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AZERBAIJAN


  
  

 

In-depth Business Intelligence

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 7,124 6,090 5,600 102
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 810 710 650 146
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

Books on Azerbaijan

REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km)
86,600

Population
7,868,385

Principal ethnic
groups
Azeri 90%
Russian 2.5%
Armenian 2%
Dagestani 3.2%
other 2.3

Capital
Baku

Currency
Azeri Manat

President
Ilham Aliyev



President
Ilham Aliyev
 


Update No: 304- (28/04/06)

A voice in the wilderness
A digest of the Azeri press reveals a great deal of the fears and expectations of the Azeri public. In his analysis of the internal political situation in Azerbaijan in the Real Azerbaijan daily the well-known Azeri political expert, Hikmet Gajizade, says: "One has to admit, with surprise and regret, that the country's democratic potential has been highly overestimated by both local and foreign experts since the 1990s. Many thought that democracy is as strong as authoritarianism: democrats just have to get together behind proficient leaders and, with the West behind them, they will be able to crush authoritarian forces. But the reality has proved to be much sadder. The ratio of real capacity (rather than of votes) is, to us, 1:50 to authoritarianism."
"Only last year 2005 did this fact begin to painfully get home to our politicians and intellectuals, who used to previously show this mistake in most of their words and tactical steps," he adds. 
Gajizade believes, moreover, that "the total (real) number of members of democratic parties in Azerbaijan is no more than 25,000, while the ruling party has 400,000 members. Almost all budgetary employees have been enrolled into the ruling Yeni Azerbaycan, with no special resistance shown on their part. During the parliamentary elections 2005 each opposition candidate was opposed by 4 governmental and 8 independent candidates (which makes 1 against 12), with most of those independent doing nothing but vowing eternal love for the regime and cursing the democrats, but with little avail - the authorities left them all holding the bag. I can't help being sarcastic but the preamble of Azadlyq bloc's platform said: "In this country one can survive only by losing all of his morality and becoming a humble creature, and sometimes this too is in vain." 
Gajizade says: "The FAR CENTRE nationwide public opinion poll 2005 has shown that only 11% of the Azeris are worried that there is no democracy and human rights in their country. 25% are advocates of the ruling regime and 25% are advocates of its change - the rest are the silent majority that the government and the opposition are each pulling to its side.
"We are still a state in transition, but our transition is not to democracy but to monarchy. And obviously the problem is not in the Aliyevs and even not in the Soviet heritage, but in the authoritarian traditions, unshaken by centuries, of our western Asian society. To put it bluntly, in our country there are more Haydar Aliyevs than Vaclav Havels. 
"There has been no drastic rise in the democratic potential in the last 8 years. Even worse, they have begun to kill journalists. The core of the democratic movement of the country is still "the generation of 1988." No single governmental group, no single mogul, no single trade union (which are almost inexistent) have to date shown any support for reforms, as they in Georgia and Ukraine did. And so, opposing the efficient authoritarian and corrupt system in the authorities and the mostly authoritarian mood in the population are only 25,000 democratic activists (and a couple of thousands of activists from NGOs, journalists and free intellectuals). Unfortunately, they are growing old…"

Aliyev speaks out 
In his speech at the February 17th conference on the 2nd anniversary of the start of the State Programme on the Social-Economic Development of the Regions (2004-2008), Azeri President Ilham Aliyev said that some 340,000 jobs have been created since the onset of the programme. 
In 2005 GDP grew by 26%, industry by 33.3%, popular incomes by 27%. "For successful development Azerbaijan has both social-political stability and political will. Many more people have got into business. 
Some US$100m will be spent on business this year. Azerbaijan is developing quickly, but this is not all it can." Almost 400 high schools were built in Azerbaijan in 2005 as well as new hospitals and roads: "All this is vivid proof that our key priorities are right. The key objective of the programme is to eliminate unemployment and poverty in the country." AzerTag reported the president as saying.

New opposition bloc forms
On February 17th four opposition parties of Azerbaijan - People's Front Party (PFPA), Democratic Party (DPA), National Independence Party (NIPA) and National Unity movement - agreed to establish a political bloc Azadlyq (Freedom). After the signing of the agreement the leader of PFPA Ali Kerimli said that the parties are going to jointly fight for democracy and human rights protection in the country: "This bloc has been formed against the government rather than any opposition party. We are aiming to change the political regime. We do not want the opposition to think that this bloc is aimed against them." 
The leader of National Unity Lala Shovkat-Gajiyeva is sure that the bloc will be a success. The bloc does not have any goals at the presidential election in 2008. Which of course begs the question, what then are they for? 

