President Ilham Aliyev attended the opening of Zira Cultural Center VIDEO

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Baku, December 30, AZERTAC

Zira Cultural Center has today opened in Khazar district, Baku.

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, president of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva and vice-president of the Foundation, founder and head of IDEA Public Union Leyla Aliyeva attended the opening ceremony.

The head of state cut the ribbon symbolizing the inauguration of the center, and then toured it.

President Ilham Aliyev then had a meeting with representatives of the general public of Khazar district and Zira settlement.

The head of state toured the territory of the center by an electric car.

President Ilham Aliyev, president of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation Mehriban Aliyeva and vice-president of the Foundation Leyla Aliyeva planted a tree in the area of the center.

Then President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and his family members met with a group of residents of Khazar District and Zira settlement.

President Ilham Aliyev said:

- It is a very delightful day today. Such a beautiful cultural center and an eco-park are opening in Zira. I cordially congratulate you on this wonderful occasion. It is really a unique project. I can say that this is one of the remarkable projects not only in our country but also globally. Here, a large park has been created on an area of 10 hectares. At the same time, the Culture Center operates various clubs, studios, a carpet museum, a cinema, a library and various conference rooms. In other words, it is a modern and beautiful facility indeed. I am glad that it has been created in Zira settlement.

Public places and parks have been established throughout our country, including the city of Baku, in recent years. For example, our largest park is the boulevard. Whereas earlier its length was 3 km, it has now reached 16 km. It is equipped at the highest level. We have also created new parks. For example, we have recently created the Central Park – the park behind Heydar Aliyev Palace. The Yasamal park has also been set up recently – it is one of the largest parks of the city. There is Dada Gorgud Park and others as well. Environmental projects are being implemented in the city now. A part of Lake Boyukshor has been cleared. There is a beautiful boulevard, a large park there. In front of the Heydar Aliyev Center there is a park covering an area of 7-8 hectares. I am glad that beautiful parks are being set up not only in the city center but also in suburban settlements. These opportunities will benefit not only the residents of this settlement, but also visitors from neighboring villages. At the same time, I think that residents and foreign visitors will also come here because our hotels will provide brochures about the park, and foreign visitors will see that such beautiful work is being done in Azerbaijan.

The development of Zira settlement goes well, and I want to emphasize the activities of your MP.

Residents: May God grant her good health.

President Ilham Aliyev: Mehriban has been your MP for 10 years. Mehriban has done a lot for the development of Zira and other settlements. This project has also been implemented by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. I am glad that the author of the environmental component of this project is my daughter Leyla.

Residents: May Allah bless her and grant her happiness.

President Ilham Aliyev: She is also trying to contribute to the overall development of our country. In particular, she does a great job to protect the environment and endangered animals. The environmental activities under way in Azerbaijan are praised at the international level. An international conference of world significance associated with climate change has recently been held in Paris. It highlighted Azerbaijan's achievements, because we have really able to achieve great success in the field of environmental protection. Unfortunately, vast areas were contaminated as a result of oil production for decades, especially in Baku and Absheron. At present, these territories are being cleared. As I said, the cleaning of Lake Boyukshor and Bibi-Heybat Bay is already a reality.

Various social projects have been implemented in Zira settlement in recent years. Health and education facilities have been set up. I am sure that after this wonderful new facility is handed over to the people of Zira, people will be coming here for rest. Children will be engaged in various clubs here. In other words, the development of Zira settlement in recent years has been very positive and successful. I am sure that the Heydar Aliyev Foundation will successfully continue its activities in the settlement and all other places in the future.

Infrastructure projects are being implemented and roads built. At the moment, a new road is under construction from this beautiful airport highway to Pirallahi. It is being expanded and a section of it has already been put into operation. The road to Pirallahi is being renovated and a bridge built. This bridge is of great environmental importance, because until now this dam has somewhat separated the sea and stopped the water from getting cleaned. It prevents the environmental situation from returning to normal. At present, a bridge is being built instead of the dam, and it will also have a huge environmental significance.

