WB appraises Azerbaijan's actions to protect economy

By Aynur Karimova

On the background of recent slowdown in the global economy, the national economies were forced to reconsider their corresponding policies and to develop new economic scenarios.

To diminish the impact of the ongoing economic crisis that shattered many national economies, energy-rich Azerbaijan has set a goal to diversify the economy and reduce its dependence on petrodollars.

As a response to such an uneasy challenge, Azerbaijan, holding 0.5 percent of the global crude production, is redesigning its economic policy to get adapted to the new realities.

The World Bank appraised Azerbaijan's efforts taken to revitalize the economy.

The Bank's Regional Director for the South Caucasus, Mercy Tembon said at a meeting with Economy and Industry Minister Shahin Mustafayev in Baku on February 17 that the World Bank supports the steps taken by the Azerbaijani government.

"If these measures were not taken in due time, Azerbaijan would face problems," she said. "These preventive measures have helped to largely neutralize external economic influence. The government absolutely did the right thing by determining the support of the private sector as a priority."

The World Bank official also expressed the Bank's readiness to support the Azerbaijani government's economic policy, state programs, as well as the private sector.

During the meeting the sides discussed the current status of relations between Azerbaijan and the World Bank and prospects for cooperation, and exchanged views on measures taken in Azerbaijan to prevent the possible impact of the unstable global economy and negative trends to the country's national economy.

It was noted that cooperation between Azerbaijan and the World Bank is developing in various fields.

Mustafayev said taking the current economic conditions into account, Azerbaijan has reinforced measures aimed at developing the non-oil sector, improving the business and investment climate, and supporting the entrepreneurs. The government has also improved the licensing system, suspended the check of entrepreneurs, adopted important decisions in the field of investment promotion and export of non-oil products, and established boards of appeal for examining the complaints of entrepreneurs.

As part of the visit to Baku, the World Bank delegation met with Chairman of the Central Bank of Azerbaijan Elman Rustamov to discuss the current status of projects financed by the World Bank and implemented by the Azerbaijani government.

The talks focused on the World Bank's support to the economic reforms carried out in the country, Azerbaijan's current loan portfolio and the prospects of cooperation of the country's Central Bank with the World Bank.

Rustamov expressed confidence that on the backdrop of the global economic crisis and regional challenges, Azerbaijan and the World Bank will manage to further deepen cooperation.

Tembon, in turn said the World Bank's 2016-2020 Country Partnership Strategy will make a significant contribution to the development of non-oil sector and inclusive and sustainable economic growth of the country.

Azerbaijan has been a member of the World Bank since 1992. As of February 1, 2016, the Bank issued loans amounting to $3.785 billion to Azerbaijan to finance over 60 projects.

By early 2016, Azerbaijan has used $2.764 billion or 73 percent of all loans drawn via the World Bank. Besides the loans, the World Bank issued 45 grants totaling $41.586 million to Azerbaijan in 1995-2014.

Azerbaijan and the World Bank have jointly implemented several projects, including Integrated Solid Waste Management Project. The Bank has provided its technical support to the Sumgayit chemical industrial park. Currently, the World Bank, jointly with the local specialists, is working over the Restoration of Absheron lakes project.

The level of disbursement of the World Bank funds in Azerbaijan is 17 percent, which is one of the highest figures in the European and Central Asian regions.

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Aynur Karimova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Aynur_Karimova

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