The president delivered a speech at the meeting, 1news.az reports citing the official website of the President of Azerbaijan.
Opening speech of President Ilham Aliyev:
"At today's Cabinet meeting, we will discuss the socio-economic results of the first quarter of this year.
The last year has been very positive. Last year, Azerbaijan's economy developed successfully. All of the major challenges facing the country have been fulfilled. Work to diversify our economy was carried out successfully. That is, the results of last year created a solid foundation for the development of this year.
Azerbaijan has successfully carried out and is continuing the economic reforms. The reforms have led to excellent results, and in this respect 2013 is different from previous years. But I believe that in 2013 we will see even greater results in quality. I hope that 2013 will be a record especially in the development of non-oil sector of the economy.
As you know, the issue of diversification of the economy is our top priority in the economic sphere. Especially at a time when as a result of work done in the energy sector, almost all purposes were provided, the non-oil sector, of course, should be a priority. In the first quarter of 2013, the economic development once again revealed itself. I was particularly pleased with the development of the non-oil sector.
In the first quarter of this year, gross domestic product grew by 3.1 percent. I think this is a very good indicator. We have achieved this growth due to the non-oil sector. In the first quarter of this year, the non-oil sector development was 11.4 percent. This, I believe, should be a key indicator for the analysis of today's Azerbaijani economy. So as before, and today, those who analyze the economic development of Azerbaijan, at times align it with the oil and gas factor. Undoubtedly, our oil strategy, which began in the early years, in the most difficult period of our independence in the middle of the 1990s, gave a great impetus to the economy of the country, and today the oil and gas sector has an important place in country's economy.
But our main achievements have been secured thanks to the wise economic reforms, and 11.4 percent increase in non-oil sector this year is itself a measure. This shows that the country's economy and our country as a whole reduce their dependence on oil and gas sector and, thus, sustainable development is already a reality.
Macroeconomic indicators are also very positive. Inflation is only 1.2 percent. In the past year, inflation was 1.1 percent. In discussing the results of last year, I noted that this year's inflation is expected to be unambiguous. But we see that the result is even better - 1.2-percent inflation, of course, is very important for macroeconomic stability. At the same time, as I always say, in the heart of all of our goals is the human factor. Keeping inflation at a low level, of course, serves the well-being of people.
Income of the population has increased by almost 6 percent. We again see real growth. Agricultural growth exceeded 4 percent. This is also a very good indicator. Also, our foreign exchange reserves are growing, despite the fact that the implementation of major infrastructure projects in 2013 requires large financial resources. At the same time, there is a process of returning the deposits left over from Soviet times. The salary and pension increases and will constantly rise. Despite this, we are able to increase our foreign exchange reserves.
Expenses are also much enough. They, of course, serve to diversify the country's economy. But in previous years the goal was set: we need each year to increase our foreign exchange reserves. And we're doing it. According to this indicator, particularly in terms of foreign exchange reserves per capita, Azerbaijan has a leading place in the world.
The Second State Program of socio-economic development of the regions in the first quarter of this year is being implemented successfully. This year the program will be completed. I am confident that the program will be over-fulfilled, as in recent years, it was amended, and new programs were adopted. As a result of this program, our country created more than one million hundred thousand jobs, of which 30,000 were created in the first quarter of this year. Of course, this figure is also directly linked to the progress achieved in the non-oil sector, as jobs are created mainly in the non-oil industry and agriculture.
Constructive work is conducted in the regions and social infrastructure is being created. I believe that in 2013 the major issues in this area will be addressed. Instructions have been given to modernize and upgrade social infrastructure. The state budget for this purpose provided sufficiently large amount periodically, and the Reserve Fund of the President allocated additional funds to this end. I can say that the two regional development programs have made a great contribution to the economy of Azerbaijan. Had not the first program been adopted in 2004, now we could not talk about the current diversified economy.
