Weekly actual topics in Azerbaijan (June 23-27)

Ilham Aliyev: Azerbaijan's aim is to modernize and transform into developed country

Azerbaijan is young as an independent state, but is a country with great history, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said at the 23rd Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, in Baku.

The president noted that the implementation of political and economic reforms at the same time allowed avoiding major complications, and achieving stable development.

"I would like to say that today Azerbaijan is a country with functioning democratic institutions. We put a lot of effort into developing democracy, the rule of law, and providing fundamental freedoms. I think we have achieved great success in that," President Aliyev said.

He went on to add that all the freedoms are provided in Azerbaijan.

"All the freedoms are provided in Azerbaijan - the freedom of assembly, freedom of association, freedom of expression, media freedom," President Aliyev said.

He added that there are thousands of media outlets in Azerbaijan, and the country has unrestricted internet, with over 70 percent of the country's population being internet users.

"This is the main prerequisite for successful development, because only implementing economic reforms will not allow us to achieve our goal, which is modernization," Azerbaijani president stressed. "We are building a modern, self-sufficient country."

He underscored that Azerbaijan has a lot of plans for the future.

"Political reforms will be one of the top priorities on our agenda for the coming years. We need to do more, to implement more reforms, and I am sure that our commitment and cooperation with international institutions, such as the OSCE and others, will allow us to implement everything planned," the president said.

He went on to say the political reforms, of course, create a very positive atmosphere in the Azerbaijani society.

"Political situation is stable, predictable and that allows us to plan our future in a way so that we can achieve what we plan, which is modernization and transforming Azerbaijan into a developed world country," Azerbaijani president underscored.

"Of course, our international contacts play an important role from the point of view of international interaction, and at the same time it allows us to more successfully defend our international interests. Therefore, Azerbaijan is a country with a very active foreign policy, with very straightforward foreign policy priorities. Our words never differ from our actions," Ilham Aliyev stressed.

He said Azerbaijan is now recognized as a reliable partner, a partner whom Azerbaijan's friendly countries can trust.

"This is very important, as trust is something we have to build every day. One mistake or a wrong step can ruin this trust," he said.

Ilham Aliyev went on to note that Azerbaijan maintains active bilateral relations with most of the members of international community, and the relations with European countries and from other continents being one of the priorities.

President Aliyev also noted that Azerbaijan is a member of numerous international institutions, and the country considers this membership as an opportunity to establish better connections in the world.

"We are members of Non-Aligned Movement, members of Council of Europe, Islamic Cooperation Organization and many more," the president said. "One of Azerbaijan's biggest foreign policy achievements happened, when Azerbaijan supported by 155 countries, was elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.

"This was the highest diplomatic and political achievement for any country on international arena, and we are proud that despite being young, and not yet very well known globally, we managed to present our case, and our friends have shown great trust in what we were doing," President Aliyev stressed.

Azerbaijani president said that for two years, Azerbaijan, as an active member of the UN Security Council, has advocated for peace, security, stability, justice and implementations of international law norms.

Further speaking, president Ilham Aliyev underscored that the people of Azerbaijan are greatly concerned by a selective approach that the country faces.

"We see that some resolutions of the UN Security Council are implemented within hours. Others remain on paper for 20 years, as in case with Azerbaijan. Therefore, elaboration of a unified criteria and mechanisms of implementation of international organizations' decisions is one of the main priorities for us as the chairman of Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe," the president stressed.

He went on to add that the decisions of these important organizations remain on paper, and Azerbaijan suffers from that.

Ilham Aliyev also said that despite the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Azerbaijan has demonstrated a rapid economic growth, adding that the country had the fastest growing economy in the world during the last 10 years.

"Socio-economic reforms led to prosperity, reduction of unemployment and poverty. I think this is one of the biggest achievements of our government that the rapid economic growth was supported by strong social policy. Our economy grew more than three times during the last 10 years. This is the fastest growth rate in the world. At the same time, the poverty level has dropped almost 10 times, currently being at five percent," he stressed.

Azerbaijani president said the country has basically resolved the issue of unemployment, which currently also is around five percent.

"We have a very stable financial system - our foreign debt is only eight percent of GDP, which is among the world's best. This is while our reserves are more than 70 percent of GDP, and this allows us to invest and borrow on international markets."

Ilham Aliyev noted that Azerbaijan's credit ratings have been upgraded by major rating agencies, like Standard & Poor's, Moody's and Fitch, and Azerbaijan has a very good reputation as a country which protects investments properly.

"During the last 10 years, $170 billion were invested in Azerbaijan. Last year, $28 billion were invested, with 70 percent being local, and 30 percent - foreign," the president underscored. "Economic prospects for the future are very positive. We are now actively working on diversification of our economy."

President Aliyev also said that Azerbaijan today is a country with a space industry, with a satellite and developed ICT system.

