Weekly economic review (Oct. 24-29)

President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev presided over a Cabinet meeting on Oct. 24 on the outcomes of the country's socio-economic development in nine months of 2011.

The President made opening remarks in the meeting, saying the year 2011 marked a success for Azerbaijan`s economy. He noted Azerbaijan managed to have fulfilled all socio-economic tasks the country faces.

President Aliyev said the GDP growth recorded not so high pace, which is linked with certain reasons.

"I am glad that we were able to achieve diversified development of the country's economy thanks to the work that we have carried out in the previous period and the right policies," he said.

Although the GDP grew just by 0.5 percent, Azerbaijan's non-oil economy grew by 8.2 percent, Aliyev highlighted.

"As for the fact that the country's GDP recorded just a 0.5-percent increase, this is due to the reduced oil production in 2011. As a result, we can say that, this drop did not allow the overall rate to be high. However, there was not set such a goal. Our economy, our economic structure is largely changed for the better. Thanks to the work done in the previous period and that will be done in the coming years our economy will reveal itself as a fully diversified economy. That is, the earlier launched projects, as well as ongoing ones, indeed, made an enormous contribution to the Azerbaijani economy," the Head of state said.

President Aliyev said the country built a strong industrial potential, with the manufacturing sector having strengthened. However, the reduced oil production overall is negative, he said.

"But, the non-oil sector of Azerbaijan's economy achieved a 9.2-percent growth. This growth is achieved through investments in the real sector and development of entrepreneurship. This was achieved through issuing loans, adopting programs for the entrepreneurship development and a highly successful public policy," Aliyev said.

Thus, Aliyev stated, a task set few years ago, the task of taking actions to create a powerful industrial potential in Azerbaijan was successfully carried out.

Aliyev underscored that the country's agriculture sector also increased.

"Even larger programs will be realized in 2012. The government allocates huge funds and grants privileges for the agriculture sector development. Delivery of equipment, loans on preferential terms and subsidies - all these contribute in the development of agriculture. The agricultural sector saw a 7.6 percent increase in the three quarters of the year and it is not accidental. The industry also has great social significance, as about half the population lives in rural areas," Ilham Aliyev said.

The President said the country's currency reserves increased by $11 billion to over $40 billion. "We ensured this thanks to our growing economic potential."

"This is a very high figure. If we look at the developed countries' indicators, we can see that Azerbaijan leads in this area and leaves behind many countries. If we consider that we have the correct oil and gas policy and strategy, that we constantly coordinate investing with the expected revenues, there is no doubt that we will further increase our foreign exchange reserves without reducing investment and social spending in the coming years," President Aliyev stated.

The international financial institutions see great reforms carried out in Azerbaijan in economic and social spheres, rising credit ratings of Azerbaijan, he said.

"At a time when the credit ratings of the developed countries are falling in the crisis years, the credit ratings of Azerbaijan rise. The influential world organization - the World Economic Forum in its next report on the countries' competitiveness, praised Azerbaijan's activities and honored it with the 55th place. The Azerbaijani economy occupies the first place in terms of the competitiveness, the country is a leader in the CIS," he said.

President Aliyev highlighted Azerbaijan`s social policy, saying serious steps have been made to strengthen the population`s social security. "We have a targeted social program, which covers 113,000 low-income families who receive an average of 130 dollars." "We have carried out successful reforms to increase pensions and eliminate the unemployment level, which currently stands at 5.5 percent."

He said: "Additional efforts are being made to decrease the unemployment level in the county. Nine months of this year saw the opening of 74,000 jobs in the country, with 50,000 of them being permanent. As a result, the number of jobs opened in Azerbaijan in the last 8 years reached 950,000."

President Aliyev said pensions of about 900,000 pensioners were increased by an average of 40 percent in 2011. "As a whole, pensions increased by 35 percent in Azerbaijan for the first nine months of 2011. This is a very high figure, great achievement, very serious step, timely, fair and very correct step taken to better ensure the older generation in the material terms. Moreover, the average wage also increased in the country. Today, the average pension in Azerbaijan is at $190, while the average wage is at $ 450. This is a good indicator, but it should be even higher," he stated.

Later on, reports were delivered by Finance Minister Samir Sharifov, Minister of Agriculture Ismet Abasov and Minister of Transport Ziya Mammadov regarding nine months, the measures related to socio-economic development.

In 2003-2011, the Azerbaijani segment of the TRACECA transport corridor transported 415.1 million tons of cargo. Azerbaijani Transport Minister Ziya Mammadov made this statement at the meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers. Mammadov stressed that 125.5 million tons of the total volume of cargo transported within the corridor accounted for transit cargo.

A new intellectual transport management system in Azerbaijan will be commissioned in December. Mammadov said the construction of an office building using the new management system had been completed, with all the necessary equipment having been installed and now the process of software downloading is underway.

Azerbaijani Agriculture Minister Ismat Abasov said earlier that subsidies worth 360.3 million manat have been allocated to Azerbaijani farmers to buy motor oil and fuel since 2007. Subsidies to purchase motor oil and fuel worth 40 manat per hectare of sowed area are issued in accordance with the president decree to provide state support to agricultural producers. "In 2007-2010, subsidies worth 15.1 million manat have been issued to farmers from the state budget for the development of farming," Abasov said.

There has been a massive leap in revenue to the coffers of the Azerbaijani state budget which totalled 8.979 billion manat in the first nine months of this year, or 105.6 per cent of its forecast. This exceeds last year's by 1.474 billion manat, or 19.6 per cent, Finance Minister Samir Sharifov said during the meeting of Cabinet of Ministers.

The investment costs of the Azerbaijani consolidated budget increased by 38.9 percent or 1.116 billion manat for the first nine months of 2011 compared to the same period of last year. The figure hit 3.985 billion manat, Sharifov said.

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