By Akbar Mamamdov
President Ilham Aliyev has said that social protection of the population is the Azerbaijani government’s priority and that the COVID-19 pandemic will not disrupt the implementation of the social programs in the country.
Aliyev made the remarks while inaugurating the third centre of the Agency for Sustainable and Operational Social Security (DOST) under the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of Population in Baku’s Nizami district on May 19.
“As I stated at the start of the year  and during the period when there was outbreak of pandemic, nor a single social program will be reduced and we ensure this. At the same time, none of the social infrastructure projects has been reduced. The attention paid to this area as well as practical steps once again show the essence of our policy. It also shows that Azerbaijani citizens are at the centre of our policy,” the president said.
“The social sphere has always been a priority, and I have focused on this issue in my speeches in the previous years. Especially in recent times - last year and this year - the social sphere has been on the agenda as an even greater priority.
“It is no coincidence that the largest social package during the country’s independence was presented last year and successfully implemented. The scope of this social package was very wide - 4 million 200 thousand people were provided with a social package by the state. This included raising the minimum wage by about two times and the minimum pension by more than 70 per cent,” Aliyev said.
Aliyev reminded that Azerbaijan is a leader in the CIS in terms of purchasing power of the minimum pension.
“Allowances have been raised - some of them by 50 per cent, some by 2 times. The issue of problem loans has been resolved. We have allocated billions of manats for these purposes, and as I said, the livelihoods of 4.2 million people have been significantly improved”, the president added.
Noting that these trends have intensified since early 2020, Aliyev said: “An increase in the minimum wage and average wage, the average pension is obvious… The work done in this area this year is a logical continuation of the work done last year.”
The president noted that the salaries of 900,000 people working in the public sector have been paid in full, and a significant part of the salaries of about 700,000 people in the private sector have been paid by the state.
He also reminded that 600,000 unemployed and low-income people have been allocated 190 manats each recently.
“If we add to this the targeted social assistance program, the number of people covered by this program is growing rapidly. Presently, 80,000 families are covered by this program, and on average, each family is paid more than 220 manats per month”, the president noted.
The president emphasized that 90,000 paid public jobs will be created and the self-employment program covers 12,000 people. Moreover, he noted that Azerbaijan is already implementing a part of this program together with the World Bank.
“That is, if we take into account the attention and resources allocated to this area as a whole, we will see that this is a priority for us today, and it should be so. Because the whole world is suffering from the pandemic, all countries are facing great difficulties.”.
The president stressed that all necessary measures have been taken to maintain financial stability in Azerbaijan, which enables to implement the social project.
Social protection of war veterans
Aliyev also spoke about the social protection of the families of Karabakh war veterans and martyrs.
“So far, 7,600 families of martyrs have been provided with houses and apartments by the state. This year, the number of apartments given to the families of martyrs has reached a record level - 1,500 families of martyrs will be provided with houses and apartments, and thus the number of families of martyrs waiting in line will be less than 2,000. I hope that within a maximum of two years, all the families of martyrs will be provided with housing by the state.”
Aliyev highlighted that the government also provides cars to the families of martyrs and veterans of Karabakh. To date, more than 6,000 cars have been given, and 400 cars are expected to be given to the people of this category, he said.
Aliyev said that houses have been provided to 7,600 families of martyrs to this date and this number will reach 9,000 in 2020.
Speaking about the third DOST center under the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of Population, the president reminded that such centers’ approval rate has reached 96 per cent.
“The services provided here are undoubtedly great innovation in the field of social security,” the president said, adding that a number of countries have already asked Azerbaijan to share its experience with them in this field.
President Aliyev noted that over 30 centres are expected to be launched in the coming years in Baku and throughout the country.
At the same time, the President also emphasized the job creation at the DOST Centers.
“According to the information provided to me, more than 130 jobs are being created at this DOST centre, including volunteers. In total, the provision of more than 130 services includes almost all services in the social sphere”.
“Thus, the activities of these centres will give people comfort, and at the same time, serve an important step towards transparency has already proved itself”, he said.
The president noted that the innovations applied at DOST centers are fully consistent with Azerbaijan’s vision for the future.
“DOST centres operate on the basis of these innovations, and in the future, it is planned to take additional steps in this direction”, he added.
The president also spoke about the importance of the youth in the country’s development, reminding that a large number of young people have been appointed to government positions recently and adding that almost all people working in the DOST centre are young.
Development of ICT
President Ilham Aliyev also touched upon the development of information and communication technologies and application of innovations in Azerbaijan. Recalling the establishment of the space industry in Azerbaijan, he said: “I remember when we started building the space industry, some people were surprised, some thought that Azerbaijan was not such a big country - the space club is a very limited club in the world - and it would be difficult for Azerbaijan to find a place there”.
“But life has shown us that we are on the right path. Because the creation of the space industry, the launch of three satellites into orbit not only meets our economic and other interests but also was very important in terms of training, young people to acquire new technologies”, the president noted.
President Ilham Aliyev underlined the fact that Azerbaijan, like most countries, imports technology, however, the use of these technologies, their mastery, the creation of new intellectual products on the basis of these technologies already depends on the professionalism and training of personnel.
Azerbaijan’s partnership with CISCO
In his speech about the innovations and technological development, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev emphasized the cooperation with US-based IT company CISCO, recalling his recent meeting with the company’s executives. The president noted that Azerbaijan not only cooperates with CISCO, but it also works closely with almost all leading companies in the world in the field of information and communication technologies.
“I can say that with CISCO, we are already approaching a strategic partnership. Of course, the intellectual product they offer is very important for our future development. For example, we are currently working on a smart city project - Smart City”.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev noted that the country has gone further and started working on the “Smart Nation” program. He added that digitalization of the country, application of information technologies in all areas is the state’s priority.
Emphasizing the importance of information technologies, President Aliyev said:
“During the pandemic, it is impossible to work in isolation without information technology. For example, my meetings, the summits I hold in the form of videoconferences, are not possible without modern technology. Therefore, the issue has been raised in the economic sphere, as well as in education, health, agriculture and other areas, including the control of our water resources, the formation of water balance and the reduction of losses. Therefore, this area, everyone should know, is a step into the future”.
“I am confident that in the coming years, Azerbaijan will further strengthen its leadership in the field of information and communication technologies”, he added.
Akbar Mammadov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @AkbarMammadov97
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