Baku, December 23, AZERTAC
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and his spouse Mehriban Aliyeva have today attended a ceremony dedicated to sport results of 2015 at Azerbaijan National Olympic Committee.
President Ilham Aliyev and his spouse Mehriban Aliyeva were warmly welcomed by the ceremony participants.
The head of state made a speech at the event.
Speech of President Ilham Aliyev:
- Dear friends, at the end of each year we meet with athletes, reward them and wish them continued success. This tradition has continued for many years. Every year, when looking at the results of the year, we see that our sporting successes keep growing every year. The number of medals is on the increase. The athletes proudly represent our country in international competitions. This year, our athletes have won 823 medals in international competitions, including 321 gold ones. If we look at the statistics of the medals won, we can see that their number is growing every year.
This attests to the fact that sport in Azerbaijan is developing successfully and dynamically. A remarkable young generation is growing up. I want to emphasize the fact that our young athletes, children and adolescents proudly represent our country in various international competitions, World and European championships, and Youth Olympics. This suggests that we are conducting a judicious sports policy in Azerbaijan. A new generation is growing up. The vast majority of outstanding athletes stay in sport after ending their career. They continue their activities as coaches and experts. In short, these policies and achievements will help Azerbaijan gain a foothold at the highest levels of all international competitions in the future.
State care of the athletes is at a high level. We annually solve day-to-day problems of leading athletes. For over 10 years, the state has annually provided more than 20 athletes and sports professionals with apartments. This is also a manifestation of our state policy, because athletes proudly represent our country in the international arena and elevate our national flag. They should always be surrounded by the care and attention of the state. I am glad that the current policy has led to the fact that all of our leading athletes are provided with beautiful apartments now. This process will be continued in the future, because if the government intends to develop sports, it certainly should create good conditions for the athletes. In 1997, I took over as president of the National Olympic Committee with this aim and from that day to the present time, this policy has continued. And the results are obvious. Today Azerbaijan is recognized as a sporting nation worldwide. International sports organizations, the International Olympic Committee, the European Olympic Committee and their leaders acknowledge the progress Azerbaijan has made in sports. This is a high assessment of our work.
At the same time, the most important thing for us is the assessment of our people. The Azerbaijani people love their athletes and rejoice in their success. All patriotic citizens of Azerbaijan are proud that we have achieved great success in sport. Comprehensive measures have been taken over the years to develop sport. The training process is arranged at a high level. Federations, clubs and sports associations work successfully. The National Olympic Committee and the Ministry of Youth and Sports conduct a unified policy. This is why Azerbaijan demonstrates a single position on the sports policy.
Sport centers are being set up. I am glad that both clubs and federations are setting up their sports facilities today. At the same time, we have established 41 Olympic Centers in the districts. The construction of 10 more centers is under way. Upon completion of these projects, every district of Azerbaijan will have excellent facilities for doing sports. As a matter of fact, such conditions are already available. As for Baku, it has all the opportunities to host the most prestigious international competitions. The European Games confirmed this again. The newly-built and renovated sports infrastructure in Baku is world-class. I can say that we are no inferior to developed countries in that respect. Our sports facilities have a high functionality. At the same time, they are architectural masterpieces. We have created them so that our sports facilities impart further beauty to our city. Modern sports facilities, sports infrastructure, the right policies, care about the athletes and the decisions made by the government have created a situation where Azerbaijan is among leading nations in the world.
This year has been remarkable in the sports history of Europe because of the first European Games. The Azerbaijani state demonstrated its power again. In just two and a half years we organized Games that were conducted at the level of summer Olympic Games. Perhaps no-one, including our foreign partners, believed that we could hold the Games at this level. All Azerbaijani people showed true solidarity. It was a national issue, because the hosting of the world's first European Games in Baku was a huge responsibility for us.
In recent years, we managed to broadly represent our country in the world. There have been various events, presentations, exhibitions and concerts. We introduced our rich culture, historical heritage and today's realities of Azerbaijan to the world. But the Games allowed visitors the opportunity to get acquainted with our country. Six thousand athletes, thousands of coaches, guests and sports professionals stayed in Baku for about three weeks, saw the beauty of our city, felt the hospitality of our people and witnessed the rapid development of Azerbaijan. The general opinion was that it is impossible to the conduct Games at a higher level. Some athletes ending their competitions did not even want to leave our country. They wanted to stay in the Olympic Village because of the great atmosphere there. Excellent organization, modern appearances, a high level of facilities and the hospitality of the Azerbaijani people created a special atmosphere. Those were unforgettable days, and Azerbaijan showed the world what it is capable of. We showed that in just 24 years of independence we have been able to reach the highest peaks.
Of course, the successful performance of our athletes pleases us in particular. Team Azerbaijan finished second among 50 Olympic teams. Let’s note that the first place was won by Team Russia. This, of course, was natural and could not have been otherwise. Therefore, I believe that we have managed to climb to the highest peak. We won 56 medals, including 21 gold ones. It was a tremendous victory of Azerbaijani sport. I want to salute the athletes and everyone who was involved in all these victories and medals again. I want to express my gratitude to you all.
