The head of state made an opening speech at the meeting.
The opening speech by President Ilham Aliyev:
Today we will talk about the results of last year and exchange views on the work to be done.
I can say that in general, 2019 was a successful year for our country. All the tasks assigned in early 2019 have been successfully fulfilled, and the country’s sustainable development has been ensured. Thus, we have achieved great successes in the political, economic and social spheres. Stability prevailed in Azerbaijan last year, and it is the main condition for the development of any country.
During the year, we witnessed an increase in tensions in various parts of the world. Bloody clashes, wars, mass protests, police violence, gross violation of human rights, violation of democratic values was observed, it can be said, everywhere in the world. Tensions are growing in Europe, Asia, Latin America, in the post-Soviet space, in our region, in the Middle East, and in the world. Azerbaijan is developing as an island of stability. The guarantee of stability in Azerbaijan is the people of Azerbaijan.
The support that the people provide to us and the high appreciation of our policy inspire us even more and at the same time, ensures stability in the political and economic spheres in our country. Disability leads to crises, chaotic processes in countries and blows great harm to them. We encountered this in our history in the early 1990s. At that time, disability prevailed in Azerbaijan, the country was gripped by the crisis, and we suffered heavy losses. For 26 years, Azerbaijan has been living in conditions of stability, and over the years, our country has passed a very long path of development. Today, Azerbaijan is among the strong countries on a global scale.
Last year, we further strengthened our international positions. Azerbaijan hosted several prestigious international events, which reflect and strengthen our country’s positions on a global scale. Azerbaijan is known as a reliable partner worldwide, and our international power is growing year by year. Last year, over 40 heads of state and government visited our country, both in a bilateral format and for participation in international events. At the same time, I had numerous meeting with heads of state and government from neighboring countries, and these meetings are very important, because I think that establishing relations with neighbors should be a priority for any country. Azerbaijan enjoys very strong ties with its neighbors, based on mutual interests. These ties were further strengthened last year. At the same time, last year’s visit of the European Council President to Azerbaijan reflects EU-Azerbaijan ties. This visit has made a great contribution to these ties. As you know, we are currently working with the EU on a new agreement, and I hope that this work will produce results.
Last year, Azerbaijan hosted the Summit of the Cooperation council of Turkic Speaking States (Turkic Council), and assumed the chairmanship of the organization. Our country also hosted the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit. During the summit, Azerbaijan, by a unanimous decision of the 120 member states, took over the chairmanship of NAM, the second largest international institution after the UN. I want to point out this fact, since some NAM member countries, if I may say so, do not get along with each other; there are conflicts and disagreements between them. Despite this, all countries supported the candidacy of Azerbaijan. This once again shows a high level of respect and trust in us in the international arena.
Moreover, the Second Summit of World Religious took place in Azerbaijan last year. Religious leaders from 70 countries arrived in Azerbaijan, they got acquainted with our realities and praised the work done in our country in the interreligious and intercultural spheres.
Last year, Azerbaijan also hosted a session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. This is also a very reputable event on a global scale. As part of the session, the Sheki Khans’ Palace, the central part of Sheki were included in the UNESCO World Heritage List. I think that this is a very important event, since until today Gobustan and Icherisheher, the Shirvanshahs’ Palace were included in this list. I think that the inclusion of the Sheki Khans’ Palace on this list is a fair decision and our next great success.
I would like to mention another international event - the International Congress of Astronautics held last year in Washington. This is the most prestigious event in the field of astronautics. During the event, it was decided to hold the International Congress of Astronautics in Azerbaijan in 2022.
This is also a very important event - both the congress and the fact that along with Baku, three more big cities like Rio de Janeiro, Singapore and Delhi participated in the nomination for hosting the congress. Azerbaijan won this difficult nomination. That is, this is a great attention to our work, and the next trust in Azerbaijan as a whole. I should also note that almost 50 years ago – 1973, the International Union of Astronautics was held only once in the Soviet Union, and in namely Baku. At that time, thanks to the efforts of Heydar Aliyev, Baku was elected in the Soviet Union to host this congress. After almost 50 years, this congress will once again be held in Baku, in the capital of already independent Azerbaijan.
Many important events have occurred in the international arena throughout the year. I’m just telling about the main issues. The facts already noted clearly confirm that our international positions are strong enough, and last year they were further strengthened.
