President Ilham Aliyev: We must confidently go for economic liberalization


BAKU, APR 17 – We must confidently go for economic liberalization, all areas in our country should be open to investment, said Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev at the meeting on the socio-economic results of the first quarter of 2020 through videoconference.

“I said in my opening remarks that the government and, of course, the Ministry of Economy should find new sources of revenue. I want to say this again: there are resources, and I know that work in this direction is going on. We can’t delay this. I believe that new proposals should be prepared and submitted to me in a short time. We should also be aware that the agreement of OPEC and non-OPEC countries puts certain obligations on us too. I want to note that Azerbaijan has always played a very active role within OPEC+. I also want to remind you that the idea of the OPEC+ format was first put forward by me at the panel discussion of the Davos World Economic Forum. Today, even the OPEC Secretary General acknowledges this. Today, not only OPEC+ but also all oil-producing countries have come to an agreement,” said President Ilham Aliyev.

The head of state said he considers this a unique format of cooperation, which puts additional obligations on each country, including Azerbaijan.

“In accordance with this agreement, our oil production will be reduced this year. Quotas are already defined. If the price of oil does not rise to the desired level, then we will incur additional losses. We should be aware that these losses could amount to approximately 700 million, perhaps even 1 billion dollars. Therefore, it is now necessary to take steps because on the basis of decisions made last year, a large social package was already implemented. This social package will, of course, be provided to people this year and in subsequent years. At least 2.5 billion manats is envisaged in connection with the coronavirus. As I have already mentioned, about 100 million manats was allocated from the President’s Contingency Fund for the acquisition of the necessary supplies. If the oil price does not recover, we will incur additional losses and our foreign exchange reserves will naturally decline. In the first quarter, foreign exchange reserves already decreased compared to 1 January. This is natural, and under such circumstances, I want to repeat, we must carefully examine the costs,” said President Ilham Aliyev.

He noted that public spending should pursue two main objectives.

“Employment – we cannot drastically reduce our investments. First, because important projects must be implemented. Most importantly, if public investments reduce sharply, then people working in this area will lose their jobs. Therefore, when considering our investment program, consider two main factors: employment and the impact of these projects on the real sector of the economy. Azerbaijan has implemented major infrastructure projects. A significant part of them is completely over. Therefore, two main factors should be considered. I believe that in April-May it is necessary to analyze and draw up investment programs for the second half of the year. Take this issue seriously. In parallel – I have already set this task and know that the Ministry of Economy is working on this issue – additional steps should be taken to encourage private investment,” said President Ilham Aliyev.

The head of state pointed out that we must confidently go for economic liberalization, all areas in our country should be open to investment.

“We need to convince both local and foreign investors that their investments will yield effect and bring them income, especially if we consider that we have made great progress in the Doing Business program, the index of economic freedom. As I have already noted, Azerbaijan is highly rated there as well. Our credit rating is positive and the external debt is low. Azerbaijani citizens know this. Even before the coronavirus, I often drew attention to the fact that our state external debt amounted to 17 percent of the domestic product and should be reduced. In the current crisis, this factor is of great importance. A low level of public debt allows us the opportunity to keep our credit rating stable. And this is one of the main factors for investors,” said President Ilham Aliyev.