Also I must say that the economic reforms at the same time are observed by influential international organizations. Azerbaijan is among the countries that rely on their internal capabilities, and pursue their economic and political development on their own. The chosen course in the economic sphere is estimated also by international structures. Therefore, despite the fact that today bitter consequences of crisis still appear in some countries, in Azerbaijan, there is no sign of the financial and economic crisis. The main key to this is the independent policy of Azerbaijan, an independent economic policy and our financial position. And life has shown that it is the only right path.
The continuation of reforms, of course, will further strengthen our development. But again I say, it is very significant that this is noted also by international structures. In particular, the major rating agencies - Standard & Poor's, Fitch and Moody's - have raised the credit rating of Azerbaijan. There are no rating agencies more authoritative than them. At a time when the credit ratings of some European countries are falling, Azerbaijan's rating is increasing. The Davos World Economic Forum for the fourth consecutive year assessed the Azerbaijani economy as the most competitive economy in the CIS. Today, on the competitiveness, the Azerbaijani economy is ranked 46th in the world.
I can say that the Davos Economic Forum is number 1 international forum in the world. Of course, this forum has both political and economic areas. Azerbaijan is an active member of the Forum. This year, Baku for the first time hosted the World Economic Forum, which was a great success. Opinions voiced at the forum, including about the Azerbaijani economy and the development of our country as a whole, were very positive. These views and this estimate can be the highest rating. This is because one thing is when some farfetched non-governmental organization makes a false rating and, in any case, identifies the position of countries on the basis of political orders. And another thing is when the influential international organizations - the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, the International Monetary Fund - and other influential international organizations approve and appreciate the processes taking place in Azerbaijan.
That is, economic reforms will continue. Azerbaijan's economy is entirely based on the principles of a market economy. Currently, 83 percent of the gross domestic product is generated in the market economy, in the private sector. Companies under state monopoly are also gradually moving towards the principles of international accounting and international management. This process is going, and should go even faster. State-owned companies, that is, state-owned companies operating in strategic, important areas, should be also managed by corporate methods, and again I say, in recent years, great achievements have been observed in this field.
As for the solution of social issues, as I said, these issues are also, as always, at our top priority. Otherwise, in the last ten years, poverty would not decline from 50 to 6 percent. I can say that it is also very significant indicator for countries rich in oil and gas. Since, in countries rich in oil and gas, in many cases, there is a process of separation - the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. I can say that the success of our social and economic policies has prevented also these effects.
As for social issues, I want to mention social infrastructure projects. Hospitals, schools, cultural institutions and sports facilities are being constructed. The process of creating and updating social infrastructure will continue in this and subsequent years. Citizens receiving social aid are also covered with state care. 123,000 families receive this assistance from the state, and each family receives from the state allowance of an average of 117 manats. Of course, I really would like to see that the number of families in need of social assistance drops dramatically. The successful development of our country, the creation of new jobs, social programs, I'm sure, in the near future will significantly improve the quality of life of people in this category. But still there are families in need of government support, and we are engaged in their concerns. We will try to continue to increase the financial assistance provided by the state.
This year salaries and pensions will be increased. I believe that the results of our socially-oriented policies will be very positive. When dealing with social issues, we first of all, of course, note the problem of internally displaced persons, and are constantly engaged in these issues. Over the past few months important measured were taken in this direction. At the end of last year, we celebrated the opening of a large town in the village of Mushfigabad. Recently we celebrated the opening of a large town in the village of Masazir. And after a few days we will celebrate the opening of a large town in Mingachevir. All the apartments are built with high quality, provided all the infrastructure - schools, kindergartens, health centres, water, gas, electricity and other infrastructure. This year, the State Oil Fund for construction work alone allocated 300 million manats. A certain amount has been already allocated from the Reserve Fund of the President, and it is possible that in the future, until the end of this year, money will be allocated again. We can say, every year a new city is built for the settlers. This year, 20,000 new settlers will dwell in houses and apartments. The process of resettlement from dormitories has already begun. Displaced persons once settled in the "Finnish towns" this year will be fully relocated from there and the concept of "Finnish town" will disappear once and for all, as well as the concept of "tent city".