"One of our priorities as the chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe is education. We largely invest in education. We need educated people, we need specialists. Educated people will never be subjected to manipulation, any kind of external influence or interference," the president underscored.

"Education is the main guarantee against extremism, radicalism, nationalism, xenophobia. These issues will also be addressed during the work of the assembly," he said.

The president said Azerbaijan's experience can be examined, because in the Azerbaijani society multiculturalism is one of the elements of success, adding that Azerbaijan is multi-national and multi-religious.

"This is one of the biggest assets of Azerbaijan that the citizens of our country, regardless of their religious or ethnic origin enjoy the same rights and privileges," Ilham Aliyev said.

"We live like one family; we celebrate holidays together, different representatives of different religions. This is a unique experience, which is highly appreciated globally."

"In today's world when we sometimes see dangerous trends of alienation, selectiveness, whether it is in Europe or in Asia, in Middle East or in our neighborhood, these issues need to be addressed, and we need to raise these issues. We need to talk about it and see the positive signs of success, otherwise if we just pretend that these issues do not exist or we would not raise them on international level, the situation will only get worse, because the tendencies do not go into the right direction."

Launch of e-mortgage in Azerbaijan to simplify issuing of housing loans

The "e-mortgage" project, the launch of which is scheduled for July 1, will only have a positive impact on the process of issuing mortgage loans for house purchasing, General Director of the Central Bank of Azerbaijan (CBA), Rashad Orujov said.

At present, five authorized banks are connected to the "e-mortgage" pilot project which was launched by the Azerbaijan Mortgage Fund (AMF) under the CBA, he said.

"The implementation of this project will facilitate the activity of fund and banks in the issuance of mortgages, as well as people who use these services. They will have the opportunity to apply for a loan in electronic form, as well as to track the stage of their application. Futhermore, thanks to this system, borrowers will be able to pay the loan in any branch of banks connected to it, as well as in electronic form and in postal offices, " Orujov said, adding all the authorized AMF banks will be connected upon the launch time of "E-mortgage".

The AIF launched the portal last December, in which the fund's authorized organizations, primarily banks have connected.

Today the authorized banks of the AMF are 28 banks [the country has 43 banks]. The participants of the mortgage market are also 21 insurance companies [28 in total] and 14 appraisal organizations.

"One-off payment in the amount of 1,000 AZN was set for the registration in the"e-mortgage" portal," the market participants said earlier. "The banks which have access to the portal will process the applications and place them on the portal."

The introduction of e-mortgage will lead to the increase of the number of the AMF authorized organizations, according to the banking market participants. Furthermore, the efficiency will be increased in the sphere of issuing mortgage loans, as well as well as the access to mortgage in the region will be expanded.

Azerbaijan has introduced electronic-digital signatures services since September 2011 and today a task has been set before all the state agencies to apply electronic services within frame of their activity.

"The main objectives of the government are provision efficiency and resolution of housing problems in the regions of Azerbaijan, where the market is growing rapidly. The process of issuing e- mortgages, in turn, contributes to the revitalization of the regional branches of the banks, increase in their number, increase in the revenue of the builders," the market's participants believe.

At present, along with the capital Baku, the issuance of mortgage loans provided by the AMF is carried out in Sumgait and Ganja, but today there is also a great demand for these loans in other regions of the country.

The loan amounting to 25.85 million AZN was provided by the AMF in the first quarter of 2014, which allowed to increase the total volume of housing finance up to 456.75 million AZN.
The process of mortgage lending, which started in the country in March 1, 2006, was suspended in the summer of 2007 due to lack of funds. The process was first renewed in June 1, 2009.
The total amount of refinancing loans issued to the banks earlier, was 14.83 million AZN during the first quarter. In total, since the beginning of the mortgage lending by the AMF bonds amounting to 315 million AZN has been placed. The funds from the bonds placement are used for financing conventional mortgages, and the funds for social mortgage allocated from the state budget annually.

The maximum size of a conventional mortgage through the AMF is 50,000 AZN at a rate of 8 percent and a maturity of 25 years. The size of a social mortgage is 50,000 AZN at an annual rate of 4 percent and the term of 30 years. The initial payment under the social mortgage is 15 percent, while for a conventional loans - 20 percent.

Mortgage terms are as follows: loans must be issued in national currency, manat, and only to the citizens of Azerbaijan, the subject of the mortgage can only be an apartment or private house, the amount of the mortgage should not exceed 80 percent of the market value of the property, the monthly payment for a loan must not exceed 70 percent of monthly income of the borrower, the presence of an agreement on life insurance and other conditions.

Preferable conditions are granted to members of families of war victims, families of National Heroes of Azerbaijan, internally displaced persons, civil servants with at least a three years' experience, candidates and doctors of science, persons making special contributions to sport, as well as the military with at least a three-year service term. Each family having the right to such a mortgage loan can use the opportunity only once.

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