President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva have attended the opening of a face mask factory and protective coverall plant owned by Gilan Textile Park LLC, in Sumgayit.
Director General of Gilan Textile Park LLC Mehriban Akhundova informed the head of state and First Lady of the activities of the facilities.
The factory will have an initial daily production capacity of 140,000 disposable masks. The extra equipment will be installed here by the end of May, allowing to increase the production capacity to 300,000 masks per day. The facility created 30 new jobs, with the figure set to reach 50 after the installation of the extra equipment.
The plant will have a daily production capacity of 6,000 disposable protective coveralls. The facility created 210 new jobs.
President Ilham Aliyev and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva then met with a group of workers employed at the facilities.
The head of state made a speech at the meeting.
Speech of President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev
- In connection with the coronavirus pandemic, the development of the medical industry in Azerbaijan has acquired great relevance. As you know, this sector is underdeveloped in Azerbaijan. In many cases, we were dependent on imports, and this is still the case today. However, the coronavirus pandemic has been a disaster for every country, and all countries, including Azerbaijan, have tried to mobilize their own resources first and began to take the measures necessary to combat the pandemic. I can say that Azerbaijan is one of the countries that took the first preventive steps. It is as a result of these steps that we are still in full control of the situation and the number of those infected is quite low. Of course, in the current circumstances, to ensure and observe the quarantine regime is one of the main goals in the fight against the pandemic. I believe that every country saw in this difficult period and difficult conditions that some countries withdraw into themselves, others try to provide only the domestic market. Of course, there were certain difficulties as well, in particular with the purchase and delivery of medical supplies and medical equipment to the country. We saw again that the development of the medical industry is of great importance. Certain steps have been taken in this direction recently, as two enterprises were launched on the island of Pirallahi: one for the production of medicines and the other for the production of medical syringes.
There was no production of medical masks in Azerbaijan at all. And it wasn’t intended to start either. It is gratifying that the private sector, having shown great social initiative, responded to the call of the state and began to produce them in a short time. Masks are necessary both for doctors and for ordinary citizens. The medical masks factory which begins to operate at this enterprise today is the second production site in our country. The first enterprise is also located in Sumgait, on the territory of the Sumgayit Chemical Industry Park. Of course, if we did not have a developed and modern industrial potential, it would hardly be possible to establish such production sites. It was thanks to the policy of industrialization, in particular the launch of modern industrial enterprises in Sumgayit, that the factories have quickly changed their specialization and begun to produce medical masks and protective overalls.
Seven years ago, I attended the opening of this enterprise, and I am glad that the enterprise has functioned successfully over this period. The products of this company are well known in the domestic market and there is also export potential. This suggests that the goods produced at the enterprise are of high quality. I was informed today that the production of overalls would be increased to 6,000 pieces per day, which is of particular importance for the protection of our doctors. Until now, we acquired protective overalls abroad. The problem is not so much with the allocation of funds and spending foreign currency, but the fact is that the acquisition of the necessary means has become problematic during the coronavirus pandemic. Even with money available, the delivery of these means and equipment has turned into a major problem, and we are witnessing that. Despite this, having mobilized all the possibilities, we are still importing the necessary means to our country.
Therefore, I believe that it is a very significant day today, because both the first and the second enterprise for the production of medical masks being launched today should fully address our domestic needs for protective overalls too. It has been possible to achieve this due to the development of industrial potential, of course.
In general, the development of Sumgayit today is largely associated with the industrial potential of the city. I am told that 95 percent of Gilan Textile Park employees are residents of Sumgayit. In recent years, dozens of new enterprises have been established in Sumgayit, and I participated in their opening. Among them, I would like to specifically mention two giant flagship enterprises – a nitrogen fertilizer plant and a polymer plant. The state invested heavily in the construction of these plants. However, the operation of other plants has been organized exclusively by the private sector – of course, with the support of the state which allocates land plots. As you know, there are two industrial parks in Sumgayit - the Sumgayit technology park and the Sumgayit chemical industry park. The Sumgayit Chemical Industry Park covers an area of tens of hectares. New infrastructure projects have been implemented in this completely cleared area. The private sector also successfully operates in this park as several enterprises open here every year. Thus, Sumgayit has become the second largest industrial city not only in Azerbaijan, but also in the South Caucasus. In contrast to the Soviet era, the industrial enterprises operating here today meet all environmental standards.