But we know that there are still displaced, living in a difficult, hard situation - in schools, kindergartens, hostels, on the territory of military units. Their relocation will also be provided. In this and next year, in subsequent years, this issue will be in the centre of attention, in the focus of our budget, and the budget of the State Oil Fund, and Azerbaijan as a whole.
As for the analysis of international issues, I can say that Azerbaijan has managed to strengthen its international position also at the beginning of this year. Our bilateral ties are expanding and strengthening, and the number of partner countries is increasing. Azerbaijan is able to defend its position in the international arena. Azerbaijan is a country very worthy of great respect in the world. Since, our words and deeds are one. Azerbaijan is a reliable partner. Our foreign policy is a logical continuation of domestic policy. Our foreign policy is aimed at further strengthening the country. We ensure our national interests with flexible and focused foreign policy. Our activities in international organizations are very effective. Azerbaijan for the second year is a member of the UN Security Council. Azerbaijan says and will say its principal word on all matters at this most influential structure.
A few days ago at the forum of MGIMO, I reiterated the official position of Azerbaijan on the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. I want to say once again that the internationally recognized territorial integrity of Azerbaijan is not, never was and never will be the subject of negotiations. We will never allow creating in the Azerbaijani lands the second far-fetched Armenian state and will endeavour, by all possible means, to resolve this conflict in the near future. This conflict should be resolved on the basis of international law, the four UN Security Council resolutions should be implemented unconditionally, and the occupying forces must withdraw from our land.
Along with this, we must continue to build up our strength - political, economic and military. This is our sovereign right. Once again I want to say have no doubt that Azerbaijan will restore its territorial integrity. Every day, every month brings our victory closer. Every month, every year Azerbaijan is becoming stronger, and Armenia - even weaker. This is already seen and known by all the structures and countries involved. The course, the development of the story is that Armenia will not be able to compete with Azerbaijan. Its main hope is the external force, the Armenian lobby and its supporters, the political circles of some other countries. Our hope is our strength, the Azerbaijani people, the truth and justice, international law and our growing strength. I am sure that Azerbaijan will restore fairness and ensure its territorial integrity.
Along with this, I want to say, we were very active during the conflict. During the period of conflict, we turned from a backward into a developing country. During this period, we conducted a revolutionary reform in the economic sphere. We managed to make our country stronger. Today, Azerbaijan and Baku are one of the world centres.
Look at how many international events are held in our country, in our city. We can say, every month, and sometimes several times a month are held international forums - economic forums, forums on culture, on dialogue among civilizations. That is, Baku, Azerbaijan, once again I want to say, have become one of the world centres. Political issues, issues of regional importance are discussed in Baku.
The main topic of the Davos Forum held in Baku was ties between the countries of the South Caucasus and Central Asia, and the future of this cooperation. This forum was held in Baku. That is, the international community recognizes Baku as a regional hub. This is the reality. But, at the same time, I want to say again that our desires and our intentions, also the work carried out has long gone beyond the regional framework. Issues solved and decisions made in Azerbaijan have an impact not only on the development of the region, but also on some of the processes taking place on the continent. We have become a major international factor. Without our consent, without ensuring our national interests, policy initiatives cannot find their solutions.
In many cases, we are the initiator of important decisions related to energy diplomacy. Processes going on this field depend on our decisions. It is also a reality. Our say concerning economic cooperation, addressing transport issues and the functioning of corridors connecting Asia with Europe is crucial. This say is taking initiatives and their materialization. Such is the present-day Azerbaijan.
But our policy, I want to say, is the policy of good will. We build our relations with all countries on the basis of mutual respect and non-interference in each other's affairs. These are the principles adopted on a global scale in the international arena. We ourselves know how to run our country. We do not need advice from the sidelines. We are a strong country. There is unity between the people and the power.
