Baku, September 8, AZERTAC
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has chaired a meeting on economic issues and preparation of the State Budget for 2016.
The head of state made a speech at the meeting.
Speech by President Ilham Aliyev
- The world is still going through a severe economic and financial crisis. This crisis has assumed a particularly serious form in the Eurasian region. Both Europe and Asia are experiencing an economic downturn. There are different objective and subjective reasons for that.
Analysts, of course, are studying and will continue to study these factors. It is not our business. Our task is to protect the country and the country's economy as much as possible from the negative processes occurring in the world. We can successfully cope with that and defend our country. We provide security, stability and economic development of our country.
Of course, the reasons for the political, military and economic crisis experienced in Eurasia will be studied. But there is already sufficient information for analysis. We see that the main causes of this crisis include disruption of stability and the political interests of certain countries.
In recent years, as a result of foreign intervention and bloody clashes in the Middle East, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed. There is no end in sight to this war and these clashes. On the contrary, new hotbeds of war are emerging, causing suffering to innocent people. As I said, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed.
The situation in the former Soviet Union is further exacerbating. Bloody clashes are taking place. There is political and economic crisis and a growing trend of confrontation. Of course, post-Soviet countries are next door to us, and here too, as we can all see and the public is aware, foreign intervention plays a role. Innocent people are suffering.
For the first time since World War II, the European space, in particular the European Union, are faced with a major humanitarian catastrophe. Hundreds of thousands of refugees who have found themselves in this plight as a result of foreign intervention are rushing to Europe. There is currently a major resettlement of people seeking shelter and salvation. I want to say again that we are faced with this situation for the first time since World War II. Of course, it is a major humanitarian disaster. First of all, it is a humanitarian disaster for the people who have found themselves in dire straits. They have been faced with this humanitarian disaster for several years now. Unfortunately, the Western media treat this issue quite calmly and indifferently. But as soon as some of these people rushed to the European continent, the Western media started circulating these images on a round-the-clock basis, accusing them of this situation. These people are not guilty of anything. They are victims of a deliberate policy. They are victims of foreign intervention. They have no other way. They have to flee and to save their families. Therefore, the humanitarian disaster today is primarily their own disaster.
With regard to the policy of the European Union, life will show how committed it is to the proclaimed values. Now everything is obvious. We see that these poor people are being subjected to torture and humiliation. It seems as though a large-scale campaign is conducted against them. We cannot put up with that. We express our position on every issue. Azerbaijan is among countries that have their own position on all international issues. We express our position without fearing anyone. That is exactly why we have earned a lot of sympathy and respect in the world. Our position is fair on any issue. While defending a fair position, we cannot put up with this policy and these issues. In short, the world map is changing. It is possible that these changes will continue to take place in the future.
As far as Azerbaijan is concerned, against the backdrop of this negative picture, the country's economy is developing. Stability in the country has strengthened. Our international positions have strengthened even more. A growing number of countries cooperate with us. Azerbaijan is a worthy and highly respected member of the international community. The processes in the country are moving in a positive direction. People support our policies. Even in the years of crisis our economy develops successfully.
I want to note again that the dirty scenarios being put into practice in the Middle East today were also prepared for Azerbaijan. In 2011 and 2012, some foreign circles talked about an "Arab Spring" in Azerbaijan and the inevitability of it. They bent over backwards to aggravate the situation and disrupt stability here. Our law-enforcement agencies uncovered all that. They attempted to create a Maydan movement in Azerbaijan. They wanted to engage young people in this shady business and eventually ruined their lives. A lot of money was spent to deteriorate the situation in Azerbaijan. Tens of millions of dollars that were supposed to reach Azerbaijan illegally by means of the "fifth column", under the cover of non-governmental organizations, in order to aggravate the situation and bring those serving certain foreign circles to power. Since the beginning of 2013, these processes became even more serious. There were attempts to aggravate the situation and cause instability on the eve of the presidential election, to destroy Azerbaijan. I am saying this openly. This is how I see it. Only the enemies of the Azerbaijani people and state could participate in this.
Today, Azerbaijan is a modern, secular, developing, open and tolerant state in the world. Who are we hampering?! No-one! We have relations based on mutual respect with all countries. We have established equal relations with all countries. Who are we hampering?! Only those circles who are trying to dominate and have "puppets" everywhere! Worthy politicians relying on their people and enjoying popular support are no longer welcome.
But the point is that everything in Azerbaijan is decided by the people, not on the incitement of foreign circles. The Azerbaijani people have said "no" to all these dirty intentions, supported the Azerbaijani authorities, and today this support is the main source of our strength. The unity between the people and the government is a guarantee of stability in Azerbaijan. Let those who sneeze on our success know this. We are not indebted to anyone. We speak up and will continue to express our position. We will provide an independent life for Azerbaijan.
It is because of such policies that we have been able to protect the country from these great evils. I want to say again: look at what is happening in Ukraine, in the Middle East, in Syria, in Iraq, in Libya and other countries. The territorial integrity of these countries has practically been violated. These countries are uncontrollable. No-one knows what needs to be done to stabilize the situation and restore peace in the Middle East. These positive trends are not visible.
There is still stability, development and normal life in Azerbaijan. We have defended our country from these evils. We have cut off those dirty hands stretched towards us. We will continue to defend our country and ensure steady development of our people.
