By Vafa Ismayilova
President Ilham Aliyev has said that the newly-launched Alat Free Economic Zone will serve the non-oil sector’s development in Azerbaijan, Azertag reported on July 1.
He made the remarks at a groundbreaking ceremony of the Alat Free Economic Zone on July 1.
“I am confident that the creation of this zone will serve the development of the non-oil sector of Azerbaijan, the non-oil sector of our economy. At the same time, the infrastructure to be created here will be attractive to investors, new technologies will come to our country, new jobs will be created, the salaries of Azerbaijani citizens will be high, competitive products will be manufactured here and our non-oil sector's export opportunities will expand,” he said.
Aliyev said that the work done to develop the non-oil sector in recent years has given an impetus to the establishment of this zone. He added that one of the key factors was the implementation of reforms and the attraction of foreign investors, especially to the industrial sector.
“Of course, this idea has been discussed for a long time. But we had to choose the right time to implement this project. We had to be ready for it, and I think we are ready for it today,” the head of state said.
Suitable conditions for investors
Speaking about the work to create suitable conditions to attract investors, Aliyev said that in 2017, he signed a decree on accelerating the establishment of the Alat Free Economic Zone. To provide more attractive conditions for investors, the relevant law was adopted in 2018.
“This is a very progressive law that fully meets the interests of both our state and investors. This is very important. Because if there were any uncertainties for investors in the legislation, of course, it would not be possible to attract them here. In particular, the global economic and financial recession of recent years has reduced the volume of investment. Of course, the pandemic has also had a negative impact on the global economy,” Aliyev said.
He noted that later specific work began already in 2018. The 850-hectare area was allocated and the development of the Alat Free Economic Zone concept started, a working group was established and the relevant work already reached a practical level.
“I think that this groundbreaking ceremony being held today shows that we are fully ready for it. After that, practical work will begin, and I am confident that this work will be completed on time," the head of state said.
Free economic zone's location
Aliyev also focused on reasons for allocating the territory in Alat for the free economic zone. He said that the vast majority of unsuitable lands for agriculture in the area, Alat settlement's closeness to Baku, the presence of a 300-megawatt power plant in Sangachal, the location of the International Trade Seaport in the aforesaid area played the role of important factors for the operation of the economic zone.
“I think that the development prospects of Alat can be very successful. If this zone evolves the way we want, and I am sure that it will, the development of this region will have a great positive impact on our overall development. These factors have played a key role in selecting this location. At the same time, our international corridors pass through here. The East-West and the North-South corridors pass through Alat. Therefore, this place is very convenient in terms of logistics and transport,” the president said.
Prerequisites for the attraction of investors
Aliyev said that there are all the prerequisites for the attraction of investors to this zone in Azerbaijan.
“I think that, first of all, the geographical location of this place is favorable – it is located by the sea, next to the seaport, and it is a fairly large area. At the initial stage, 60 hectares of land are ready for development. However, a total of 850 hectares of land has been allocated,” he said.
The president underscored that Azerbaijan has a very good investment environment as the country demonstrated this both during the implementation of oil and gas projects and as a result of reforms carried out in other areas.
He stressed that Azerbaijan is ranked 28th out of 190 countries in the World Bank's Doing Business report.
“This is a great achievement on a global scale. We are ahead of many developed countries in terms of these parameters. In other words, a good investment climate is certainly one of the main conditions for attracting investors,” Aliyev said.
He described among important reasons the availability of important modern infrastructure. Aliyev said that in the field of electricity supply, Azerbaijan ranks second in the world in the Davos Forum’s report, it is in the eleventh for the efficiency of railway services and in twelfth for air transport efficiency. The country shares 24th and 27th places for the quality of roads. The Caspian Shipping Company is ranked 25th for the quality of shipping services.
“All these are great successes we have achieved. These successes ensure the dynamic development of our country today. Because major infrastructure projects have already been completed or are nearing completion. These are very important conditions for investors – investment environment and infrastructure projects,” Aliyev added.
He said that a very strong human resource potential has emerged in Azerbaijan in recent years and that security is guaranteed in Azerbaijan.
“Azerbaijan is perhaps one of the safest countries in the world. This factor is also very important for investors... The existing stability in our country is one of the main conditions for every investor. No one would invest in countries without stability... One of the primary conditions, if not the most important one, for investment in Azerbaijan today is the public and political stability and the unity between the people and the government,” Aliyev said.
He described among the main conditions the intercultural dialogue and religious tolerance, which already exist in Azerbaijan. He added that another important factor is that Azerbaijan's words and deeds never diverge.
“In other words, we do what we say. We keep our word, and life has shown this many times... In other words, all these factors and, of course, the victory we won in the second Karabakh war and the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict have already created a new situation. I think that long-term stability and peace are as clear as day for investors. I am sure that the presence of all these factors and our confidence will attract foreign investors to this zone,” the president said.
Aliyev said that in about a year, starting from July next year, Azerbaijan will be ready to receive investors.
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