Our economic indicators are the best in the world. Our economic development is most rapid in the world. One need only look at the results of the last ten years. Such development as in Azerbaijan is very rare in the world - both in the political, economic as well as in the energy and cultural spheres. Indicators of this development are the transformation of our country into one of the world's centres, assessments of international rating agencies and our election to the UN Security Council. Therefore, I want to say in the area of foreign policy, we are interested in the development of equal relations with all countries in the future.
Our principled position on foreign policy is yielding positive results in all areas. We protect and defend our independence. Azerbaijan for centuries was part of other countries and empires. For centuries we were deprived of independence. Processes in Azerbaijan were managed from other centres. But for 21 years we live as an independent state. Greater happiness cannot be. There can be no greater value than this. We are an independent state in the true sense of the word. We will protect and strengthen the independence. And for this we must have a strong economy.
Reforms in the economic sphere, as well as solution of social issues reinforce us. They allow us to have our say in the world. Therefore, we have programs related to economic issues, and we regularly evaluate the creative work going on in the country. "
After the welcoming speech of the president, the reports were made by Minister of Defence Industrfy Yaver Jamalov, Minister of Taxes Fazil Mammadov, Minister of Health Oqtay Shiraliyev.
President Ilham Aliyev made a concluding speech after the ministers’ reports.
“The figures and data voiced in the speeches today show the dynamic development in all spheres. I am confident about good results in both social and economic spheres in 2013. Enough was said today about the work carried out in the previous periods and in the first quarter. I would like to express some of my thoughts about the upcoming tasks. In fact all the tasks related to the upcoming work in 2013 have already been defined. We are implementing the State Investment program. All the same, we are also implementing the programs adopted in the previous periods, some of them have to be finalized this year. As for the main issues that require attention, economic diversification remains the main task among them. Certainly, the figures that I listed during my welcoming speech give the ground to say that very important results have been achieved in this direction. I believe that our nonoil economy which has grown by 11.4% is probably the fastest growing economy on the world arena.
As is known, the processes in both the region and the continent in the economic sphere are not so successful. Some countries are experiencing crisis. Meanwhile, thanks to the thorough economic policy in Azerbaijan, its nonoil sector has grown by 11.4%. This is a really good indicator. Meanwhile, we have to take into account the fact that this growth follows the dynamic growth of the previous years. It is a good result to succeed from zero or a negative indicator.
Our nonoil sector is growing every year. This is proven by the results of the last year. In general, our nonoil sector grew by 9.7% last year. Meanwhile, the growth made 11.4% in the first quarter. That is I want to say once again and I believe that this indicator is the most important among all other statistical data because it evidences the dynamic development of our country. It evidences that the further successful development of our country will be ensured all the time.
Nonetheless, there are issues awaiting their settlement. In some areas the work should be improved. I think that fundamental reforms are needed in some directions. We have to ensure complete formation of a healthy competitive environment. We have done a great job. But I cannot say that healthy competition in Azerbaijan is fully ensured. 11.4 percent growth in our non-oil sector in fact shows that the business environment is good. But at the same time, if we are able to provide a completely healthy competition, to take more serious steps against monopolies, I am sure our performance will be even higher. We need to increase the production of competitive products both to increase the export and to ensure the domestic market for competitive products.
Our main goal over the past years was reducing imports, increasing domestic production, creation of jobs. To achieve these goals, we have implemented a comprehensive action plan on a state level. Of course, the infrastructure projects envisaged in the State Investment Program have contributed to the development of the private sector and the production of competitive products. Because had it not been for government spending and the modern infrastructure projects implemented in the regions, business environment would have been out of the question.
In addition, every year the entrepreneurs get concessional loans of great amounts from the National Fund of Assistance to Entrepreneurship. This year, this amount makes AZN 250 million. Of course, it also stimulates domestic production. That is maximum self-reliance and minimization of dependence on imports have been and remain our main goal. And at this stage, I think the production of competitive products should receive more attention.
