By Ofeliya Efendiyeva
President Ilham Aliyev has said that as a result of the successfully conducted social reforms in the country, the financial well-being of more than four million Azerbaijani citizens was improved in 2019, which demonstrates the government’s commitment to improve the citizens’ welfare.
Aliyev made remarks while receiving Minister of Labor and Social Protection of Population Sahil Babayev on March 16.
“Reforms in the social sphere continue this year. These are large-scale reforms, which are ultimately important steps in a bid to improve the welfare of Azerbaijani citizens. Last year, the financial well-being of more than four million Azerbaijani citizens was improved and a huge social package was implemented. It again shows that the Azerbaijani government is always with its citizens and the focus is on improving the social status of citizens with limited financial resources,” the president said while commenting on the results of the work carried out in social sphere last year.
Expressing his confidence in the future success of the reforms, Aliyev said: “This year, further steps will be taken in this direction. Pensions have been increased. This once again proves that we had a purposeful choice of a comprehensive social package last year. I am confident that the social status of our citizens will improve from year to year.”
In his turn, Minister Babayev noted that one of the most important aspects of a extensive social reform package implemented last year was pensions: “As a result of a 72 percent increase in the minimum pension in the country, there has been a significant increase in the pensions of 660,000 pensioners and Azerbaijan ranks first in the CIS in terms of the purchasing power of the minimum pension.”
The minister also stated that as a continuation of the socially oriented reforms, pensions were indexed at 16.6 percent, as a result of which, the average monthly pension in Azerbaijan reached over $176.4.
“Azerbaijan is one of the leaders in the CIS in terms of the purchasing power of pensions, which I consider to be a great achievement. Of course, as our economic potential expands, we will allocate it primarily to address social issues,” Aliyev noted.
“I have instructed you to provide targeted social assistance in order to expand its scope. There has been economic revival in recent years, economic growth has been ensured, including industrial production. Non-oil industry has increased by about 15 percent, new jobs are being created and new opportunities opened for citizens. Nevertheless, I have instructed to provide support for the citizens, who are still in need of state assistance,” the president said.
Babayev said that upon the president’s instructions, “the ministry has significantly expanded the targeted social assistance mechanism over the past year. “If 40,000 families benefited from the program in the beginning of 2019, by the end of the year the number of such families reached 72,000. That is, over the course of one year, we got a considerable growth of about 60-70 percent,” Babayev said.
Furthermore, the minister spoke about the envisaged plans for 2020: “We plan to cover 85-90 thousand families with targeted social assistance within the budget allocated from the state budget this year, which means an additional 20 percent expansion of the targeted social assistance program.”
“Earlier this year, I instructed to build more homes for martyr families and war veterans in the course of the current year. We are improving the social welfare of these citizens every year. Last year, 934 families were granted apartments. I have instructed to increase this figure and this year it is planned to provide houses for 1,500 families,” Aliyev said.
Affirming the data provided by the president, the minister reported that last year 934 apartments and individual houses were presented to the representatives of these categories: “Some 300 of them were individual houses and 634 apartments. We have covered 25 regions of the country with this program. In compliance with your instructions, this program is being expanded this year covering 1,500 apartments and individual homes. The program envisages 700 apartments and 800 individual homes, covering 52 districts.”
Asking about current measures conducted in self-employment program, Aliyev mentioned that the government involved the World Bank in this issue as well in order to obtain financial support and consulting services.
“Approximately 50,000 applications were received. I have instructed that at least 10,000 people must be covered by the program this year. The Ministry has, of course, developed and provided the criteria for the program coverage, and citizens have been trained. However, the key issue is to monitor self-employment once citizens are involved in this work. Because, in world practice, about 50 percent of all citizens covered by the self-employment program can use this opportunity effectively”, the head of the state said.
Moreover, the minister reported that if in 2017 this program covered 1,500 families, in 2018 it ensured 7,000 and in 2019 - 10,000 families: “This year we have set 11 thousand as a target. This year, we plan to finance at least 1000 families under the World Bank project. Over 5,000 families will be funded by the World Bank project next year”.
The head of the state also touched upon informal employment problem in the country: “At the same time, I was instructed that no one in Azerbaijan should work more than eight hours. Because people are exploited. They are also desperate and compelled to do so. Therefore, there must be a very active live contact between citizens and the ministry.”
Aliyev also noted activity of the newly commissioned DOST centers under the Minister of Labor and Social Protection of Population.
In turn, Minister Babayev informed about current work. “81,000 applications have been received so far on our first center since May and our second center since December. The level of citizen satisfaction is 95.8 percent. Thanks to your support, now we are working on eight new centers.”
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