By Abdul Kerimkhanov
Opening of the World Economic Forum’s regional center in Baku is an indicator that Azerbaijan is in the right direction of the economic development and the country’s development as a whole, Natalia Zdorovets, Leading economist at one of the state enterprises in Ukraine's energy sector said in an interview with Azernews.
She was commenting on the working visit of President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev to Switzerland where he attended the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF).
Zdorovets emphasized that the opening of the World Economic Forum’s regional center in Baku is a great achievement of the Azerbaijani government, adding that the basis for this decision was an atmosphere of economic growth, financial stability, a well-developed banking sector, and the oil and gas industry as the basis for employment opportunities in Azerbaijan.
"One of the most important factors in the development of the country's economy is its industrial production base, and here Azerbaijan demonstrates success both at the local level and abroad," she added.
Listing the examples, she recalled commissioning on 16 January 2019 of SOCAR carbamide plant, built on the territory of the Sumgayit chemical industrial park, where 70 percent of the production is envisaged for export, while the rest covers the demand of the domestic market. Zdorovets also stressed opening of the Star oil refinery in the Turkish city of Izmir on 19 October 2019, which will significantly reduce the dependence of Turkey on imports of petrochemical products. She reminded that the main oil supplier is the Azerbaijani oil company SOCAR.
She underlined that the reforms have improved the investment environment and provided good economic dividends in Azerbaijan.
"Azerbaijan has significantly improved its position in the Doing Business ranking of the World Bank Group. Azerbaijan is one of the leaders in such indicators as “Protecting minority investors”, “Business Registration”, “Registering Property”, “Getting credit”. Azerbaijan has simplified the process of obtaining building permits, connecting to power grids, registering property, getting credit, taxation, international trade," she noted.
Zdorovets further mentioned that Davos Forum is not just an economic event, it affects all areas related to the economy, including security issues.
"Azerbaijan has a very favorable geographical position, stable economy, and also established itself as a secular, politically stable state. As President Aliyev said, the basis of economic security is political stability in the country," Zdorovets pointed out.
She told that Azerbaijan is directly involved in the energy security of Europe.
"Since 2003, Azerbaijan has been supplying crude light oil via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, the agreement was signed until 2050. This year's participation is more than symbolic, since the construction of the TAP gas pipeline, which will ensure the supply of natural gas to countries such as Greece, Albania, Italy, has been completed. All this allows Azerbaijan to be a participant in energy security of Europe," she added.
Zdorovets considers Azerbaijan has something to offer to the world economy and potential investors.
"Azerbaijan’s population is growing every year by approximately 100,000 people, which means that the country needs additional infrastructure and food supply. Azerbaijan is developing successfully and almost all international organizations characterize this development as innovative. Azerbaijan is classified as a world leader in a number of modern areas of development (economic, social and humanitarian). One of the most important conditions for successful management is the efficient use of resources. So, the priority for Azerbaijan is the efficiency of the use of non-renewable energy sources, as well as the development of renewable resources," Zdorovets said.
Speaking about the problems of global climate change and environmental disasters, she believes innovative energy management in Azerbaijan contributes to cutting greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the impact on global climate change.
Touching upon the relations between Azerbaijan and Ukraine, Zdorovets noted that since 2015, the total volume of trade between the two countries has tripled, adding that Davos Forum 2020 could become a platform for more specific arrangements to large businesses from both countries.
Noting areas of interest, she said that Azerbaijan is interesting for Ukraine with its resort industry, medical wellness services, construction, engineering sector and other infrastructure projects, while Ukraine can offer Azerbaijan agro-technologies and technologies for processing agricultural products, chemical industry and military-industrial complex.
"Bilateral negotiations also showed good results for producers of meat and dairy industries. The main thing is that political initiatives end with tangible positive results," she concluded.
Another political expert from Ukraine Sergey Zaporozhsky believes President Aliyev’s participation in Davos Forum was successful.
"The president had a lot of meetings and negotiations, including a meeting with the OPEC secretary-general Mohammad Barkindo, in which he praised Aliyev’s proposal of 2015 to work jointly with all oil-exporting countries, and not just OPEC members," he stressed.
Commenting on Aliyev’s statement in a panel discussion on “Strategic Outlook: Eurasia” as part of World Economic Forum that Azerbaijan needs to bring living standards closer to the EU standards, Zaporozhsky believes that this statement will affect the positive perception of Azerbaijan in Europe.
Regarding the opening of WEF regional center in Baku, he noted that this suggests serious intention of Azerbaijan to expand and strengthen its role in the global economy.
As for Azerbaijan-Ukraine bilateral relations, Zaporozhsky said that Baku for Kyiv is a leading strategic partner in oil supplies, adding that about 80 percent of oil imported by Ukraine comes from Azerbaijan, while Ukraine has a good position in the supply of agricultural products to Azerbaijan.
"It is likely that the expansion of defence cooperation will be important and significant. There are already joint projects and a real mutual interest in new ones. In other areas, the parties have yet to look for mutually beneficial interests. The annual turnover of $1 billion, of which 30 percent is oil, does not clearly say that the potential for cooperation has been exhausted," he stressed.
At the same time, Ukrainian political expert Maxim Gaiduk emphasized that at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Azerbaijan was perceived as a European state with significant energy potential and geopolitically aspiring to European political structures, NATO and as a state ready to increase mutual trade with European states.
Commenting on the opening of WEF regional center in Baku, Gaiduk said: "Opening of the WEF affiliate regional center in Azerbaijan is undoubtedly a positive development. This is a matter of the convenience of solving investment problems and issues of economic cooperation in a specific promising region," he noted.
Speaking about the bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and Ukraine, Gaiduk pointed out that mutual trade between the two countries is constantly growing, adding that SOCAR gas station network is well-known in Ukraine and by service, it is one of the best networks.
"We are interested in the growth of mutual trade and geopolitically in the future we can create a common belt of close allies from several states, including on military issues," he added.
He pointed out that thanks to Azerbaijani oil supplies, which have been constantly growing since 2016, Ukraine gained energy independence.
"We are interested in the supply of Azerbaijani oil to our refineries and in transit through our capacities to neighboring EU countries and Belarus. We [Azerbaijan and Ukraine] can help Belarus achieve a new level of raw material and energy independence as well," Gaiduk believes.
Finishing his point, Gaiduk underlined that the cooperation of Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine, Belarus and Central European countries looks both politically and economically beneficial for all of the above states.
The 50th World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting held on 21-24 January 2020, in Davos, Switzerland.
Abdul Kerimkhanov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @AbdulKerim94
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