Aliyev at Davos: Declaration of Economic Success or of Total Control?

Amongst other members of the global political and business elite, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev also took part this January in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Amongst other members of the global political and business elite, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev also took part this January in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

This was a milestone for him — his tenth time at the forum. The only other leader of former Soviet republics present was his Ukrainian counterpart, Petr Poroshenko.

But while Poroshenko appeared at the forum as a petitioner, the Azerbaijani president clearly made it his business to invigorate partnerships with key world players.

The Azerbaijani president as the leader of a government that is an active participant in the Silk Road project – which Beijing considers a key integrational project in the Eurasian space – clearly demonstrated in his meetings and statements that the center of gravity in the world economy is truly shifting to the Asia-Pacific region.

“If reliable political relations will not be orchestrated in the region, we cannot achieve success by placing investment in the transport sector alone. If we are speaking of regional cooperation, this is a wide-ranging topic, since it encompasses political, economic and other sectors. . . we always strive to participate in projects that might. . .bring benefit to the countries and people in the region, and that enable heightened stability and create equal opportunity. . .Because of this, Azerbaijan has always played an active role in the reconstruction of our segment of the Silk Road”, declared Aliyev.

Considering that the main topic of the Davos forum this year was ‘Responsible Leadership’, in his public appearances Ilham Aliyev clearly tried to show that he personally understands this leadership as a readiness to share and strengthen the values of the free world in both politicsand and in the economy, and to not act in contradiction to other players.

In particular, one of the examples of such an approach might be the Azerbaijani president’s readiness to support the decision to make additional reductions to oil production, if such a decision will be adopted by OPEC and countries that are not a part of the organization.

“For the moment we have reduced production to 35,000 barrels, and we’ll see what happens further on. If the decision will be adopted to make additional reductions, then we, naturally, will support this, because we are sympathetic to the idea that all countries should earnestly participate in this process”, stated the head of the Azerbaijani government.

Against the backdrop of this display of oppenness, few paid attention to the very important meeting between Ilham Aliyev and Alex Karp, founder of Palantir Technologies.

Palantir Technologies is an American software company specializing in big data analysis, surveillance, anti-espionage and financing.

There is little information available on this meeting. However, knowing what Palantir Technologies does, we can make far-reaching conclusions. The company’s name became known to broader society in connection with the infamous American intelligence program PRISM. What’s officially known is that Palantir Technologies is in third place on the list of the world’s most valuable startups. But it nevertheless remains a dark horse, with a long history of collaborating with American intelligence services.

According to analysts, Palantir Technologies has several spheres of activity that are certainly likely to be of interest to Ilham Aliyev.

First of all there’s big data, the analysis of large masses of information. This could be very helpful in exercising control over a country with a population of around 10,000,000. In particular, a well-managed and ‘calculating’ country is very advantageous for banking business. Azerbaijan has already set off down the path of dismantling the old monetary and finance systems. So, according to experts, after personnel and structural changes, leaders in this field will likely add new technological solutions to their arsenal, which allow them to make up to 80% of all decisions in the financial and credit sector automatically, using artificial intelligence. And this is a direct path to the country’s effective transition to electronic payment. And in this situation, everyone will be under surveillance, from village backwaters to the capital. Second is surveillance of citizens, their accounts, unreliable elites, political opponents and so on. Third is internet surveillance.

Observers believe that these factors might slightly change the perspective of Ilham Aliyev’s ‘open leadership’. But, that being said, the majority of experts maintain that the president of Azerbaijan’s participation in the most recent Davos Forum was a weighty argument from Baku, proving the country’s growing role in world economics and politics. Relationships with key players have entered an equal playing field, no longer amounting to just another request for credit.

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