The European Games have gone down in history. The decision on where the next games will be held has yet to be made. But according to my information, after the Baku Games some countries are a bit hesitant. Colleagues are even telling me that they are afraid that they can’t organize the Games at the level of the Baku Games. Therefore, they are a little cautious. In other words, we have created a level it is hard to emulate. These Games were organized at the level of Summer Olympic Games in the true sense of the word.
Next year Azerbaijan will host another prestigious sporting event - "Formula 1". This competition is also among three major sporting events on a global scale. Summer Olympic Games, of course, come first. Second is World Football Cup. "Formula 1" is in third place. The fact that this competition is to be held in Azerbaijan is, of course, a historic event. This competition will be held in our region for the first time. Our condition was that the competition should be conducted on city streets, because the organization of such an event would have required us to spend a lot on building a new stadium. That is unnecessary. On the other hand, competitions held in specially constructed arenas duplicate and are similar to each other. When you watch these events on TV, you can’t tell where they are held. Our advantage is that it will be held in the streets of our beautiful, ancient and modern city. Until now, these competitions have been held in city streets only in two places – Monaco and Singapore. Preparations are currently under way. I am sure that we will host this excellent event at the highest level. Baku will also host the World Chess Olympiad. This is also a competition of a global scale, and our players are delighting us with their results.
In general, all sports are developing in Azerbaijan. We develop both traditional and new sports for us. In 2017, we will play host to Islamic Solidarity Games. Appropriate instructions have been issued and the Organizing Committee established. The first meeting of the Organizing Committee was held in September. I am confident that these Games will also be held at the highest level.
These are our achievements. Athletes delight us in international competitions. We have created the most sophisticated sports infrastructure. Azerbaijan hosts the most prestigious sporting events of the world. Ten or 20 years ago, this was unimaginable. And if someone talked about that, they would not be taken seriously. But today it is a reality. We are creating this reality ourselves. It is created by the Azerbaijani state and the people of Azerbaijan with a view to developing sport even faster.
The development of sport shows the overall development of any country. If you look at the nationality of the athletes winning medals in international competitions, world and European championships and Olympic Games, you will see that most medals are won by athletes from developed countries. We also want to become a developed country. We are going in this direction and I am convinced that we will achieve that.
I can say that other results of 2015 have also been positive. Despite the fact that the region and the world are facing an economic crisis, the Azerbaijani economy kept developing. To achieve economic development in 2015, of course, is a great thing, because the political crisis experienced in the region, as well as the military crisis and financial crisis exacerbated further this year. In 2015, the Azerbaijani economy kept developing. We tried to ensure economic stability as much as possible. But as you know, oil prices have dropped threefold throughout the year. Our revenues have fallen sharply. Budget revenues have decreased. Of course, budget costs have reduced. Therefore, we managed to largely save on budget costs in 2015. Unfortunately, the processes occurring in the world do not give grounds for optimism next year. Therefore, it is possible that the crisis will continue.
The reduction of our oil revenues has certainly had an adverse impact on the national currency. The main reason for the change of the manat rate has been the threefold decline of the oil price. In other words, the change of the manat rate was inevitable. During the year we did our best to prevent that. We expected oil prices to stabilize. When it stabilized at the level of $50, we calmed down a bit, thinking that devaluation would not be necessary. But at the moment the price of oil has reached $36. The latest decision made in the United States regarding the dollar also contributed to a decrease of the oil price. There are other geopolitical factors involved. I personally believe that the sharp drop of the oil price does not have natural and economic grounds. It is true that the global economy underwent a slight decline. The pace has gone down a little, but not enough to reduce the oil price threefold in one year. I personally believe that this is a deliberate policy. And the goal of this policy is no secret for anyone. Azerbaijan is simply suffering from this situation.
Despite this, we will certainly try to minimize the implications of this situation. The falling oil price, the sharp devaluation of national currencies of our major trading partners and other factors led to the inevitability of such a decision.
In the current circumstances the main objective of the Government is to ensure macroeconomic stability and the normal rate of inflation. At the end of this year, inflation is less than 4 per cent. We need to try to keep it at the lowest level next year too. In recent years, we have attached great importance to local production, allocated funds to both public and private sectors. The vast majority of food products are produced in Azerbaijan. Therefore, prices on the food produced in Azerbaijan should remain stable. The same applies to building materials.
In recent years, we have developed a strong construction industry and are providing ourselves with main building materials. There should be no price increases in the construction sector either. Azerbaijan provides itself with fuel. Our fuel prices are three times lower than elsewhere in the world. If you look at the price of petrol and diesel, you can see that it is three times lower than in Western countries. Therefore, there should be no talk of price hikes here. Our fares on public transport such as underground and buses are at a very low level.
