Friday, December 23, 2011
DURE NAJAF ZAIDI
President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev is a young, dynamic, highly educated person with pragmatic approach to tackling issues and knowledgeable about the modern world, politics and economics, who has brought about a transformation in Azerbaijan over the last 9 years.
Aliyev is a graduate of Moscow State University (MSU) where he received a PhD degree in history. Prior to his presidency, Aliyev worked as a university professor, and had lectured at MSU international relations department. Aliyev’s linguistic abilities, fluency in Russian, Turkish, English and French apart from his native Azerbaijani language helped him a lot in communication with world leaders and in developing personal ties with them.
He started his political career in 1995, being elected a member of the National Assembly and was promoted later to the head of the Azerbaijani delegation to the Council of Europe.
On October 15, 2003, Ilham Aliyev won presidential elections with almost 77 percent majority and was reelected in 2008 with 87 percent of the polls.
Today, Azerbaijan is rising under the leadership of Aliyev. The nation is witnessing rapid and dynamic development that is comparable with developed countries. A country with nine and a half million population has become a leading power in Transcaucasia with the fastest growing economy in the world.
In 1994 Azerbaijan signed a “Contract of Century” for exploration of hydrocarbon offshore reserves in the Caspian Sea. Aliyev, as vice president of State Oil Company was a key figure during the negotiations between the Azerbaijani Government and Western oil companies. This contract has not only opened a door for the new investments into the economy of Azerbaijan and paved the way to the renaissance of the nation, but also cemented sovereignty of the country. There were many other oil and gas deals afterwards, but that very contract instilled confidence to the foreign investors who had hesitated to have a business deal with the newly independent state.
The natural resources are being transported through diversified network. In mid of 2006, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan main export pipeline was inaugurated. Construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline was completed soon afterwards. These pipelines deliver Azerbaijan’s own oil and gas to the world markets as well as allow carrying hydrocarbon resources of the neighbouring countries through Azerbaijan, bringing the country transit revenues. Implementation of these energy projects emphasises the role of Azerbaijan as a reliable energy source and transportation route.
The Baku-Tbilisi-Gars railway corridor, which intends to link Azerbaijan and Turkey via Georgia, is under construction and will facilitate transportation of goods and passengers from Central Asia and Azerbaijan onwards to Europe. This project will ultimately make country a transport hub of the region. All these projects are not only giving substantial economic dividends to Azerbaijan but also increasing political weight of the country.
Over the last decade, Azerbaijan, from the country seeking for international loans has transformed into a leading regional investor, financing multi-billion projects in different countries of the world. As per plan, the total investment of Azerbaijan into petrochemical industry of Turkey is estimated to exceed $20 billion in 7 years to come. The network of filling stations in Georgia, Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Switzerland, oil terminals in Georgia, Moldova and at the Gulf port of Fujaira in the UAE is a vivid demonstration of the scale of overseas state investment projects. The private sector of Azerbaijan is not less active than the state sector, investing billions to infrastructural, industrial and service projects of the CIS, Europe and Middle East states. It is worth mentioning that today the foreign exchange reserves of Azerbaijan are estimated by $40 billion.
A transparent Oil Fund has been established to collect and manage revenues from energy-related activities and to control a pragmatic use of these revenues for economic diversification. For instance, only IT sector is soon expected to become more profitable than the oil one. The economic growth of Azerbaijan goes accompanied by enormous construction boom, development of the infrastructure, establishment of new factories and production units. The entire country has become one construction area with new airports, highways, bridges, thousands of new houses, hundreds of schools, hospitals, theatres and hotels.
As a part of strategy for development of non-oil sector President I. Aliyev pays significant attention to the development of agriculture and tourism taking advantage of the country’s fertile land, mild climate and marvellous landscape. Azerbaijan is self- sufficient in almost all foodstuff products and even exporting some seasonal fruits and vegetables to the neighbouring countries. The newly constructed and well maintained resorts along the coastal line of Caspian Sea and on the foothill of Caucasian mountains attract tourists from all over the world boosting development of the districts where these rest zones are located.
Multidimensional development of the country did not leave the culture and the sport aside. The cultural heritage of Azerbaijan is carefully preserved and looked after. Mugham-a national folk music of Azerbaijan regained a new breath. The funds allocated by government for development of this music have been directed to the construction of Mugham centre where the concert programs and contests are held as well as to the financial support of the talented performers. The Azerbaijani singers Nigar and Eldar amazed Europe with victory in the Eurovision song contest, thus making Baku the host of the very event in May 2012 and a lure for thousands of guests from entire Europe.
