President Ilham Aliyev’s recent statements at a conference dedicated to the third year of the “State Program on the Social-Economic Development of the Regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan, 2014-2018” are being widely-discussed on the web.
In particular, his assessment of the country’s use of oil wealth as ‘prudent and judicious’ drew special attention:
“Some analysts said that oil would bring misfortune to Azerbaijan and not happiness. However, we have built today a steady state and have been living independently for 25 years already. There will be even bigger things to come in the future”.
Meydan TV asked several prominent public figures their opinion Ilham Aliyev’s claims.
Chairman of both the Civic Solidarity Party and the World Congress of Azerbaijanis Sabir Rustamkhanli said that he is as of yet not ready to answer questions on whether oil has brought happiness or misfortune to Azerbaijan:
“This question should be analyzed and examined further. In any case, I don’t think oil itself has brought misfortune to Azerbaijan…”
Turan Information Agency analyst Toghrul Juvarli thinks that the correlation between oil and the felicity of the state is hard to gauge:
“The thing is that oil itself doesn’t bring happiness or bad luck. If we talk about the effective use of oil, we could talk, for example, about Norway – oil didn’t damage the country, did it? And that’s because the economic system used the opportunity effectively”.
However, Azerbaijan did not:
“Income revenue was wasted and few if any reforms were made. In some sense it was bad luck – but it was not damage caused by oil itself. Oil is wealth, and it depends how you use this wealth”.
Head of National Strategic Thinking Centre Isa Qambar, in turn, regrets that the majority of Azerbaijan’s independent period has been reigned over by the Aliyev regime:
“Azerbaijani oil was not used for the benefit of the nation during this period – it was used only for the interests of the ruling family. It is said that revenue from oil reached about 150 billion USD, but most of it was embezzled by rulers and spent on projects without any long-term perspective – glorious buildings, European Games that nobody really cares about in the West. And it was used neither for strengthening the welfare of the nation, nor for preparing savings for the future. Thus, the oil policy of the Azerbaijani government has served exclusively the interests of the regime “.
Isa Qambar shares Toghrul Juvarli’s opinion:
“Oil can not be blamed, it is pointless to think of oil as misfortune or otherwise. There is the example of Norway – there are states providing a guarantee for the economic development of the country, for the future of their nations by using the revenue from the oil sector. Thus it would not be right to evaluate oil as either a boon or a blessing.”
Oil sector expert Ilham Shaban says that the State Oil Fund earned more than 125 billion dollars from oil revenue, and approximately only 34 billion is left.
“90 billion dollars were quickly spent or disappeared in other ways… both deputies and government representatives believe that oil revenue was not effectively spent or managed. No one hides this. If oil income were to have been spent effectively, the manat would not be in this situation now, and authorities of the International Bank of Azerbaijan and high-ranking officers of the Ministry of National Security would not have been arrested for their crimes”.
According to the
, Azerbaijan’s economy contracted in 2016 for the first time since 1995 because of a fall in global oil prices.