By Nigar Orujova
Azerbaijan's state IT development fund will provide financial support for promising 'start-ups' in the domestic scientific and technical industries.
President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree to approve the regulations on the State Fund for IT Development under Azerbaijan's Communications and Information Technologies Ministry. The decree defines rules on the use of the fund's resources.
The ministry said Wednesday that the regulations specify issues of stimulating activity in the ICT sector of Azerbaijan, as well as allocation of concessional funding to issue loans and grants to ICT companies.
The main tasks of the Fund will be the implementation of the state policy on development and support of small enterprises in the scientific and technical fields, providing them with direct financial assistance and personnel training, which in turn will help to create new jobs.
According to the ministry, these regulations provide opportunities for attracting internal and external capital to the Fund's projects. Potential financing sources of the fund are the state budget, the fund's revenues, dividends from securities acquired by the fund, donations of domestic and foreign legal entities and individuals, as well as grants and credits received from foreign countries and international organizations.
Each Azerbaijani citizen may avail of the advantages of the fund. Financial aid to enterprises will be arranged through contests. Businesses can borrow small, medium and large loans.
The amount of small credits ranges from 10,000 to 50,000 manats (up to over $63,000) for a three-year term, while medium credits are worth 50,000 to 500,000 manats and provided for a period of up to five years; large loans are allocated in the amount from 500,000 to 1 million manats for ten years. The annual interest rate should not exceed 5 percent.
The maximum grant available is up to 300,000 manats, provided for a period of 36 months. The amount of small grants is designated at 10,000 to 100,000 manats, while medium grants could be from 100,000 to 200,000 manats and large ones -- from 200,000 to 300,000 manats.
The state fund will be audited every year in order to ensure the transparency of financial transactions.
Earlier the communications ministry said that initial funding of the state fund envisioned in the 2013 state budget amounts to 15 million manats.
2013 was declared the year of information and communication technologies in Azerbaijan in accordance with a presidential decree on January 16.
The Azerbaijani president also approved the Action Plan on the Year of Information and Communication Technologies in Azerbaijan last week. According to the action plan, it is planned to develop an ICT strategy, improve the registration procedure of the national domain .az, and significantly reduce fees for telecommunication services and internet access.
According to the ICT Ministry, in 2012, ICT revenues exceeded $1.7 billion, which is 18 percent more than in 2011. This rate in previous years was 25-30 percent and the main task is to keep the figure at 20 percent. If this pace is maintained, earnings from the sector will reach $8-9 billion by 2020.