By Abdul Kerimkhanov
Azerbaijan’s economy minister Mikayil Jabbarov has said Azerbaijan is one of the few countries where the regional center of the World Economic Forum (WEF) will be created.
"Azerbaijan is one of the rare countries with which a corresponding document is signed. As part of the document, discussions will be held with the relevant Azerbaijan’s structures and organizations over the next months,” Jabbarov said in an interview with the Azerbaijani Public Television and Radio Broadcasting Company.
The minister also said that it is the first time that WEF’s regional center is being created in the region.
“By region I mean the Caspian littoral states, the countries located in Central Asia and the South Caucasus,” Jabbarov added.
Jabbarov noted that WEF is a unique platform, adding that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev is among the world leaders who are invited annually and participate in special sessions of this forum.
He stressed that taking the Sustainable Development Goals as a basis, Azerbaijan is trying to maximally use the WEF opportunities.
"This is becoming possible in this format for a number of reasons: firstly, because the world business leaders, representatives of the companies interested in the region, heads of international development structures, delegations attend the forum," he explained.
Jabbarov further said that the direct discussions related to the economies of various countries are held, and important investment projects are presented. Opinions are formed and decisions are made at the bilateral and multilateral meetings during the discussions, sessions within the forum.
"We live in the period of the fourth industrial revolution. This entails the transformation of economic and social life. On the other hand, the state faces new challenges. The digitalization of the economy, the development of the innovation and artificial intelligence sectors, as well as new economic sectors, requires the implementation of an appropriate state policy to increase the knowledge and skills of citizens needed in these areas," he said.
He added that following the discussions, the development and expansion of digital commerce defined as a priority area as part of the fourth industrial revolution presented projects and the application of state policy in this area will be evaluated.
Jabbarov considers the creation of an ecosystem that encourages innovative thinking and innovative business as one of the main issues.
"The founder of the Davos Economic Forum Klaus Schwab came up with an initiative to cooperate with countries with high potential, recognizing the importance of these areas and encouraging this in their domestic politics," he noted.
Jabbarov once again emphasized that the development of the innovative economy is one of the priorities in Azerbaijan.
"By the corresponding decision of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, the position of presidential aide - Head of the Department of Economic Issues and Innovative Development Policy, who is responsible for these issues, has been created at the Presidential Administration. This is a clear indicator of the importance that the state attaches to this area,” the minister recalled.
Touching upon the reasons for the interest of foreign investors in Azerbaijan within the World Economic Forum in Davos, he said: "Generally speaking, Azerbaijan today is recognised in the world as a rapidly developing country with a growing population, which initiates and participates in large-scale projects and plays a key role in the oil and gas, transport and other sectors,” he added.
Listing factors which are important for successful investment, Jabbarov mentioned the political and macroeconomic stability in the country, development prospects, openness to the region and the world in the sense of having the opportunity to enter not only local markets, but also foreign ones.
“At the same time, the development of our transport infrastructure, trade relations with neighbors - excluding one, and stable political relations are also important factors,” Jabbarov stressed.
He said all the above-mentioned factors exist in Azerbaijan and emphasized that one of the reasons for the growing interest is the next stage of socio-economic reforms carried out in the country under the leadership of the head of state, which are already yielding results.
"In particular, the depth and scale of the reforms over the past two years have been clearly emphasized in questions and in the comments of the analysts participating in the Davos Forum. In a word, the prospect of further improving the business environment to attract investments to the country and such factors as discussion of pressing issues, as well as measures taken in the country to solve them, increase investors' interest in Azerbaijan," Jabbarov added.
Answering the question about the benefits these investments give the country, he said: "These investments mean knowledge and skills. It is known that the modern economy is based on knowledge. Foreign investment means not only material means, but also new technologies, industrial solutions, new jobs. In other words, this makes a significant contribution to resolving issues related to the two main components of sustainable development - economic growth and employment," he said.
Jabbarov further indicated the population's employment as one of the main tasks, which is constantly set by the head of state.
"This task was also set at a meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers on the discussion of socio-economic issues, chaired by the head of state on 13 January 2020," Jabbarov added.
Commenting on the outcomes of 2019, he said as a result of the reforms carried out in the country, some 157,000 new jobs were created, 99,000 jobs of which accounted for the non-oil sector.
“This is the area where the state applies special tax benefits. This also contributed to official registration of existing jobs and their removal from the “shadow” economy. Another important challenge is that we must achieve sustainability in the creation of new jobs. Therefore, speaking of economic development, we always take the concept of sustainable development as a basis,” he underlined.
He believes growing population means the growing power of the state, and from an economic point of view, this means an increase in purchasing power.
“New schools, hospitals are being built in Azerbaijan, and it is well known that a lot of work is being done in this regard. The number of schools built over the past 16 years is nearing 3,300, and hundreds of hospital buildings were built and new roads laid. Growing population also means growing consumption. Demand for products and services is one of the main driving forces in the economy,” he stated.
“From this point of view, population growth opens up new opportunities. The main task is to correctly analyze all these factors, namely from a strategic point of view to ensure consistent approach to this matter,” Jabbarov concluded.
Abdul Kerimkhanov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @AbdulKerim94
Follow us on Twitter @AzerNewsAz