As president of the National Olympic Committee, Ilham Aliyev, pays great attention to the development of sports in the country. Azerbaijani wrestlers, boxers, shooters, fencers, heavy weight lifters volleyball, handball and chess players, make wonders in World and Europe cups. Azerbaijan team returned from Beijing 2008 Olympic Games with seven and Paralympics with ten medals accordingly. This year Baku will be hosting women World Cup U-17 and indeed that is another indication of the growing prestige of the country.
The revenues of the country are diverted to the welfare of the nation and as it was mentioned by President Ilham Aliyev at Baku International Humanitarian Forum 2011, “our aim is to convert a black gold to human gold”. The social security model is conformed to international standards with insurance-pension system in place for every citizen. Thus, the basis for a Social Welfare State status is firmly established. It is pertinent to mention that 900 thousands new jobs were created during the presidential tenure of Aliyev.
President introduced new vision that gives overemphasis on education as a solid tool to lift the nation. The government spends a lot for development of national universities and scientific research institutes, pays handsome scholarships to the students and fully finances hundreds of youngster’s education in prestigious universities of the world.
A charismatic personality, Aliyev is making persistent efforts to acquire international backing on the core issue of his country-Armenian-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Despite four resolutions of the Security Council of UN and decision of reputed international organizations such as European Parliament (EP), Council of Europe (CE), Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Armenia is still not willing to liberate the occupied lands. Azerbaijan armed forces are best equipped and largest in Transcaucasia with its military budget, which is exceeding now the entire budget of the country-aggressor. However, Aliyev takes a humanistic stand and is determined to resolve this problem by peaceful means. Armenia, being isolated from the main regional projects is facing tremendous economic recession. Hundreds of thousands Armenians are leaving their homeland for better life and putting the country on the verge of demographic collapse.
A leader with broad vision, Ilham Aliyev, carries on a balanced foreign policy, based on the interests of his country. Perhaps, uniqueness of Azerbaijan is, that being situated on the geographical border of Europe and Asia, it is integrated in the political structures of both continents. Being a member of the CE and the OSCE, Azerbaijan plays an active role in the OIC and the Economic Cooperation Organization and this year has become a member of Non-Aligned Movement. In October, Azerbaijan got a seat of a non-permanent member of Security Council of UN allocated for Eastern Europe after two days long dramatic voting process. This is doubtless a great success of the country and culmination of President Ilham Aliyev’s foreign policy, demonstration of the political calibre and image of the state as well.
Mr.Aliyev has done a lot for further promotion of Islamic values which were not much welcomed during the Soviet era and made Azerbaijanis an integral part of Muslim Ummah. Construction of hundreds of new mosques, reconstruction of shrines, opening of Islamic University and other institutions, celebration of Eidul Adha and Eidul Fitr at a national level are just some evidences of it.
According to the results of a survey ordered by the Caspian Information Company (CIC) and conducted by the British Populis Limited, 95 percent of the Azerbaijan population trusts the President Ilham Aliyev. Moreover, 96 percent of the respondents expressed their satisfaction with the President’s activities. The head of CIC, Gerald Frost, noted that similar surveys conducted in Western countries have never revealed such level of trust.
Aliyev takes keen interest in promoting the bilateral relations between Pakistan and Azerbaijan. Today the two nations enjoy close and cordial relations characterized by shared perception on major global and regional issues. A unique feature of these relations is the strong support extended to each other on the key issues of Nagorno-Karabakh and the Jammu and Kashmir. Both countries closely cooperate in international fora including UN, OIC, ECO. The two countries signed a number of agreements to provide a framework for bilateral cooperation in all spheres including economy, trade, finance, information, culture and military fields.
First Lady of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyeva is very helpful to the president in his mission. Highly educated and cultured woman, she is a member of Parliament, Goodwill Ambassador of UNESCO and ISESCO. M. Aliyeva is the head of charitable “Heydar Aliyev” foundation with a mission to enhance the social, economic and cultural development in Azerbaijan and to ensure the implementation of the large-scale projects and programs in line with National Leader Heydar Aliyev’s ideas for progress in the country. The Foundation addresses the problems of children, supports comprehensive upbringing and education of younger generation as well as provides moral and financial support to elderly. The Foundation has constructed the Thalassemia centre, which provides patients with free treatment facilities as well as distributes free insulin pens to the children suffering of diabetes. M. Aliyeva gained popularity in Pakistan soon after the construction of a modern girls school in Muzaffarabad in place of the old one, destroyed by devastating earthquake. Azerbaijan has always been amongst the firsts to help Pakistan in the days of need. The Azerbaijani rescue and medical teams were in Balakot after the natural calamity in 2005, and, again, this country was in the first line to render its humanitarian and financial aid during the floods of 2010 and 2011.
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