Azerbaijan: Focusing on economy

Sevinc Aliyeva, Center for Legal Initiatives (Baku, Azebaijan)

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In September, the domestic policy of Azerbaijan remained stable. Country’s economy was rated as Top-20 Improvers in Doing Business Ranking of the World Bank. The country is strengthening its economic ties with Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The foreign policy agenda was dominated by the visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs to the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York and his bilateral meetings.


Mandatory medical insurance

According to the remarks made by the chairman of the State Agency on Mandatory Health Insurance Zaur Aliyev at Medical Business Forum in Baku, the mandatory medical insurance system will be introduced in January 2020.“The system is already being adjusted and is being tested,” he added. In the forum, one of the issues on the table was offering benefits to private medical institutions. This support can be rendered both by tax cuts and subsidies,” said Musa Guliyev, deputy chairman of the committee on healthcare of the Azerbaijani parliament. Participants also discussed the state of medical tourism and foreign investment to the medical sector.

In recent years, Azerbaijan has implemented several projects in order to increase the efficiency and transparency of the health care system. One of these initiatives is mandatory health insurance which will cover expensive medical treatments. The pilot project kicked off in 2016 in the city of Mingachevir and Yevlakh and Aghdash regions. Starting from the beginning of the next year, the insurance system will be introduced in all Azerbaijan. 


Improved “Ease of Doing Business”

According to the statement released by The World Bank, Azerbaijan has entered Top-20 improvers in Doing Business 2020 list.

Doing Business ranking shows the level of difficulty a local entrepreneur faces when he wants to launch and run a small to medium-size enterprise while complying with relevant regulations. The list includes economies that have mostly improved their ease of doing business score. Countries are selected based on previous reforms, their impact, and regulatory changes. Doing Business rating chooses countries which have implemented reforms in at least three of 10 priority areas.

In the case of Azerbaijan, four areas that became easier to do business in are registering property, getting credit, protecting minority investors and enforcing contracts. The process of registering property has become faster because of the mapping and registration of individual land plots in Baku. “Minority investor protections were strengthened after liability was imposed on directors for unfair related-party transactions. When commercial disputes arise, parties can now file summons online and receive financial incentives for pursuing mediation,” the statement said.

The list of best-ranked economies will be disclosed in late October. Last year, among 190 countries Azerbaijan ranked 25th while it was 57th in Doing Business 2018.

Economic cooperation with Saudi Arabia 

Azerbaijan and Saudi Arabia are working on new agreements in the economy. “Currently, we have signed 20 agreements in various spheres of the economy. We are working on signing eight new agreements,” – said Azerbaijani Minister of Finance Samir Sharifov in an event to honor Saudi National Day. The Minister and The Saudi Ambassador talked about bilateral relations between two nations in international organizations. Furthermore, in order to expand ties in tourism sector Azerbaijan’s low-cost airline Buta Airways will start offering flights between Baku-Riyadh and Baku-Dammam. “These new destinations will contribute to both an additional flow of tourists from the Gulf countries to Azerbaijan, and the strengthening of business ties between the two countries,” – said the report by InterFax Information Agency.

“No other two countries are so close to each other”

On September 16, Prime Minister Novruz Mammadov and Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay signed a protocol of the 8th meeting of the Joint Intergovernmental Commission between Azerbaijan and Turkey. Members of the Commission talked about joint projects such as Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum oil and gas pipelines, TANAP, Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad etc. The parties also approved an Action Plan about economic and trade-related initiatives. “I think that no other two countries in the world are so close to each other and are so much reliable partners,” said Mammadov. 


Bilateral meetings

The Minister of Foreign Affairs Elmar Mammadyarov attended the 34th meeting of the GUAM foreign ministers held in New York as part of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly. Along with foreign ministers of four countries, the Secretary-General of the organization A. Afendiev participated in the meeting as well. Main topics of discussions included but not limited to complex issues related to interparliamentary cooperation, political and industry cooperation, and collaboration with other partner countries. 

In the same occasion, Mammadyarov also met with Robert Malley, the President of the International Crisis Group and talked about the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement process. He also briefed the current situation in the settlement process to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Furthermore, the minister held bilateral meetings with his Georgian, Romanian, Greek, Kuwaiti, Indian, and Dutch counterparts, exchanged the views on the existing relations and discussed prospects for future cooperation. 

One of the long-expected meetings was between Armenia’s Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Mammadyarov with participation of OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs. The parties discussed a wide range of issues related to peace process and ceasefire; however, like previous meetings, no concrete steps towards resolution were agreed on.  

In the General Debate of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Mammadyarov talked about economic development programs in the last 15 years and the recent reform package that covers 40% of population. According to his statements, the poverty rate has decreased to 5% in 2019 from 49% in 2004. When talking about Nagorno-Karabakh, “…the negotiations cannot last forever and imply continuation and sustenance of the situation created as a result of the unlawful use of force…,” he mentioned.