First of all, we need to saturate the domestic market with competitive products for the citizens of Azerbaijan to be provided with high-quality goods produced in the country. At the same time - that's what I said at the February meeting with entrepreneurs and I want to say it today - our rapidly growing economy and our non-oil sector , of course, dictate the need to ensure access to foreign markets. That is, if we do not achieve a strong position in foreign markets, do not get those positions, after ensuring the domestic market we may have some problems. Because the development of agriculture and food processing industry has been going so fast that the volume of production will increase, but if the products cannot compete, it will be more and more difficult to enter the foreign markets. Therefore, I believe that the increase in competitive production must become one of the most important priorities. Work in this direction is underway, examination of projects of entrepreneurs is carried out. I think that the recommendations of the state and government to the entrepreneurs will give an impetus to a competitive production.
We need to expand the range of export products. Again, if this production is not competitive, then we cannot achieve this. New enterprises should be based on modern technology. In particular, enterprises created with state support should be built completely on the basis of modern technologies. At the same time, enterprises established without government support should be controlled seriously to ensure that not obsolete equipment has been imported to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan should apply the most advanced technologies. That is our policy generally is that the most advanced technology and experience must be applied in all spheres in the country.
Along with this, I believe that one of the important issues for the economy is training. We see it. We see how sometimes modern technology is imported, and human resources are still somewhat lagging behind. Therefore, we should pay more serious attention to the training of modern professionals. This training is, of course, must be consistent with the overall development of the economy. First and foremost, we should pay attention to training by industries that develop more rapidly. But, at the same time, in general, the issue of training, I believe, requires special attention. This issue is also related to the involvement of young people in this work. Promotion of young specialists should go even faster. In general, as you know, Azerbaijan successfully carries out its youth policy, the State program "Youth of Azerbaijan." Work on their high-level education is carried for the employment of young people.
The biggest problem that young families face in life is the housing problem. I believe that the mechanisms of mortgage lending should be improved, they need to be revised. However, certain reforms are now being carried out in this direction. But I think that more is needed to be done, and the amount allocated to the mortgage, should be increased. We need to see if the budget has the possibility, we can do it this year, if not, then next year, the loans allocated for mortgage should be increased for the housing problem of youth to be solved quickly youth.
We constantly work on food security, and at a meeting with businessmen this issue was among the main once. Once again I want to say: we have all the possibilities to provide one hundred percent of the food products. And not only to provide, but we also have a great export potential. Here we have to go in two directions. Of course, intensive methods must be given preference in plant-growing and cattle-breeding. At the same time, the process of creation of large farms has been launched. We have large plots of land that are still out of circulation. There should be carried out reclamation activities and infrastructure projects to ensure that we included tens of thousands of hectares of new land into the turnover. Thus, it will lead to new jobs and, at the same time, fully ensure food safety. Food safety is as important an issue as energy security, and perhaps even more important. It is possible that in the coming years it will become one of the major issues as global trends indicate that.
Now the world is witnessing a struggle for resources: energy, water. Today uncertain picture has formed in production. Therefore, I believe that every country should strive to fully satisfy themselves with basic food commodities. In particular, a country like Azerbaijan, which has excellent geographical features. There are countries where livestock and crop production are out of the question. There are desert soils there. But, it is not about Azerbaijan, our country can produce a variety of food products. We have nine climatic zones and strong financial capabilities. So we can guarantee food safety by 100%. This does not mean that we do not get involved in the processes of integration, or to the current global integration processes. We have been involved. Of course, we have built our economy on the principles of a market economy. But we remember that certain difficulties with the grain in some exporting countries, willy-nilly, had a negative impact on us. The contracts signed in previous years were suspended, they were not satisfied, and we had to find a way out of the situation. Therefore, in order to feel completely confident and insured, we have to provide ourselves with basic food commodities. Of course, the process of creation of melioration and irrigation systems must also go on.