In other words, we will try to reduce the negative impact of this inevitable decision as much as possible, primarily by deepening the reforms. There have been and will be administrative measures. Those engaged in artificial price hikes will be faced with punishments, so that there are no abuses of this situation or speculation. If such facts are discovered, very strict measures will be taken and those trying to take advantage of this situation will regret it.
An important role, of course, will belong to economic factors and the factors related to reforms. I have already signed an executive order to further improve the business environment and eliminate unnecessary inspections. Very important decisions have been made in connection with licenses. In general, there is and should be a process to ensure transparency of the economic and financial sector, and even more rigorous fight will be waged against all negative phenomena. Even more rigorous fight will be waged against bribery, corruption, monopolization and illegal activities. From now on, we have to pursue a policy of economic liberalization even more diligently. In particular, the fight against monopolistic trends will be even tougher. Monopolism should not be tolerated in import and local production. No-one can have any special privileges here. Those hampering budget revenues will be punished. Therefore, maximum transparency will be ensured in the customs and tax systems. I have repeatedly spoken on these issues at meetings of the Cabinet of Ministers. I have noted in my speeches that the financial and economic sector should be completely transparent in Azerbaijan.
Our success is obvious. Just have a look – the State Oil Fund has been in operation for more than 15 years. This is one of the most transparent and effective sovereign funds in the world. The revenues and costs are known and international audits are conducted. This is known to the people of Azerbaijan and the entire world. Influential financial structures of the world praise the activities of the Oil Fund. “ASAN xidmət” was established two years ago. Seven million people have used the opportunities of “ASAN xidmət”. The people of Azerbaijan can see the difference now. All of the work there is organized transparently. There is no corruption or bribery. A high level of service is provided. Therefore, we are developing this area. Two new centers are being set up in the regions now. There will be over 10 of them in total. Ten mobile buses are now in operation. This can be done. We simply need to organize the work properly. The people heading important organizations should work in good faith. The interests of the state should be above everything for them. They should not think about filling their own pockets. There must me strict control – both state and public.
I want to say this again: without the public oversight we can’t achieve what we want. What does public oversight mean? People need to be even more active. When faced with unpleasant facts, they should report them, so that we could adjust our work and prevent the negative phenomena. If we achieve this, the price of oil will not matter a lot for us.
I have already said that we need to create an economic system and a system of control that would allow us the opportunity not to depend on the oil price. If we depend on it, we will be faced with such unpleasant situations every time. The oil price rises and falls because of some political interests, and Azerbaijan suffers from that. Why? We are building a strong economy. The policy we are pursuing in the economic sphere today is viewed with approval in the world. All the major international financial institutions such as the World Bank, the European Bank and the International Monetary Fund recognize that and support our policy in the economic sphere.
Influential international financial institutions respond to the changes in the exchange rate of the manat by saying that the Azerbaijani government should have done this long ago. We also agree with that. We should have done it long ago, but we did not want to. We did not want this because we realized that it would have negative consequences. We tried not to do that as much as possible. I want to say once again that if the price of oil remained at $50 and stabilized, we would not have done it. But we live in a real world. The Azerbaijani economy is part of the global economy, and the events taking place in the world and the region are affecting us. Have a look at the bloody clashes in the region, wars, economic and financial crises, rising tensions between countries – all this is happening right next door to us. This inevitably affects our policy and economic development. All the processes in the region are moving in a negative direction. In 2015, there was not a single process in the region that would go in a positive direction. Under such circumstances, we are moving our country forward, ensuring the security of the Azerbaijani people, reducing the risks for Azerbaijan, including geopolitical and military risks, so that the Azerbaijani could people live in the conditions of security, peace and prosperity. This is our main task.
Of course, it is difficult to predict what will happen in the world in 2016. Our main goal is to lead political and economic processes in Azerbaijan in a positive direction, so that Azerbaijan as a stable country of the region could move along its own path and the economic challenges we are faced with could be resolved. I have no doubt about that. I do hope that the price of oil can’t remain at such a low level for a long time. It will grow, and so will the exchange rate of the manat. But I want to say once again that we must set aside this factor. Economic liberalization, free and sound competition, the elimination of negative phenomena, even more rigorous fight against corruption and bribery, and economic reforms – this is our path. We are going down this path, but we must and will go even faster. I want to say again: Azerbaijan will go its own way.
In the years of crisis Azerbaijan has demonstrated the most dynamic growth rates. Azerbaijan is the most stable country. The most dynamic economy of the world is also Azerbaijan. We will go our own way. We will try to resolve the major tasks the country faces in 2016, so that the people of Azerbaijan could live in the conditions of peace and tranquility. And this will be the case. As a result of the reforms to be carried out, we will achieve even better results.
Of course, I wish the athletes every success in 2016. Summer Olympic Games will be held in 2016. We have already won 30 licenses. I am confident that our athletes will please us and always hold the flag of Azerbaijan high. Thank you.
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The awarding ceremony then was held.