Our military potential has also strengthened. Last year, a large number of weapons, ammunition, and military equipment were acquired and produced in Azerbaijan. It is no coincidence that the Azerbaijani army ranks 52nd worldwide for its military potential, material and technical equipment and combat readiness. The results achieved last year, including the construction, repair of military towns, and the solution of issues of equipping with new modern equipment, further increased our military power.
Last year, we also achieved very positive results in the economic sphere. These results prove that we pursue a sound policy. I think that in 2019 Azerbaijan successfully completed all the tasks in the economic sphere. Suffice it look at the numbers to make sure that the year 2019 was very successful for our country in terms of economic development. The World Bank named Azerbaijan among the top 20 most reformist countries. This is a great achievement, which indicates that the fundamental reforms carried out in our country are welcomed by leading international organizations. I can say that in general, 2019 was a year of profound reforms - both in the state, economic, social fields, and in the fields of structural reforms. These reforms will further allow that our economy will be even more successful.
I think that the results achieved last year in the economic sphere are satisfactory. Thus, gross domestic product grew by 2.2 percent, which is a good result, especially considering that this growth in the non-oil sector is 3.5 percent. Industrial production increased by 1.5 percent, while in the non-oil sector, industrial production increased by 14 percent. This is a manifestation of the work done in recent years in the field of industry. Industrial production in Azerbaijan has grown both at the expense of state funds and as a result of private sector activity. I am sure that this growth will continue to be sustainable.
A 7-percent growth was recorded in the agricultural sector last year. This growth was especially high in crop production - by more than 10 percent. This is also the result of the work done. Inflation amounted to only 2.6 percent, and cash incomes of the population grew by 7.4 percent. That is, this indicates that the cash income of the population exceeded inflation. Thus, real incomes of the population increased. I think that this is one of the main issues for any country. Exports in the non-oil sector increased by 14 percent, which is also a very good result.
Our foreign exchange reserves increased by $6.4 billion and reached a record high of $51 billion. I should note that Azerbaijan ranks first in the CIS space in terms of foreign exchange reserves per capita.The foreign trade surplus is $6 billion, which is an excellent result. I can say that in the foreign trade turnover of many countries there is a negative balance, but in our country it is positive. This, of course, will serve to maintain both the manat rate at a stable level and the stability of the macroeconomic situation as a whole. Thus, the results and figures achieved in the economic sphere once again confirm that our policy is well thought out and result-oriented.
The closing speech by President Ilham Aliyev:
Today’s discussions not only sum up what was done last year, but also give a clear picture of what will be done next year. I am confident that this year will also be successful.
I would like to express my view on one issue. Recently you can see that Armenian PM compares Azerbaijan to Armenia when he speaks of Armenia’s ‘successes’. In Pashinyan’s view, Armenia overtakes Azerbaijan in most indicators.There is no need to prove that this presumption is baseless. Azerbaijan gets ahead of Armenia with big difference in all major parameters. In order to verify it, I would like to state several events and figures.
As you know, Azerbaijan was elected non-permanent member of UN Security Council with support of 155 countries. It is a high indicator itself. Firstly, we accomplished such honourable and big mission for the first time and Azerbaijan’s independence was 20 years old at that time. On the other side, this was one of the factors which directly affected Azerbaijan’s reputation in the international arena. Absolute majority of the world community believed in us and voted for us with confidence. I have already given enough information on this event in previous times. However, one issue has not been paid enough attention, and most people are not aware of it. The reality is that Armenia put forward its candidacy before Azerbaijan in 2011. After Azerbaijan’s candidacy, they contemplated and withdrew their candidacy cowardly knowing that they would lose competing with Azerbaijan. They knew that Azerbaijan would win with high results and they would be disgraced. This happened 9 years ago. It shows to what extent Azerbaijan’s and Armenia’s reputation differs internationally. Our election to UN Security Council is our big diplomatic and political victory. It was also a big victory over Armenia.
Armenia committed provocation against Azerbaijani civilians in 2016. Azerbaijani civilians lost their lives as a result of Armenian provocation. There were also children among victims. In response, Azerbaijan successfully carried out a counter-attack and liberated thousands of hectares of land in Agdere, Fuzuli and Jabrayil. Azerbaijani flag was erected there. It was our military victory. Our next military victory was in 2018. As a result of the successful operation in Nakhchivan, more than 10 thousand hectares of land has been liberated from occupants and several important strategic heights have been released. These strategic heights allow us to control Armenia’s strategic communications. It was our second military victory.