Referring to the agrarian sector, I believe that we also need to begin to build vocational schools of agrarian orientation. There was such a practice in the Soviet times. I believe that we need to revive it. In general, the creation of secondary vocational schools and the transition to a qualitatively new stage are in the foreground.
Because - again going back to training matters - we see that the work is going very fast in Azerbaijan industrial and agricultural production, service sector are increasing. Many service centers are being created now. Tourism is developing rapidly, we are facing and in the future we may face a lack of personnel. Therefore, the relevant government agencies, ministries should work together to discuss and agree on all the issues.
We have a very precise and specific program of economic development. We go in line with the program, and in many cases even ahead of it. But from a conceptual point of view, the heads of all ministries and government agencies are aware of future developments. Therefore, we need to agree on these issues between the ministries too.
At the same time, the project "e-Agriculture", an electronic filing system to farmers must be implemented. If we can achieve this, then, of course, along with other measures, we will be able to accelerate the sustainable development of the agricultural sector. Much of it has been done in the previous years. Looking back to those years, we can see that there is no shortage of equipment, fertilizers or fuel. Therefore, all these issues are gradually being resolved. Agricultural services are created, loans and state support are available. The state has even assumed the purchase of breeding stock. At the same time, funds are allocated through the National Fund for Entrepreneurship. Farmers are exempt from all taxes, except land. Subsidies should be improved. I have spoken about this at the last meeting and do not want to repeat. That is, this area is a priority for addressing both economic and social issues, because 47 percent of our population lives in agricultural regions.
I think there will not be any problems with the implementation of the State Investment Program. The program will be implemented to the necessary extent. Last year, the country's economy received 22 billion dollars of investment from different sources. Most of them are domestic investment. But foreign investment is at nearly 30 percent. This is also a great indicator which shows that Azerbaijan is an attractive country for foreign investors. This refers to energy, oil and gas sector, while at the same time other sectors also received large investments. With this in mind, I believe that at least 22 billion dollars of investment will be made in Azerbaijan this year. Increases in pensions and salaries are also expected. The process of return of deposits left over from the Soviet times is to complete this year. All of these factors will have a negative impact on the macroeconomic situation. Therefore, macroeconomic stability should be the focus. However, we are pleased that inflation stood at 1.1 percent last year and 1.2 percent in the first quarter of this year. We constantly strive to ensure that the inflation load was at its lowest level.
The implementation of social programs will continue this year. In my opening speech, I have already expressed my views on this - increasing wages and pensions, implementation of targeted social assistance programs, the creation of social infrastructure. Hospitals, schools and other social facilities are built in the regions, and this work will continue.
The minister of health has informed here about the settlement of healthcare issues. Indeed, we were able to achieve a serious progress in this sphere over the past years. Modern clinics, diagnostic, dialysis centers have been created. Once again I want to say that the human factor is the most important issue. Human health is also an important issue. Once again, we get back to the question of training. The most modern equipment is installed in our regions and Baku. In some cases, it is not inferior to the equipment of the leading clinics of the world, and sometimes even surpasses it. I know this because at the time of the periodic meetings with foreign guests representing the health care system, they also say that you have the most modern equipment. But sometimes training falls short of this level. Therefore, training should be in the foreground. Of course, first of all, we need to ensure a high level of training in Azerbaijan. We must ensure the training of qualified doctors in the first place. Along with that our doctors are sent to foreign clinics, there are internships. At the same time, known experts, scholars in the field of health care are working in Baku. I believe that we need to further accelerate these processes.
The Taxes Minister raised the issue of the amount of non-cash payments. We have done a lot of work, particularly in 2012, in Baku. But we still are not at the proper level on this indicator. Non-cash payments account for the vast majority in all the developed countries. But it is not like that here. But we must try to bring
In general, we apply positive experience in all spheres. We have to and we apply the most progressive and positive experience which is profitable to us. Because otherwise we will not be able to modernize our country.