In general, the work under way in the suburban settlements of Baku in recent years has resolved most of the current problems, because roads are built, drinking water lines are laid, gasification has been completed, power supply has improved, steps have been taken to create jobs, including those in Zira settlement.

As you know, all of this work was made possible as a result of the State program on the socioeconomic development of Baku and its settlements. The program is under way and many projects will be implemented next year. The task has been set: all infrastructure and social issues in the suburban settlements of Baku must be resolved. We should pave good roads, build schools, kindergartens, medical and sports facilities, and create jobs. We are consistently carrying out work in this direction, and I am sure that all problems in the settlements will be resolved in the near future.

I want to emphasize drinking water projects. A major water treatment plant has recently been into operation at Jeyranbatan water reservoir. This installation will provide the people of Baku with round-the-clock drinking water meeting the requirements of the World Health Organization. This program has already begun.

We are meeting today on the eve of the New Year and the Day of Solidarity of World Azerbaijanis. In 2015, I paid official and working visits to many countries. I have attended 20 international events abroad and visited more than 20 districts of the country. But I am finishing the year here in Zira, together with my family, and I am greeting you again. Please convey my greetings to all the people of Zira. I wish you and all the Azerbaijani people happiness, success and prosperity in 2016.

2015 was a year of ordeals. The processes ongoing in the world have inevitably affected us. But in 2015, public stability was secured. Our people lived and should live in peace and tranquility. The picture observed in neighboring regions is very depressing. Unfortunately, the bloody clashes, wars, discrimination and lack of understanding manifested themselves in the world and the region in 2015. In Azerbaijan, things continued to develop in a normal fashion, the security of our people was secured and national unity prevailed. Of course, we must pay special attention to our future economic development. In recent years, we have achieved great success in this area. The face of our cities changed, while Baku has become one of the most beautiful cities in the world. But there is still a lot to do. Major reforms will be continued next year, particularly in the field of governance. These reforms are carried out continuously. Even more serious structural reforms will be conducted next year. We have to operate in a new format even more effectively, particularly in the field of governance. We must ensure complete transparency in all spheres, so that there are no problems with our budget revenues. We need to work hard to eliminate the dependence on the oil price. I have repeatedly stated this, and the development of the non-oil sector in recent years seeks to achieve this. If we had not conducted these reforms, we could be in a very difficult situation now.

But our dependence on oil is still there and will be continued. In order to reduce this dependence to the lowest level, we must conduct both economic reforms and serious reforms in the area of governance. First of all, we should provide complete transparency in all areas. The activities of executive bodies, tax and customs authorities and our financial system as a whole should be transparent. We need to fully apply the practices of developed countries. It is necessary to strengthen control, in particular, public control over revenues and expenditures. I have repeatedly said that the public should be more active.

We have carried out serious reforms in the field of public services. “ASAN xidmət” has been in operation for two years now. Its services have benefited more than 7 million people. There are no violations and errors that occurred in previous years. So it can be done. There should be transparency in every area, the local and central executive authorities must first serve the people. They should understand that they are working for the people. The main criterion is the assessment and the attitude of the people. When evaluating their work, I will primarily take this factor into account.

Of course, 2016 will not be easy in economic terms. We need to know that. But we need to try to reduce the negative aspects to a minimum. I am confident that the economy of Azerbaijan will develop in 2016 and there will be no problems with the implementation of various social programs. We will pursue an even more serious social policy and try to attract more foreign investment and avoid waste. As I said, we will work harder to eliminate of the negative phenomena in the control system.

I want to wish you happy coming holidays again. Azerbaijan will develop confidently. We are on the path of development, the path of independence and independent policies. This is why we are sometimes subjected to unfounded pressure. But we are conducting a dignified policy. The interests of the Azerbaijani people are of top priority for me, and I will continue to safeguard these interests in the future. When I feel the support of the people, I do this even more confidently. Happy holidays again.