In accordance with Global Firepower Index, Azerbaijan ranked 52nd among most powerful armies, while Armenia ranked 96th. Moreover, Azerbaijan ranked 63rd in air force, while Armenia’s place was 86. Azerbaijan’s ranking was 67 for naval power, Armenia does not have a sea. In terms of combat tanks, Azerbaijan ranked 32 out of 137, while Armenia was at the 78th place. The source is ‘Global Firepower 2019’ report.
Now I would like to pay attention to main macroeconomic indicators. Thus, the gross domestic product of Azerbaijan in 2019 is $ 47.6 billion, and in Armenia - only $ 13 billion. In accordance with Azerbaijan’s purchasing power parity, Azerbaijan has $ 187 billion of GDP, Armenia has 33 billion and the difference is 5.6 times. GDP per capita is $ 4800 in Azerbaijan and $ 4,500 in Armenia. For purchasing power parity, GDP per capita is $ 18,600 in Azerbaijan and $ 11,000 in Armenia. Currency reserves are $ 51 billion in Azerbaijan, $ 2 billion in Armenia and the difference is 25 times. Foreign trade turnover in Azerbaijan is $ 33.6 billion, Armenia - $ 7.4 billion, the difference is 4.5 times. Exports - Azerbaijan is $ 19.6 billion, Armenia -$ 2.4 billion, the difference is 8.1 times. Positive balance is $ 6 billion in Azerbaijan and $ 2.6 billion in Armenia. Investment - $ 13.5 billion was invested in Azerbaijan, $ 900 million in Armenia last year and the difference was 15 times. Foreign debt - Azerbaijan's foreign debt is $ 7.9 billion and Armenia's $ 6 billion. Foreign debt in Azerbaijan is 17% of GDP, more than 40% in Armenia. Currency reserves in Azerbaijan are 6.4 times more than foreign debt, and foreign debt in Armenia is 2.3 times more than currency reserves. The foreign debt per capita is $ 799 in Azerbaijan and $ 1,900 in Armenia.
Now I want to present information on salaries and pensions. Thus, for December 2019 the average salary in Azerbaijan is 723 manat - $ 425, and $ 369 in Armenia. Azerbaijan is the second and Armenia is the ninth on average salary among CIS countries .The minimum pension in Azerbaijan is 200 manat ($ 118) and $ 55 in Armenia. In terms of the minimum pension, Azerbaijan is the second and the ninth in Armenia in the CIS. Azerbaijan ranks first among the CIS countries for the purchasing power of the minimum pension, Armenia ranks 10th. The average pension in Azerbaijan is 262 manat ($ 154) and $ 84 in Armenia. Among the CIS countries, Azerbaijan ranks 4th in terms of average pension and Armenia is 8th. Azerbaijan is the 2nd in the CIS in terms of purchasing power of pension, and Armenia is the 10th. The poverty rate in Azerbaijan is 4.8 %, while this rate is 24 % in Armenia. In Azerbaijan, 934 apartments were given to families of martyrs and war veterans in 2019. No apartments were given to martyrs in Armenia. Totally, 6750 cars were given to people from this category.
Let’s have a look at the Global Competitiveness Report 2019 of World Economic Forum. In this regard, I would like to look at several numbers from 2019. Azerbaijan is in the 10th place on a global scale for the long-term strategy of the government, while Armenia is in the 59th place.
Ensuring political stability of the authorities - Azerbaijan is 11th and Armenia is 58th. Freedom of Court - Azerbaijan ranks 39th and Armenia 67th. Confidence in the police - Azerbaijan is ranked 30th and Armenia 44th. Road quality - Azerbaijan is 27th and Armenia is 91st. Efficiency of railway services - Azerbaijan ranks 11th on global scale and Armenia ranks 67th. In terms of the number of Internet users, Azerbaijan ranks 43rd and Armenia is in the 77th place. Azerbaijan is the 19th in terms of digital knowledge and Armenia is the 50th. Azerbaijan ranks 69th in gross domestic product and purchasing power parity, and Armenia is in the 120th place.
Let’s turn to field of sports. Azerbaijan won 775 medals at the World and European Championships in 2019, of which 271 were gold medals. Only 61 medals out of 222 won by Armenia are gold. Azerbaijan won 28 medals at the 2019 European Games, Armenia - 11 medals. Furthermore, Azerbaijan won 13 medals, including 4 gold, Armenia 3 medals and one gold at the European Wrestling Championship.
