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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
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


Update No: 327 - (26/03/08)

The overwhelming issue for Azerbaijan is its relationship to Armenia, which is clinging on to 20% of its territory. A hardline ally of Robert Kocharian has succeeded him as president, the former premier Sarkysan. There is new talk of war. 

Azerbaijan marks 90th anniversary of 1918 conflict with Armenia as "Day of Genocide." 

In 2008 it will be 90 years since territorial disputes between Armenia and Azerbaijan resulted in a 3-day round of bloodletting and expulsions that Baku regards as genocidal acts against Azerbaijan. And 10 years ago in 1998 the late president of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev, declared March 31 the "Day of Genocide" to commemorate the event. There is still a deadlock in the negotiations between the two countries over Nagorno Karabakh, a de facto independent republic located in the South Caucasus, and the anniversary could trigger renewed conflict.

The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 provoked ethnic violence in the area, and more erupted in 1918 when Armenia and Azerbaijan became independent and each claimed Karabakh. Soviet domination of both countries suppressed the worst of the hostilities between the two for decades, but it exploded again in 1988 with the approaching breakup of the Soviet Union and the return of independence to both countries.

Looming war?
The present deadlock coincides with the suspension of ceasefire monitoring along the long line of trenches that divides Armenian and Azerbaijani forces around Karabakh, and increased warnings that the dispute - in which fighting was halted in 1994 - might once again lead to open conflict.

The OSCE Minsk Group was created in 1992 by the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe, now Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, to encourage a peaceful, negotiated resolution to the conflict. At this stage in the negotiations compromises are laid out in a document called "Basic Principles." It is awaiting the signatures of the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan. According to a report by the Zurich-based International Relations and Security network in December, the political climate in both countries ahead of presidential elections in 2008 makes it unlikely the document will be signed. 

Azerbaijan is growing in confidence both economically and diplomatically, according to the ISN report, and officials have said frequently that their "patience is running out" and they are considering the military option. On 30 October, the current president, Ilham Aliyev, said, "We should be ready to liberate the occupied territories by military means at any moment." Aliyev boasts that his oil-rich country's fast-growing defense budget, which now stands at more than US $1 billion, should increase to a point where it exceeds Armenia's entire annual budget.

What this line of talk overlooks is that Armenia would certainly receive every assistance, including covert troop deployment, from Russia, like last time, whose own military budget is many times $1bn. The Russians have crushed the Chechens and have seasoned Caucasus fighters to deploy. Azerbaijan would lose again.

Nevertheless, on 27 November, speaking at a meeting of defense chiefs from post-Soviet states, Azerbaijani Defense Minister Safar Abiev said, "As long as Azerbaijani territory is occupied by Armenia, the chance of war is close to 100 percent."

GDP doubles in four years
It would be a great pity if the Azeri regime squanders its massive oil and gas revenues on a military build-up and war it is bound to lose. For its economy is doing extraordinarily well, with benefits coming through for the people at last. 

Since Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's term in office began in 2003 and the State Programme for Economic and Social Development of the Regions was put into effect, Azerbaijan's economy has performed very well -- not only in the region, but throughout the world -- and its budget increased ten-fold, totaling $12 billion. GDP soared by 96%, a world record.

The current state of the socio-economic development programme was discussed at the meeting, held on March 18 in Baku's Gülistan Palace. Several statesmen and foreign mission chiefs attended the meeting. 

Speaking at the meeting, Aliyev stressed that Azerbaijan's move toward development will persist. He also explained the measures that should be taken to prevent imbalances in income distribution, a problem oil-rich countries frequently face. 

Aliyev went on to say that investments should not only focus on Baku but should spread to other regions, as well. He added that small and medium-sized industries and investments should be promoted. Furthermore, Aliyev also noted that the development program, which has been extremely successful so far, calls for the development of every single administrative unit, including villages, and the establishment of social infrastructure in these units. If the government is once again victorious in the upcoming November elections, Aliyev plans to implement a new program for the period between 2009 and 2013. 

According to year-end data, the gross national product (GNP) per capita in Azerbaijan was $3,700 in 2007. The government plans to increase this to $4,500 in 2008. The minimum wage has risen by approximately 700 percent in the last four years. Meanwhile, the government is also planning to double its current dollar holdings, which amounted to $7.3 billion in 2007.

Aliyev has already followed through on his promise to provide employment to 600,000 people and decrease poverty within five years. According to official data, roughly 650,000 people were provided employment during his term in office. This number if reliable, also indicates that investments and production, particularly in industries unrelated to oil, have also increased significantly.

The Azerbaijani government plans to invest $3.5 billion in 2008 and disburse $100 million in loans from the national investment incentive fund for use in industries outside the oil sector. Grand global projects, including the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum and Baku-Tbilisi-Kars natural gas pipelines, have also played a significant role in Azerbaijan's economic development. The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project is an indicator of the significant future investments that lie ahead of Azerbaijan.

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