Azerbaijan should be among the developed countries. Therefore, we study a positive experience, we use it in Azerbaijan in any area. It is a natural and normal process. I believe that we can increase the volume of non-cash payments, while at the same time achieve even greater success in collecting taxes more quickly to prevent the negative phenomena. That is, it is a well-established approach in the world, in developed countries. And we have to apply it even faster.
Our country carries intensive fight against corruption and bribery. This struggle is comprehensive. Corruption and bribery are one of the biggest challenges for the society, our biggest wound. We must not only learn, but also apply the experience of the developed countries in this field. I have repeatedly expressed my thoughts on this, I want to say once again that mere punishment, administrative measures are insufficient to achieve our desired goal. Of course, there must be punishment, law enforcement authorities should continue their efforts in this direction. Administrative measures are also being taken.
However, I believe that the expansion and application of institutional arrangements, implementation and continuation of systemic reform will give us even better opportunities in the fight against corruption and bribery. We need to narrow the existing ground for corruption and bribery. The project of "Electronic Services" and "E-government" is a very important step in this direction.
Officer-citizen contact in this direction should be kept to a minimum. Again we need to apply the experience of the developed countries. Therefore, the development of Azerbaijan's ICT sector should be given more attention.
Very significant steps have been taken in this direction over the past months. Among them I would like to note the ASAN Service. This service is expanding its activities. Thousands of people have applied to ASAN Service. We are expanding our activities I think that by the summer of this year, it will cover all districts of Baku. At the same time, it will cover big cities- Sumgait and Ganja. I believe that next year the service should be set up in all other regions. And before that, the service will be provided through mobile buses. These buses have been purchased and will be delivered to Azerbaijan in the coming weeks. By means of these buses, the service will start operating in different regions.
In short, there must should be institutional reforms, "E-government". transparency and, of course, a strong political will. We have such a strong political will. If we want to become a developed country, we have to carry out even a more serious fight against corruption and bribery. I am confident that we will win this fight.
Along with this, the accountability of public officials must also grow. Government officials must serve the people. I have already expressed my thoughts on these issues. A state official should serve as an example for every citizen. An example of modesty, purity, and service to the homeland. State officials should be the selected people. And their professionalism and moral qualities should be at a high level. Officer-citizen relations must be based on respect. Measures are certainly taken where there are violations and this process will continue.
The principles of social justice must be applied in a society in its entirety. This is required by our Basic Law - the Constitution. The total normal behavior must be such that the principles of social justice are not violated. Because I can say that injustice is an issue that most people are concerned with in life, in politics, or in any other sphere. So there must be justice, social justice, and all decisions should be fair. If the decision is fair, even if someone does not like it, they have to reconcile because it is fair. If the decision is unfair, then I have to say that there cannot be a greater injustice.
In previous years we have done much to increase industrial production. Our non-oil industry grew in the first quarter of this year. This is a positive indicator. But a lot of work is to be done for the modernization of our industrial production. Among them, I want to mention the creation of technology parks. The work is underway in this direction. We have chosen three main centers. In fact, these are the traditional centers: Baku, Sumgait and Ganja. There is a process of creation of technology parks. I believe that we must add Mingachevir since Mingacheviris also an industrial city. There is almost no agriculture there. Decisions must be made on the construction of modern industrial complexes in Mingachevir. I have already given instructions on this issue. Those wishing to invest are recommended to pay attention to Mingachevir. I think that if we achieve that, then the country will have four main industrial centers. I believe that this would be enough in a country like Azerbaijan. Technology parks will have their advantages. Businesses operating there must be strategic for our country, our economy. Of course, there should only be competitive, export products. I am confident that in the coming months we will see the creation of new technological parks.