Residents: Thank you, may Allah grant you good health.

President Ilham Aliyev said:

- We have been doing tremendous creative work in practically all settlements of Khazar district in recent years. It deserves a lot of approval. We are creating the infrastructure, building social facilities, schools, hospitals and medical centers. I have repeatedly said that if the problems of each settlement are resolved, we will resolve all the problems in the country. As you know, the buildings constructed in the past have already come unusable. Over the past 10 years we have built and refurbished more than 3,000 schools. Just imagine that there are about 5,000 schools in Azerbaijan. Of these, 3,000 have been rebuilt and renovated. But there are still schools in emergency condition. Every time when I travel to districts I enquire and look how many schools are in disrepair. In order to do all this, budget funds and revenues are needed.

At a time when oil prices were at a high level, we took the opportunity to quickly resolve the main issues of concern for our people. What were these problems? There was no electricity, not even in Baku. At night, electricity supply was interrupted. Or let’s take gasification. Today, Baku has been gasified completely. Currently, regions of the country are close to this figure – it is approaching 90 per cent in the country. Drinking water was delivered by trucks. There was a time when, having no home in Baku, we lived in the settlements. We also know this firsthand! Therefore, every district must have drinking water. Lines have been laid, the Oguz-Gabala line has been put into operation and the Jeyranbatan water treatment plant has been put in place to provide clean water. So far, we have not provided that completely. Ten years ago, about 45-46 per cent of the Baku population received continuous supply of water. Today this figure has now reached 78 per cent, while the remaining 22 per cent still does not receive it. This is a problem. It is also necessary to resolve this problem – it requires funds. This is what we have been doing – building power stations, gas lines, drinking water and social facilities.

Over the past 10 years, we have created more than 500 healthcare institutions in Baku and all our regions. Today there is no district today where there wouldn’t be a modern healthcare facility. There is a great need for kindergartens. Our population is growing, and this is a very positive development. Some 130,000-140,000 kids are born every year. So kindergarten is a problem, because there are not enough seats. Maintenance is at a low level. New kindergartens must be built and it is necessary to allocate new territories. Again, this requires funds. Therefore, social issues are always in the spotlight. But these issues require economic capacity. If there are no opportunities and revenues, how can this be done? Today, our revenues have severely reduced. No-one could expect that the price of oil would fall threefold in 2015. This means that our revenues have dropped threefold. Therefore, in the present circumstances we can secure our economic development solely through sound policies, effective work and, I repeat, the ongoing and upcoming reforms in the field of governance. It was very stressful for the economy. Of course, this has had a huge negative impact. On the other hand, this should encourage all of us to work even more efficiently. It is necessary to put an end to the negative phenomena that concern our society and people. Of course, a lot depends on the people. The government policy is and will be conducted. We should take measures, as they say, to narrow the field for negative phenomena. We should carry out reforms of systemic nature. For example, “ASAN xidmət” provides about 30 types of services without any problems, bureaucracy and bribery. People had to go through many ordeals to get a certificate. Now all this is gone. So everything is possible. This should be the case everywhere, in any sphere, in all executive bodies, local and central state structures. Government officials must work conscientiously. Their conscience, as they say, should not allow them to resort to various tricks. At the same time, there must be strong public oversight. People should also send us their signals, speak up and say that there are drawbacks in a certain place. In this case, no problem will be able to stop us.

Let me reiterate that 2016 will be a difficult year in economic terms. But I am absolutely sure that Azerbaijan will develop and that we will fulfil all our social programs. Along with this, we should have sufficient funds for investment. I believe that at the beginning of next year we should revise the state budget. It is necessary to make some corrections, and it will reflect issues of social security and investment, so that we could successfully develop in 2016. This is our goal.

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