By Rasana Gasimova
The economic reforms in Azerbaijan focus on the development of the non-oil sector, and the country has succeeded quite well in this area, Chairman of Azerbaijan’s Small and Medium Business Development Agency (SMEs) Orkhan Mammadov has said.
He made this remark at a joint business summit of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Azerbaijan’s Agency for the Development of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) on supporting business and professional associations held in Baku on February 18.
Mammadov noted that small and medium-sized businesses have always played an important role in the successful development of the country’s economy, noting that the economic reforms have been focused on the development of the non-oil sector, and Azerbaijan is successfully moving towards its goals in this area.
"Azerbaijan ranked 25th in the latest report on business development and became one of the most reformed countries," he said.
Mammadov emphasized that Azerbaijan ranks second in the development of transport and road infrastructure. He added that increasing the share of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in gross domestic product (GDP), employment and exports in Azerbaijan is a strategic goal.
“By 2025, it is planned to increase the share of SMEs to 60 percent in GDP, 70 percent in employment and 40 percent in exports,” Mammadov said.
"Today, as an agency, we are working on the development of SMEs in various sectors of the economy. To this end, we have managed to establish close cooperation with foreign partners. We also work with the USAID, and they provide us with the necessary support,” he added.
Speaking at the event, Mission Director for USAID in Azerbaijan Jay Singh said that Azerbaijan has a unique potential that business and professional associations can help identify and demonstrate in the international arena.
Singh said that the USAID mission provides support and creates conditions so that these associations can unite. “Two years ago, our main mission was to focus on the private sector, as there is great potential,” he noted.
Singh noted that all efforts were aimed at supporting the development of the non-oil sector in Azerbaijan.
"We consider the creation of associations as a measure of mutual economic interest. I would like us to work together to create these associations. We successfully held two trade exhibitions in the states of Illinois and Oklahoma. Furthermore, for example, in 2017, USAID supported the Azerbaijan Association of Exporters and contributed in expanding its activities," Singh said.
President of AmCham Azerbaijan (American Chamber of Commerce in Azerbaijan) Nuran Karimov said that AmCham is one of the oldest and biggest associations represented in Azerbaijan with 200 members.
He also informed that Azerbaijani government accepts half of proposals from the association’s White Paper document.
“If young businessmen want to create any associations, we invite them to cooperate. We can share our experience and we’re not competing here, but serving the same purpose,” Karimov noted.
The co-chairman of the US-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce (USACC) Reza Vaziri also spoke at the event, noting that signing of the memorandum in April 2019 created the basis for promoting trade and commerce between the two countries.
“Among the achievements reached during a short period are: two US agricultural forums, two trade missions, the signed cooperation document, the cooperation agreement between the Azerbaijani city of Gadabay and Stillwater city in Oklahoma (US),” Vaziri said.
Note that USAID began assisting to Azerbaijan in 1991 with humanitarian relief for over 800,000 internally displaced people and refugees affected by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
In 1998, USAID transitioned from providing immediate humanitarian relief to supporting Azerbaijan’s longer-term economic, social and democratic development goals.
Today, USAID continues to assist the people of Azerbaijan through programs that support the development of Azerbaijan’s non-hydrocarbon sector, further the integration of Azerbaijan’s economy into regional markets, and create economic opportunities between the United States and Azerbaijan.
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