"Wall of China" between Azerbaijan and Armenia
Echo reports that there is speculation in Azerbaijan about the possibility of building a barrier between Azerbaijan and Armenia. The parliamentary commissioner for defence and security Zahid Oruj opines; "Sooner or later but we should raise a wall between Azerbaijan and Armenia to defend ourselves from one more aggression by the malicious neighbour and not to let the Azeri people and especially youths forget the criminal plans of Yerevan. Supporting this project are public figures and MPs. They note that the wall will be of a psychological rather than a defensive purpose." 
Oruj says that the wall is necessary. He notes that a peace agreement may resolve the conflict but would hardly change anything in psychology. "To stop hatred and distrust between the nations right after they have signed the agreement will be a hard job," warns Oruj. 
He says that the Armenian aggression has been recurring throughout centuries and each time it breaks out after a short-time friendship. "This time it will be much harder to restore the former atmosphere of friendship," says Oruj. This time it is necessary to reinforce distrust and vigilance by building a graphic example - a strong wall between the nations. "It is excellent that our society is beginning to talk about this," says Oruj. "We'll just have to build the wall to keep fresh the memory of the hard past for our younger generation," he says.
MP from the Hankendi (Stepanakert) electoral district Khava Mamedova commented: "With or without the wall we are stronger than the Armenians and must liberate our lands by any means!" she says. "This time we'll have a short talk with the Armenians," says MP, Adalat daily editor Agil Abbas. Today Armenia is surrounded by Turkic nations and "they will either get wiser this time or there will be none of them here at all." 

Bird flu blights the economy
Plummeting demand for chicken and eggs is hitting hard in the pockets of Azeri businessmen, director of Shamkir agricultural firm Shamkhar Mamedov says to Echo. He alone has 1m eggs and 50,000 chickens stored, with almost nobody wanting them. "I can't imagine what we are going to do. People are showing stereotyped fear for the bird flu," says Mamedov. As a result, many in the regions are losing money and jobs. "We have no money to pay wages to our employees, in fact, we have no jobs either since nobody wants to buy most of what we produce," says Mamedov, noting that the authorities must urgently put the poultry farming in order. 
Meanwhile, poultry farmers are meeting to jointly find ways to solve this problem. As soon as they decide something they will ask the government for help. The epidemic rumours have dealt a slashing blow on chicken sales, and now poultry farmers want to convince the people that their birds have no way to catch the flu. The sales have been reduced, but the production cannot be since lots of eggs have already been laid. 
Bird flu monitoring is underway. Labs have found no virus among the poultry yet, reports the deputy head of the State Veterinary Service Emin Shahbazov. At the same time, they have found H5N1 among wild birds in Beylagan region. The spokesman of the Health Care Ministry Semaye Mamedova says that there are no reports of infected people. 36 men have attended hospital No 7 in recent days but no bird flu was found in them.
February-March will be the most dangerous time since millions of wild birds will fly from the south to the north then. Azerbaijan is one of the key transit zone, and so the probability of bird flu in Azerbaijan is rising. Dozens of dead birds along migration routes on the Caspian shore are a vivid proof that the situation is very serious, says TURAN. 

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ENERGY

SOCAR to sign syndicated credit agreement 


Azeri state oil company SOCAR and a syndicate of large world banks are to sign an agreement for a syndicated credit of US$750m, State Oil Fund Executive Director, Samir Sharifov, said, Interfax News Agency reported.
"All work on the syndicated credit has been completed, 15 banks have been decided on. All the terms of the credit will be disclosed at the signing," Interfax quoted him as saying. It was reported earlier that SOCAR is to receive a syndicated credit of US$750m at 1.75 per cent per year, which will be used to repay debts to ExxonMobil and TPAO arising from the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli project. BNP Paribas is the organiser of the credit. In 1994, when the ACG contract was signed, SOCAR conceded the right to invest in the project equally between ExxonMobill and TPAO (50 per cent of the 10 per cent share each). In exchange these companies received SOCAR's share of the oil used to repay investment, and also part of the profitable oil. In the intervening period investment in the ACG project amounted to US$10bn, and investment paid by ExxonMobil and TPAO on behalf of SOCAR amounted to US$1bn. Of this investment about US$350m was repaid to the foreign companies with supplies of oil, and the debt at the start of 2006 amounted to US$650m. After the completion of procedures to receive the credit and return the debt, SOCAR will itself invest funds and receive oil used to repay investment. This oil will be used to repay the syndicated credit. The contract for the development of the Azeri, Chirag and the deep water section of the Gunashli fields was signed on September 20th 1994 and came into effect on December 12th in the same year. 

