The laser sharp focus on a negative narrative of human rights violations and criticism of Azerbaijan’s progressive and secular leader at the expense of telling the story of a successful, yet imperfect country, does not do justice to this proud nation.
I first visited Azerbaijan (as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University) in November 1990 when the world had focused its attention on Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait. Much has changed during these past 27 years and I have been fortunate to have witnessed first-hand the progress of this strategically important country with a rich culture located between a resurgent Russia and aggressive Iran.
The metrics for good governance in Azerbaijan since its hard fought independence in 1991 are there for some in the media to report on but for some reason are rarely mentioned. For example, since its independence from the Soviet Union (and the total collapse of the health care delivery system) life expectancy has gone from 64 to 71.
When I first visited Azerbaijan, its GDP stood at a mere $8.7 billion. It peaked to $75.2 billion in 2014 and now stands at $37.8 billion. The story of Azerbaijan’s stable economic growth is what accounts for the improvement in the lives of ordinary Azeris.
According to the World Bank, poverty rates have fallen from 49.6 percent to 6 percent today. And as poverty rates have dropped, more and more Azeris have seen their purchasing power increase, thus allowing them to transition to the middle class. President Aliyev has made it very clear that his goal is to expand his country’s middle class.
Read the original article on the Washington Post.
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