You are young and do not remember those years. But when people drove past Sumgayit in Soviet times, they rolled up their car windows because their eyes were watery from the smell. In other words, Sumgayit was the center of a great environmental disaster. The ecological situation in Sumgayit was very difficult as a result of a rapid development of the chemical industry and pervasive non-compliance with environmental standards. Several diseases were widespread here. We have turned Sumgayit into a modern and clean industrial city. The air in Sumgayit is cleaner than in Baku today. Of particular importance is the landscaping work carried out in Sumgayit, the creation of new parks, the adoption of environmental measures, the complete cleaning and reconstruction of the Ajidara canal, which had been the source of concern for the people of Sumgayit for many years. Therefore, the image of Sumgayit as an industrial city has completely changed and meets the highest standards today. Along with this, of course, other projects were implemented. Social projects are underway – for several years now, large IDP settlements have been built. I recently got acquainted with the construction of another such settlement. Improvement work is underway. The Sumgayit boulevard has finally started to function. This was my long-time dream and I know that the people of Sumgayit always wanted this to happen as well. It has been a few years since the Sumgayit boulevard was made available to the people of Sumgayit and is an excellent recreation area. In other words, we have a comprehensive approach to this issue. The construction of city hospital No. 2 is under way now. We first wanted to renovate it, but then we saw that it was in a completely run-down state and knocked it down. Hospital No1 is in operation and the construction of the second hospital is nearing completion.
Of course, all of us and the whole world are worried about the coronavirus pandemic today. Azerbaijan is demonstrating an exemplary approach in this area too. This is confirmed both by the people of Azerbaijan, which is evidenced in the thousands of thank you letters addressed to me, and by international organizations. I recently received a second letter from the Director-General of the World Health Organization. He sent me the first letter at the end of March and the second on 7 May. In its second letter, the World Health Organization appreciates the work done in the field of combating coronavirus in Azerbaijan and approves it. Of course, this is a high assessment of the work done. However, I want to say again: the people of Azerbaijan give the highest assessment.
It is not easy to keep things under control today. We have mobilized our efforts on protecting people's health. We can say that from the early days of the pandemic there were no moments of doubt as regards our choice. I unequivocally said that the priority is the life and health of our people. As for the economic situation, it was clear to everyone that the economy would suffer – not only ours, but the global economy as a whole. At present, preliminary estimates are appearing, and they suggest that the economic downturn in developed countries can reach 7-10 percent this year, and this is natural. But our main goal was to protect citizens. Therefore, restrictive measures have played a major role. If we hadn’t taken these steps, the situation could have got out of control, as it did in many countries, including developed ones. In countries where the health system is much more developed than ours, there weren’t enough beds for patients in hospitals. Sometimes hospitals do not accept patients at all. It is no longer a secret that patients with mild symptoms are not hospitalized in many countries. They are offered to stay at home and actually do not receive treatment. In Azerbaijan, however, all patients, all the infected, even those without symptoms of the disease at all, are taken to hospital. We have placed our most modern hospitals at the disposal of patients with coronavirus.
The first modular hospital was opened recently. The number of such hospitals will reach 10. Four of them will be built by the private sector. This once again demonstrates that the private sector, responding to our call, demonstrates social responsibility. At the same time, more than 100 million manats has already been collected in the Fund to Support Fight against Coronavirus established on my initiative. Not a single manat has been spent yet. We have also introduced a format of public control over the operation of the fund. This once again shows that citizens and entrepreneurs demonstrate solidarity and unity. Therefore, the adoption of preventive measures has allowed us the opportunity to overcome this situation with small losses at the initial stage. Azerbaijan is in a much better position than other countries, including countries with the same population as ours. But this does not mean that we should be content with our successes. The coronavirus has not disappeared. It is still there. This problem will remain until the vaccine is developed. Therefore, citizens should be prepared for this. Given the positive dynamics of three weeks, on 27 April we began to take mitigating steps because we understand that this is a difficult period for everyone. But we saw that as soon as mitigating measures were introduced, the number of infections began to increase. Why? Because citizens are often irresponsible, do not adhere to the recommended rules, do not wear masks, do not mind the distance, do not use disinfectants, thus putting their own lives and the lives of hundreds of other people they are in contact with at risk. Therefore, I want to once again appeal to the citizens of Azerbaijan: it is not too difficult to comply with these rules. Doctors and experts say that the main thing is to observe personal hygiene, use disinfectants, keep a distance of one and a half to two meters and wear masks. This is not difficult. Therefore, I am asking all our citizens to abide by these rules again. We are currently taking mitigating measures, and as you know, this process is going on all over the world. Even countries where hundreds of victims are lifting restrictions because it is impossible otherwise. We are also gradually moving in this direction. But the main thing here is the responsibility of citizens because the state is doing everything necessary. All the resources have been mobilized. Almost 100 million manats was allocated from the President’s Contingency Fund for the purchase of medical equipment and supplies, another 150 million manats is in reserve.
The state provides social support to those who have lost their jobs. For two months, 600,000 unemployed, informally employed people and those belonging to the low-income category receive 190 manats from the state. The state pays a significant part of the salaries of 690,000 people in the private sector that have been worst affected by the pandemic. The salary of each of the 900,000 people working in the public sector is paid. We have allocated a total of 3.5 billion manats for these and other measures and we will allocate as much as necessary. The state carries out this work and successfully resolves all organizational issues.
