“Some ministries are stronger than the Cabinet” – Azerbaijani government report in parliament

Azerbaijan’s parliament, the Milli Mejclis. Photo by European Parliament is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This article originally appeared on JAMNews on 17 March 2023.

On March 17 the government of Azerbaijan reported to the parliament. Last year, the average annual inflation in the neighboring countries of Azerbaijan was at the level of 20.4%, which was reflected in pricing within the country, Prime Minister Ali Asadov said.

The government has enough tools to bring down inflation, Natiq Jafarli, an economist and opposition politician, believes. “Our government itself does not know where its powers begin and end,” he said.

According to the head of government, inflation in Azerbaijan was 13.9% in 2022. “Especially food inflation was affected by the prices of imported goods. The annual price index of imported food products was above 22%,” Ali Asadov said. “Thus, inflation in Azerbaijan is mainly imported,” he concluded.

Asadov stressed that despite the global geopolitical tensions last year and changes in the world economy due to the Russian-Ukrainian war, economic growth in Azerbaijan continued: “In 2022 the country produced 4.6% more gross domestic product than in the previous year. Currently, the country’s gold and foreign exchange reserves amount to 62.5 billion dollars.

“The work of the government is satisfactory”

The Government reports to Parliament annually. The opposition considers this procedure a formality.

Allegations about the formal nature of the government’s report are “groundless,” Elshad Mirbashiroglu, a member of the Milli Majlis from the ruling New Azerbaijan Party, said in an interview with Turan news. According to him, it is necessary to speak from the results:

“The strategy for the socio-economic development of Azerbaijan for 2022-2026 has been approved. Within the framework of this strategy, along with many areas, work on the revival of territories liberated from occupation is seen as a priority.

To implement this strategy, more than three billion dollars have been allocated from the state budget, 60% of which will be directed to the liberated territories.”

Mirbashiroglu noted that, given all this, he considers the work of the government to be satisfactory:

“Of course, we constantly evaluate the work done, but there are areas where there are expectations of more acceptable results. Nothing without this. Where there is work, there are mistakes. But in general, the work of the government is satisfactory.”

“They ask about everything except the report”

In some countries, parliamentary hearings of the government’s report sometimes last for weeks or months, Natik Jafarli said in an interview with Radio Liberty:

“In Azerbaijan, the process ends with the fact that in just one day the government reports to the parliament, sometimes questions are asked. This process is formal. The government reports on its work, and the deputies ask questions about everything except the report: someone says that the partitions at the cemetery in the constituency where he was elected from were destroyed, someone says that it would be necessary to lay a water line in his district. These questions have nothing to do with the government’s report.”

According to Jafarli, in world practice, several indicators serve for assessing the work of the government:

“One of the most important is inflation. In Azerbaijan inflation and rising prices, even according to the government itself, are at a high level. The government’s work on this issue is unsatisfactory because we have not seen serious steps to combat inflation. The government has certain tools in its hands. For example, it was possible to reduce VAT on food, and medicines, and this would be reflected in lower prices.”

“Some ministries are stronger than the Cabinet”

According to Jafarli, an intricate system has formed in Azerbaijan, and the government itself does not know where its powers begin and end:

“Azerbaijan is a presidential republic, and therefore the Cabinet of Ministers is an atavism. Our president himself holds cabinet meetings every quarter and half a year. He sets tasks and listens to reports.

But the government report and its work are very formal, because. nothing depends on him. We have some ministries and ministers stronger and more empowered than the Cabinet of Ministers.”

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