be different, because it is not secret that when economic opportunities are limited, it is very difficult to raise political initiatives, maximally protect national interests and pursue principle independent policy," said Aliyev.
According to President, Azerbaijan's economic independence, huge monetary reserves, successful development of economy provide additional strength.
"We need this force today, because we are a young and independent country. Despite that Azerbaijan's economy has completed the transition period, we are no longer a country with transition economy, we are a country with developing economy, and the international financial organizations see and confirm this. Improving the credit rating of Azerbaijan during the crisis year is demonstrative in itself, and using all these opportunities, we must look at the future, should count for future plans already today. We are doing so. Like energy, oil and gas sector, we have long-term strategy, plans, package of concrete steps in non-oil sector as well," said the President.
"Therefore, the situation in terms of political stability is positive in Azerbaijan, which survived from the crisis with minimal losses. The general situation increases the flow of investments into the country. Currently the investments in Azerbaijan are made not only in oil and gas sector, but also in tourism, infrastructure, hotels, social facilities, beautiful exhibition halls," said the President.
According to Aliyev, this exhibition hall, which differs with its beauty and functionality, is one of the beautiful halls in the world.
"We organize this event at this beautiful, grand hall today. Investments in Azerbaijan's economy serve the Azerbaijani people. The more money is invested, the more our economy will grow, new jobs will be created and human welfare will improve. We will develop our policy in this way. Additional activities will be conducted for maximum diversification of economic potential. With regards to oil and gas sector, we have been able to achieve all desired goals so far - oil and gas pipelines, production, investment, entering new markets, and we expect even greater investments today," said Aliyev.
According to President, a new large-scale project was launched on the Chirag field recently.
"I hope we will soon start a big project - Shah Deniz-2. I think there is every possibility to do this, and if we achieve this, at least $20 billion will be invested in oil and gas sector of Azerbaijan only as part of this project over the next years. And perhaps, an equal amount of these investments will be made in non-oil sector," said Aliyev.