As I have already noted, the World Health Organization, the leading international organization in this area, highly appreciates our work. It is now only up to citizens to show responsibility and be disciplined. Of course, it is necessary to further improve the control mechanism. Of course, as the quarantine regime softens, there are certain problems associated with control. Despite this, all relevant authorities have been instructed to tighten control. But let me repeat that in the current circumstances the responsibility of citizens is the main condition for our success. Otherwise, the disease will get out of control. We must openly say this and know that no matter what the state does, the situation will get out of control, there will be cases of mass infection, people will die in large numbers, there will not be enough room in hospitals and respiratory equipment in intensive care units. Thus, God forbid, we may find ourselves in the situation of countries experiencing a great crisis today. We categorically cannot allow this. Therefore, I urge all citizens again: be responsible, disciplined, do not break the rules, take care of yourself, your relatives and friends, so that we can get out of this disaster with little losses.
I am sure that we will achieve this because for several months now, the pandemic has been a major problem for the whole world, but the fact that we are still keeping the situation under control can be considered a great achievement. I must emphasize that the solidarity we see in society in the current conditions is perhaps at the highest level because the whole society has consolidated in this struggle.
Taking this opportunity, I want to once again thank the representatives of the private sector, public organizations and individuals both for the donations and for the assistance provided to citizens, for organizing the medical industry in a short time in accordance with our interests. Today, the private sector and public organizations provide assistance to those in need. First among them, of course, is the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. The Foundation and people individuals help those in need. Everyone should do everything they can. This once again demonstrates the highest qualities inherent in our people. I do hope that the pandemic will sooner or later end and the atmosphere and the spirit of solidarity in our society will become even stronger after that.
I congratulate you on today's opening and wish you continued success in your activity. Thank you!
Then the employees of the facility Aygun Maharramova and Karim Babayev thanked President Ilham Aliyev and first lady Mehriban Aliyeva for the attention to their city and the conditions created for youth.
President Ilham Aliyev: Thank you very much. I am very glad that the people of Sumgayit work in this factory. Job creation is one of our priorities. I want to say again that dozens of new modern enterprises have been created in Sumgayit in recent years, and the vast majority of workers there are residents of this city. There are also people coming here from Baku. I said last time that Baku and Sumgayit seem to have merged. Therefore, when introducing the quarantine regime, we viewed Baku, the Absheron district and Sumgayit as one territory, because we are aware that there are people living in Sumgayit and working in Baku, and vice versa.
Of course, the development of modern industrial potential requires modern personnel. Today, youth is precisely such a driving force that ensures the organization of a modern approach, of modern industry. I said that many countries, including ours, are experiencing economic difficulties today. Recently, I met in the form of a video conference with the leaders of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. It was noted that during the pandemic, Azerbaijan has shown good results in the economic sphere. Suffice it to say that more than 150 countries in the world have turned to international financial institutions for help today. That is, their internal financial resources do not allow for the implementation of the necessary work. Azerbaijan is not on this list. We belong to countries that are struggling with this misfortune on their own. I should also note that we have already assisted more than 10 countries, sent transport planes with medical supplies and disinfection materials to them. Some countries have been given financial assistance. We have sent two donations to the World Health Organization. There are not many countries like that. This indicates our responsibility and demonstrates that we play an active role in the fight against the pandemic globally as well.
As for our economic indicators, of course, January and February were very encouraging. Honestly, I thought that we would end this year with record performance. However, the pandemic intervened in our lives and disrupted all our plans. Despite this – I have already said that the economic situation of many countries remains difficult, the economy is in recession – the results of four months in Azerbaijan indicate that the economy grew, albeit only a little, by 0.2 percent. Of course, this can be considered conditional growth. However, there is no recession yet.
With regard to the development of the non-oil sector, the industrial growth of this sector exceeds 16 percent. This is the result of the work done. It is industrialization and the establishment of new industrial enterprises that open up opportunities for this, including those in Sumgayit. But everyone should know that our foreign exchange reserves have diminished. It will take time to revitalize the economy and restore jobs. Therefore, we are creating 90,000 public jobs, 80,000 families are receiving social assistance from the state, the necessary funds are paid to 12,000 families under the self-employment program. We are doing all this so that unemployment does not increase. However, unemployment has increased in all countries. Even in the most developed countries it grew rapidly. The numbers will probably show that it has grown in Azerbaijan too. Therefore, from now on, our main goals are both to maintain control over the situation related to the coronavirus and to plan on an exit from the pandemic so that it is smooth and effective and we can restore economic activity as soon as possible. Therefore, all state and government agencies are preparing proposals in these three areas today. I believe that we will achieve this.
I congratulate you once again and wish you success.
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