Now I want to look at results of Intellectual sport of chess. At European Youth Chess Championship, Dinara Huseynova became the European champion by winning gold medal, while Saadat Bashirli and Yusif Kerimli won a bronze medal. Ayan Allahverdiyeva was a European champion among fourteen-year-old chess players. Our women's national team won a bronze medal at the European Championship. At European Youth Chess Championship, Aydin Suleymanli became a world champion among 14-year-olds. Teymur Rajabov won FIDE World Cup. Azerbaijan won 18 medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics Games, Armenia won only 4 medals. Azerbaijan ranks 14th in terms of the number of medals.
Another important issue is that Azerbaijan consistently fights against the heroism of fascism, and Armenia heroizes fascist. Armenia erected a statue to the Nazi executioner Garegin Nzhdeh in Yerevan. Nzhdeh was arrested and died in Vladimir prison. A monument is erected in Yerevan in honor of such a man, and Armenian PM equates Garegin Nzhdeh with Solzhenitsyn and Molotov. Nzhdeh said this during the II World War: ‘He who dies for Germany dies for Armenia.’ This is an expression of his repulsive character. That is why Azerbaijan is on the side of truth in this area, and Armenia is on the side of evil forces.
Azerbaijan has ranked as the 45th most powerful country according to the US News & World Report company report for 2019. Although the report has the name of 80 countries, Armenia does not have its name in the list.
Azerbaijan implements major projects of global importance. They are the Baku-Novorossiysk, Baku-Supsa, Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipelines, Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum and TANAP gas pipelines. The Southern Gas Corridor will be put into operation this year. Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway has been put into operation, which is an integral part of the East-West transport corridor. We have successfully implemented this project with neighboring countries - Turkey and Georgia. Work on the North-South transport corridor with our other neighbors - Russia and Iran is successfully underway, and this corridor is practically functioning. We take steps to increase the reasonability of this corridor. These huge energy and transport projects have bypassed Armenia. These are not only our neighbors, but also Armenia's neighbors, except Russia. Thus, we have built relationships with our neighbors on the basis of friendship, cooperation and sincerity. Therefore we have implemented these projects. For centuries, Armenia has treated its neighbors with contempt, wanted to take things away from their neighbors, claim their land, falsify history, falsify historical monuments, and try to assimilate. That is the difference.
We have isolated Armenia from those energy and transport projects. We have never denied it. Several years ago I promised that we would isolate Armenia from all major projects in which Azerbaijan participated. Our actions followed our words, as we are always loyal to our promises. And we achieved it. Armenia is in a deadlock in terms of politics, economy, investment, energy and transport because of our efforts. The situation will not change until they withdraw the troops from occupied areas of Azerbaijan. So, if Armenian authority wants to compare Armenia with Azerbaijan on the basis of fake information, they need to rethink. Putting it into sport language, Azerbaijan is in highest league, Armenia is in the third league and the difference consistently grows.
Previously, I have never compared Azerbaijan to other countries. We do not work to get ahead of someone. We work for Azerbaijan and our nation. As I am obliged to reveal the lies of Armenia, I presented a comparative analysis to you and Azerbaijani people. The figures I talked about reflect the truth by contrast with the numbers given by the Armenian government.
2020 has already begun successfully. A few days ago two projects were signed with the two big investors in Baku. The agreement of execution was also signed. This is a very important step towards creation of renewable energy. Two large power plants will be built - one wind and one solar. The importance of this event is the investment from investors. This is the confidence in Azerbaijan and support to the long-term development of Azerbaijan. The two stations will have a capacity of 440 MW. These are very large stations - the largest solar and wind power plants in the region. We also create several kinds of renewable energy. The station with capacity of 50 MW has been built. The plan of the 84 MW station is now complete, and we will do it. The share of renewable energy in our energy balance is currently around 17-18%. According to our long-term strategy, we need to raise this share to 30%. It should be noted that 9 companies participated in the competition. In other words, 9 largest companies are ready to invest in Azerbaijan to produce renewable energy. Only two companies with best conditions were selected. However, this does not mean that the other companies are left out. We also invite them. Let them take a look at their suggestions, make the conditions more favorable for us and our country. There is enough place in Azerbaijan for them. Azerbaijan is a country, rich in sun and wind with a modern energy infrastructure. In the Davos report, Azerbaijan is the second for energy availability in the world. We also have exports, and we exported over $ 60 million last year. Therefore, I am confident that creation of various types of renewable energy will be our next priority area. I encharge the Cabinet of Ministers to consider the proposals of companies participating in the competition, invite them, negotiate with them individually, and carry out a similar project in Azerbaijan
To conclude, I am sure that Azerbaijan will successfully develop this year and will become a stronger country in 2020. Thank you.
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