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AZERBAIJAN


  
  

 

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


 


Update No: 328 - (28/04/08)

The Azeri ‘miracle’
Azerbaijan is at the crossroads. It is doing incredibly well economically. Its GDP growth, according to official statistics, is of the order of 25-35% per annum, unheard of in history. 

It is all premised on oil. Not only does it possess vast reserves, 31 bn barrels at a conservative estimate, it is the natural conduit for the entire oil and gas output of the Caspian Sea and export thereof to the West.

Its monetary reserves are given out officially as $9bn. They are almost certainly far higher than that - and held in private accounts of the ruling Aliyev clan in Switzerland and elsewhere. 

The oil curse
There is such a thing as 'the oil curse.' Countries with resplendent oil riches do not necessarily do well by the mass of the population - look at Saudi Arabia. The 9:11 suicide bombers came from there. 

The Azeri masses are still mired in poverty. There is large scale unemployment and very many poor refugees displaced from the Armenian occupied region of Azerbaijan. Meanwhile the elite lives it up in the high spots of the West - Corfu, Capri, California, parties, private jets etc; here I come.

This predicament cannot last. A pre-revolutionary situation prevails, as Lenin would have put it. The Rose Revolution happened in Georgia next door in 2004. A ricochet of a revolution nearby may be nigh.

The Armenian option
An even more important neighbour for Azerbaijan is Armenia. It is in possession of 20% of Azeri territory, involving one and a half million refugees. A new war to seize back the lost terrain would be eminently popular. Why not use the massive oil wealth to build up an invincible army, wrest the lost lands back and bask in a victorious euphoria?

The reason is the Russians, with even more abundant oil wealth of their own, who back the Armenians to the hilt. They have just won one Caucasus war in Chechnya. There is nothing the Russian military - and high-ups in the Kremlin - would like better than another scrap in the Caucasus, and against the likes of Azerbaijan in particular. They could then encircle Georgia.

Armenia is due presidential elections soon. But this is not likely to alter its intransigent stance on Nagorno-Karabakh
and related matters. The successor to President Robert Kocharian, hand-picked for the job, is every bit as much a hawk on the issue as he is. They know that they can rely on Moscow - and its military. 

Go for peace and retrenchment
The wisest course for the elite in power in Baku would be to use their huge oil revenues to renovate their country. Their US mentors encourage them to have fair elections and to spread the wealth about a bit. But do they listen? Should they succeed however, Nagorno-Karabakh and its surrounds could fall into their lap in due course as supplicants. 

Economics should be allowed to prevail over lumpen local politics. Jaw-jaw is better than war-war.

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