There was a sharp drop in oil prices over this period. Of course, experts and analysts will have to examine the reasons for this situation. But it is possible that this too is the result of a political order. But despite this, we had to be ready for such a situation. The steps we have taken towards diversification and development of the non-oil sector helped us emerge from this situation with minimal losses. Naturally, our revenues have declined significantly. Whereas the price of oil exceeded $100 last year, now it has dropped below $50, i.e. more than in half. But we are trying and will continue to do everything possible for the Azerbaijani people not to suffer from this. All social programs and social infrastructure projects are being implemented. Security and social protection of the population are provided. We are faced with such an unpleasant picture and should try to ensure economic development in 2016.
Economic development in Azerbaijan this year has been very rapid. Next month, we will traditionally discuss the results of nine months and overall development in an extended meeting of the government. However, the results of six months already allow us the opportunity to say that we will finish this year with very good results. The gross domestic product has increased by almost 6 per cent. The non-oil economy has grown by more than 9 per cent. Inflation is at a very low level. Agriculture has increased by 7.3 per cent and the non-oil industry by 14 per cent. So this is the progress made in the year of crisis, and it is very difficult to see similar good results on a global scale. Why? First of all, because we have a strong political will and we have built our policy only on the interests of the Azerbaijani people! Secondly, we have carried out reforms on the basis of sound economic policies for many years. These reforms are highly appreciated by international financial institutions today. I should note that this year the international rating agency Fitch has reaffirmed the stable rating of Azerbaijan. Our rating is BBB. This is also a great achievement. The general public may not know this and there a brief report on that in the media although it is a major event. Let them look at the credit ratings of other countries – they are all declining. Azerbaijan’s rating is stable. Why is that? Earlier, our detractors and those envious of our success linked this to oil. They said that Azerbaijan produces oil, which is why Azerbaijan is developing. OK, oil production in Azerbaijan is now in decline. Oil prices have fallen by more than half, but we are still developing. They do not want to accept the fact that our development is underpinned by sound policies. The anti-Azerbaijani, Islamophobic forces, those who are reluctant to put up with our independence are constantly trying to cast a shadow over our work. The smear campaign against us continues – it was there on the eve of the European Games, during the Games and at the moment. Why is that? Because we are defending our country! We do not and will not allow the "fifth column" and national traitors to dictate their will here.
Such is the overall political and economic picture. I want to say again that we will take all necessary measures until the end of the year to ensure sustainable economic development. Of course, the government should work harder and more flexibly for our economy to grow next year too.
A few days ago, next year's budget was discussed at a cabinet meeting. I have already received a report about that. We will discuss this issue more broadly. I would like to say that next year's budget should take into account the real situation. Next year's budget should be more socially oriented. Of course, the investment projects of the highest priority should also be implemented. But the projects that are not a priority, those not particularly important should not be included in the budget and the investment program. We can’t allow waste. It is necessary to further strengthen the financial discipline and try to save money. All countries are pursuing this policy now, and we also have to take it more seriously.
In previous years, we tried to quickly resolve all of the socioeconomic problems facing the country. That was why in some cases we allocated funds to projects that did not represent a huge priority, so that development could go even faster. We had quite a lot to do. But today we have implemented the major infrastructure projects. Some of them are still under way. However, we have created a dramatic turnaround. We have implemented many social infrastructure projects. The country now has a solid foundation for the development of entrepreneurship and business – infrastructure projects, loans and, of course, public policy. Therefore, we must carefully consider the next year’s budget. I want to say again that it will address the most fundamental issues.
First of all, I need to say that all social programs will be implemented without cuts. Citizens of Azerbaijan can rest assured that there will be no cuts here. I should also note that we will implement social infrastructure projects as well. We will continue the construction of schools, kindergartens and hospitals. At the same time, we will continue institutional reforms related to social policy. I should also indicate that we have achieved a very significant turnaround in the regulation of the drugs market, and every citizen of Azerbaijan will feel that after 15 September. We have reduced the prices of drugs by an average of two to three times.
We must deepen reforms in the area of governance. It is necessary to fight corruption and bribery even more rigorously. Following a decree I have recently signed, the “ASAN xidmət” service has been provided with new functions. Every citizen of Azerbaijan is aware of the situation in the sphere of housing and utilities: they are putting forward so many illegal demands and torturing people. “ASAN xidmət” will make things easy now.
There are serious violations in the transport sector too. People are tortured and left to deal with unreasonable demands. We have already transferred some of this scope to “ASAN xidmət”. In the future, the “ASAN xidmət” standards must be applied to all areas. Therefore, there is a lot of work in store for the government next year, of course. The government will work in a new situation. Oil revenues are reducing, so it is necessary to give preference to innovation. Of course, steps will be taken to develop entrepreneurship. Financial stability will be ensured. I have no doubt about that. Our financial situation is stable. We have sufficient foreign exchange reserves. Again, by pursuing sound policies, we increased our foreign exchange reserves every year. We are defending the money of the State Oil Fund this year too. True, the decline in the prices of property purchased earlier, in particular, some changes between the rates of the euro and the dollar, can create an impression that the reserves of our State Oil Fund have reduced. But in reality, we can see that they haven’t reduced, as certain changes related to the assessment and the rates of world currencies have been introduced. But we must and we will defend our foreign exchange reserves next year too, especially the reserves of the State Oil Fund.
This is how we do our work. I want to say again that I do not see any problems associated with the successful development of Azerbaijan. We will successfully develop in 2016 and meet all the objectives facing the country. The government simply needs to work even harder until the end of the year, particularly in relation to the expenses, the investment program for the next year and our financial status, and make new proposals. I want to reiterate: the main thing is that next year's budget should be balanced, reflect the reality and avoid unnecessary costs.