As for the regional development program, the work in this direction is going according to the plan. By the end of this year we will complete the second State program. Of course, infrastructure projects dominate here. There are no problems in these projects.
The development program of Baku settlements must be completed this year too. This is a very large program. But the period of its implementation is very short - only two years. We should try to finalize this project by the end of this year. I know that by the end of the year, all schools in Baku will be repaired. This process is already underway. By the end of this year there will be no un-renovated school left.
Gasification issues have been resolved in Baku by almost 100 percent. But the quality of gas sometimes creates problems.
Construction of rural roads, intra-city and inter-village roads need special attention. Water and sewer projects are very big projects. We have to try to do most of the work by the end of the year. In any case, while adopting this program, I set a very short period of time. We could stretch it to five years. Because the volume of work is extremely high. But we have consolidated all our efforts to settle all problems of Baku settlements accumulated over many years. I think this is also a very important social project.
The construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway continues. We thought that we will complete this project in 2013. Perhaps it will remain for the next year. But in general I can say that the project faces no problems. The main work will be done by the end of this year. This project is an initiative of the Azerbaijani state. We have the political support to this project and at the same time took over most of the financial cost. But now we see that this project has gone out of a regional plane. Those who opposed the project, now support it. I remember very well when we were seriously discussing the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway, we face the question: "Why is Armenia not a member of this project?". Even there was a question that "if Armenia is not a member of this project, it will not get international support”. But despite that, due to the joint will of the Azerbaijani, Turkish and Georgian states, we are implementing this project. Armenia is isolated again. This is our principled position. As long as our lands are under occupation, Armenia cannot be a party to any regional project.
The Implementation of the project of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars is a historical event.
At the same time, I want to note the rapid development of tourism in Azerbaijan over the past years. In particular, in the first quarter, there was a very significant event in this area - "Shahdagh” ski center started to function. This is also a significant event, because Azerbaijan has never had a skiing center unlike the neighbor countries. I believe that this project is already showing its effect. The state took over the main technical and financial burden. And it's natural. This is also our contribution to private sector development in the region. This will create thousands of jobs. Hundreds of jobs have been created in Gusar. Those working there earn much. At the same time we have created a wonderful recreation center for the citizens of Azerbaijan. By my information, during the first two months 50,000 people visited this complex. This is a very high figure. Considering the fact that only one small hotel is functioning there, the arrival of 50,000 people there is a very significant event. By the next winter at least three new big hotels will open their doors to guests. Construction of new recreational areas, parks, new streets is underway. That is the "Shahdagh" resort is to become one of the most modern and most beautiful resorts in the world. This is our goal.
I remember my first visit there. When I first went there, there was not a single building. Only mountains and snow all around. There was no shelter, no buildings, nothing. Initiating the project, frankly speaking, I wondered if we cope. But I’m very glad that the project was successful. This shows that any of our project - if we start it - must be completed successfully. Alll infrastructure projects - water supply lines, sewer, electric, gas lines- have been implemented. A beautiful four-lane road, hotels, elevators, medical centers, training rooms, modern leisure facilities have been built. I believe that this will be one of the most beautiful recreation areas in the country.
I am glad that the construction of a ski resort was also launched in Gabala. During my recent visit there I saw that the second ski resort has been created there. The resort will also be ready by the end of this year.
In conclusion, I have to note that the year of information and communication technologies in Azerbaijan starts successfully. Azerbaijan is a cosmic power. This is a great historical achievement. Azerspace-1 satellite is in orbit. Its control is transferred to Azerbaijan. We manage this satellite from Baku. We have already started talks with partners to launch the second and third satellites into orbit. This is also an innovation, modernity and development.
At the same time, I want to note that our second program of regional development ends at the end of this year. Much has been done. But there is still much to do. Therefore, I believe that we need to work more on the preparation of the third national program. By the end of the year, the third five-year state program should be ready to start for us to accept it in 2014 and ensure the successful development of our country. Thank you”.