Mirza Khazar: Negative Assessment Of Azerbaijan's Economy (2001)
The United Nations Development Agency has released its annual report on economic development in Azerbaijan, which notes the nostalgia
of most of the population for Soviet-era economic "stability." It is a strange assessment for a country with huge oil reserves and huge foreign investment in its oil industry. Despite years of heavy foreign investment in Azerbaijan's oil sector, according to the report, most people in Azerbaijan say they were better off when their country was part of the Soviet Union.
Foreign investment now accounts for about 70 percent of all foreign capital moving into Azerbaijan, up from less than 16 percent in 1994, the report said. Independent economists and opposition too have criticized the government policy of paying attention only to the oil industry, neglecting other sectors of country's economy, which in turn is the main reason for the closure of many enterprizes and the elimination of a huge number of jobs.
According to the UN report, aid from foreign governments is also a source of capital. But like many former Soviet republics, Azerbaijan is plagued by sluggish bureacracy and corruption that holds up investment, the UN report said. This assessment has been proven by cases of mismanagement of foreign humanitarian aid sent for Azerbaijani refugees. The UN assessment of the economic situation in Azerbaijan differs widely from Azerbaijani government statistics on economic development. For example, the annual UN study showed high unemployment of 69 percent among nearly a million refugees driven from the Armenian- occupied territories. The report does not mention overall unemployment among ordinary citizens of Azerbaijan, but according to an independent account, the percentage of people without jobs among non-refugees is also high. Furthermore due to the few jobs available in Azerbaijan, around 2 million Azerbaijanis were forced to leave their homeland to seek employment in Russia and other CIS states. Contrary to the Azerbaijani government's claims of economic "achievements" last year, the UN study ranked Azerbaijan 90th in standard of living among 173 countries from around the world.
(Mirza Khazar) 4 May 2001
RFE/RL Azerbaijan Report
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