He made the remarks at a meeting with members of MEDEF (Movement of the Enterprises of France) International in Paris, Trend reports.
“Today I think we have a very high level of economic ties. Many projects have been implemented, many French companies successfully work in Azerbaijan. According to the information I received before my visit to France, more than 50 French companies successfully work in Azerbaijan,” said President Aliyev. “The total investments in our economy are more than two billion dollars, primarily in energy sector. But also there are some investments in non-oil sector, which for us, at this stage, is very important. And the volume of contracts signed by the government structures of Azerbaijan and French companies is close to two billion dollars.”
“So, this shows, first of all, the potential of our country. This shows the interest that the French business circles show in working in Azerbaijan, and also it shows that in Azerbaijan we have very good conditions for local and foreign business groups to work and to invest and to be good contractors. French companies working in Azerbaijan helped us to develop different sectors of our economy. We have very strong ties in oil and gas sector, which is a traditional sector for us. And the projects, which are being implemented, lead to mutual benefit,” noted the president.
“We have also developed strong cooperation in the areas of infrastructure, transportation, public transportation, metro and transportation related to the railroad infrastructure, water management, and investments in this area. Then I would name space industry, which is relatively new for our country. But several years ago Azerbaijan joined the international space club, with already two satellites in operation. And hopefully the third one will appear with active participation of French companies,” he said.
“We have good prospects in the area of agriculture. I am glad that during the last several years this sector of our economy also started to develop rapidly, and also with the participation of French companies, particularly in development of our vineyards, and using our climatic conditions to maximum degree in order to increase productivity of our agricultural products,” he said.
“In Azerbaijan, we have developed a very substantial reform package, primarily last year. Last year was a year of very deep economic reforms, which received very strong support from international financial institutions and which lead to diversification of our economy. In fact, we were working on that for many years in order to reduce dependence on oil and gas, and managed to do it. Today, oil and gas is something more than of thirty percent of our GDP. The rest is non-oil sector,” said President Aliyev.
“Now we actively work on diversifying our exports. That is needed especially now, when the oil prices collapsed three-four times. And we need to compensate the revenues, which we don’t get now as before, with a non-energy export potential. Therefore, we invested largely in industrial, in agricultural sector and we are also looking for the markets. We have traditional markets, which are in the neighborhood. But the European market is also very attractive for us.”
“Economic development in Azerbaijan is stable. We had in previous years a very high rate of GDP mainly driven by oil and gas sector, but not only that. Today, stable economic and political situation in Azerbaijan is one of the main prerequisites for attractiveness of our economy. We achieved those results despite the very heavy burden, which is a humanitarian catastrophe. As a result of the Armenian occupation we have to accommodate hundreds of thousands of refugees and IDPs who lost their homes, their property because of the Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan in violation of all the international law norms,” noted the president. “So, we have over a million IDPs and refugees as a result of this aggression. And taking care of them also requires a lot of money. We invest largely in social protection of these people. And 250,000 of them were provided with new apartments and houses during the last years. It is size of a big city with all modern infrastructure.”
“We are still in the process of implementation of reforms. But I’d like to bring just several figures to your attention to show that Azerbaijan demonstrates, I think, one of the best performances among the oil producing countries, especially taking into account that our revenues from oil dropped three-four times. Davos World Economic Forum ranks Azerbaijan’s economy 37th with respect to competitiveness. This is a very good rating. So, we are among the 40 most competitive economies in the world. And this is a recent rating. This rating was not given to us when the oil price was high. In another rating of Davos with respect to the level of development of the developing countries, Azerbaijan shares the first and second places,” said President Aliyev.
“We have a very low foreign debt, which is 20 percent of our GDP. And our hard currency reserves are more than five times bigger than our foreign debt. In other words, if we prefer, we can repay our foreign debt within a couple of months to have zero foreign debt. We managed to reduce unemployment, which is now at the level of five percent and poverty, which is below six percent. Employment in Azerbaijan was mainly inspired by the very favorable business climate and also investment climate. For the last 20 years more than two hundred billion dollars were invested in Azerbaijan’s economy. And this process continues,” noted the president.
“Hopefully this year also a large number of companies will invest. It is very good that they invest now not only in oil and gas, but also in the service sector, in tourism, in hotel business, in agriculture. So all the investments of foreign companies and local companies are duly protected. Therefore, it creates additional incentives and interest in investing in Azerbaijan. At the same time, having a strong economic position in the region with good connection to the neighborhood and with substantial financial reserves, we can afford to attract contractors to the sectors, which we consider of strategic importance.”
“For the coming years our main area of concentration will be the non-energy sector of our economy, mainly agriculture. And I invite prominent French companies to come to Azerbaijan and to work with our government to implement projects related to modernization and increase of productivity,” added President Aliyev.