SOCAR oil production unchanged in Q1 

Azeri state oil company SOCAR produced 2.22 million tonnes in January-March 2006, the same as in the first quarter 2005, the company said, Interfax News Agency reported.
SOCAR's oil and gas production department produced 1.96 million tonnes, down 0.1 per cent year-on-year, while onshore production by joint ventures and operating companies increased 0.6 per cent to 259,000 tonnes. SOCAR oil production in March amounted to 758,000 tonnes, of which the oil and gas production department produced 665,400 tonnes, and joint ventures and operating companies - 92,600 tonnes. Azerbaijan has six operating companies producing gas at inland fields - Salyan Oil Ltd (Kyursengi and Garabagly fields) Karasu Operating Company (Kyalameddin and Mishovdag, Shirvanoil (North, Central, and South Gyurovdag), Gobustan Operating Company (Southwest Gobustan), Binagadi Oil (Binagadi), and AzShengli (Pirsagat), and two joint ventures - Azerbaijani-Malaysian-Turkish ANSHAD Petrol (Neftchala) and Azerbaijani-German AzGerneft (Ramany).

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FOREIGN RELATIONS

Azerbaijan, Ukraine discuss economic cooperation

The Azerbaijani delegation led by the first deputy Prime Minister, Abbas Abbasov, visited Kiev on March 8-14th to expand economic and commercial relations between Azerbaijan and Ukraine, and to get prepared for the upcoming seventh meeting of the Azerbaijan-Ukraine intergovernmental economic commission, said the second secretary of the Azerbaijani embassy in Ukraine, Atesh Girkhiyev, Interfax News Agency reported.
The adviser to the Azerbaijani embassy in Ukraine, Sabuhi Temirov, told Interfax that Abbasov continued bilateral meetings with Ukrainian officials in Kiev. During his stay in Kiev, Abbasov had some bilateral meetings with Ukrainian Prime Minister, Yury Yekhanurov, Ukrainian First Vice Prime Minister and co-chair of the Azerbaijani-Ukrainian intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation, Stanislav Stashevsky, and Secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council, Anatoly Kinakh.

Baku deems relations with Ankara important - Aliyev 

Baku attaches special significance to the development of relations with Ankara, Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev, said at negotiations with his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, recently.
"We attach great significance to this visit. We have always deemed the development of relations with Turkey, including regional interaction, to be of special significance. Our countries have a very active political dialogue and are developing economic ties and cooperation in the humanities," Aliyev said. Energy cooperation between Baku and Ankara is of great importance to the entire world, he said, Interfax News Agency reported.
The Turkish president pointed to a gradual increase in indicators of economic cooperation. "Trade turnover was US$550 million in 2004 and US$795 in 2005, and we hope it will reach US$ one billion this year," Sezer said. Turkish businesses have invested US$2.2 billion in Azerbaijan's non-oil sector until now, Sezer said. At the same time, the Turkish national petroleum company TPAO intends to invest over US$4 billion in Azerbaijan's oil sector, he said.

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FOREIGN TRADE

Azerbaijan, Spain to boost trade 

At a joint business forum in Baku, Confederation of Azerbaijani Entrepreneurs (CAE) President, Alakbar Mammadov, said on March 23rd that the trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Spain is below potential as figure reached 92 million Euro which is 12 per cent of the overall commodities turnover in 2005, New Europe reported.
He noted that the trade turnover made up 1.4 million Euro in 1995 and added that both countries are boosting relations. It was reported that 76 million Euro was Azerbaijan's exports while the remaining 16 million Euro was earned by Spanish imports to the country. The exports of Azerbaijan comprised oil products and nuts while Spain exported construction materials, domestic appliances, furniture and food to the country. The president of Spain's Decorative Lightning Association, Marta Fabuel Esteve, noted that her country is represented at the forum by eight companies operating in furniture production and decorative lightning systems. Esteve pointed to opportunities for the activity of Spanish entrepreneurs in this field in Azerbaijan and also stressed that the Azeri construction sector is rapidly developing.

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