By Aslan Aslanov; Chairman of the Board of AZERTAC, Vice-President of OANA
Answer to skeptics: work and result
Usually, when a new idea or initiative is put forward, many treat it with suspicion, especially if such an idea is advocated by an emerging country like Azerbaijan. just remember the skepticism with which Heydar Aliyev‘s idea of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline was met at one time. Skeptics considered the construction of a pipeline from Azerbaijan to the Mediterranean a dream. It was even described as a legend of three seas.
Or take the Southern Gas Corridor project, which is the idea of President Ilham Aliyev. Similar skepticism was displayed in relation to the TANAP pipeline initiative. If you noticed, there were numerous conversations, articles were published about its impossibility.
This did not escape the attention of a Chinese television correspondent. Answering a question from a Chinese journalist about this, Ilham Aliyev said: After a pipeline about 2,000 kilometers in length was built between Baku and the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, everyone saw that Azerbaijan had beaten the skeptics all to pieces. When the project began, Azerbaijan was not as strong as it is today and depended on external financial support in many respects. Despite this, the project was successfully completed.
As for the Southern Gas Corridor, this is an even larger project: about 10 international banks, numerous companies participate in the project worth $40 billion and covering seven countries. “We started this project. There were many skeptical opinions regarding resources, pipeline construction, technical challenges, financial difficulties and other issues. But we said: if we have started this, we will finish it. Now this project is close to completion. Therefore, we must respond to a skeptical approach not with words, but with the steps taken and the work done,” the President of Azerbaijan said in the interview.
Today, the voices of skeptics can’t be heard, of course. In particular, the opening of the Europe link of the TANAP gas pipeline as part of the Southern Gas Corridor once again demonstrated the strength and determination of Azerbaijan.
In general, all projects launched by Azerbaijan or with its participation have been implemented. Two years ago, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway line connecting Turkey and Azerbaijan, Central Asia and China was opened in Baku. It is possible to say that the implementation of another important project with the goal of establishing a speedy and viable trade link between Europe and Southeast Asia has been completed as well – the creation of a section of the North-South transport corridor passing through Azerbaijan.
A skeptical and biased approach was also displayed on the eve of important international events hosted in Azerbaijan. The answer to such people was given by hard work and successful results again. The list is quite long and multidimensional: the World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue, the Global Forum of the UN Alliance of Civilizations, the Summit of World Religious Leaders, as well as the first European Games, the Fourth Islamic Solidarity Games, Formula 1 events…
Finishing the topic, I also consider it necessary to note that the Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement recently held at a high level in Baku has reverberated in the world and become another weighty response to both skeptics and ill-wishers.
The word spoken in the right place and on time
Over the past 16 years, we witnessed bold and deeply logical speeches of our President from many international platforms. Ilham Aliyev courageously criticizes double standards and resolutely defends national interests. As a result of the determination and strong will of our leader, Azerbaijan does not bow its head to anyone even in the most difficult situations and openly expresses its position.
The word spoken in the right place and on time, of course, is more compelling and effective. No need to go far – just remember the two recent events. Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan expressed absurd thoughts about who Nagorno-Karabakh belongs to. The President of Azerbaijan was in no hurry to respond to him and waited for the right moment.
And such a moment finally arrived. Ilham Aliyev said his word in Russia, from the lectern of the Valdai Discussion Club: “Karabakh is Azerbaijan, an exclamation mark.” These words spoken in a live broadcast from an authoritative platform were heard by the whole world. It once again became clear to everyone that Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan. The leader of Azerbaijan will not step back from his fair position related to the conflict.
Another statement revealing and exposing the true essence of the Armenian leadership was made at the summit of the heads of state of the CIS in Ashgabat a few days later. The President of Azerbaijan drew attention to the monument erected in Armenia to Nazi accomplice Garegin Nzhdeh. He said that the erection of monuments to fascists was unacceptable in the CIS and the monument in Yerevan should be dismantled. Discussions around this opinion by Ilham Aliyev are not abating as the position of the Armenian leadership is being widely condemned.
Ilham Aliyev chastised the growing Islamophobia in the world and called for Muslim and Islamic solidarity. His words about this in one of the recent speeches were received with great approval: “I have repeatedly appealed to Muslim countries. I openly addressed them saying: how do you hug Armenia? How do you invite their leaders? Can’t you see that they have razed our mosques to the ground? Can’t you see that they have desecrated our mosques? Take a look, there are pictures! What have they done to the Aghdam mosque, Shusha mosques and mosques in other occupied lands? After all, these mosques belong not only to us, but to the entire Muslim world. How can you turn a blind eye to that?”
Revolutionary reforms and “ASAN xidmət” brand
Today, the world knows and accepts Ilham Aliyev as a reformer president. The Doing Business-2020 report of the World Bank ranks Azerbaijan among top 20 reforming countries. The report of the Davos World Economic Forum ranks our country 10th in terms of long-term government strategy and fifth in terms of focus on reform.
Azerbaijani citizens are direct witnesses to the reforms, which are a conscious choice of the country’s leadership. They feel these positive results in their daily lives. In the last year, the reforms acquired a deeper and revolutionary character. The head of state announced them in April 2018, on the eve of the presidential election. “In the future, our main task will be to further improve governance, increase the efficiency of our activities, create more favorable conditions for entrepreneurs and diversify the economy.”
Stressing the importance of reforms in his speech at the centennial of Baku State University, President Ilham Aliyev said that even more significant steps would be taken in this area. After some time, fundamental reforms and personnel reshuffling were carried out in the public administration system. Following this, the Milli Majlis of the fifth convocation was dissolved and new parliamentary elections were called.
Every reform serves the development and well-being of the people, and this is evident. Suffice it to look at one fact only: as a result of recent economic reforms, in 10 months of this year alone, the budget received additional revenues in the amount of more than 850 million manats. These funds are spent on the social sphere, the well-being of the population. The large social package has had a positive impact on the budget of more than 4.2 million people. The minimum wage has doubled and the minimum pension has been increased by 70 percent. A significant increase was registered in benefits for the internally displaced persons.
There is another aspect that attracts attention: the President himself is the initiator of comprehensive reforms that are perceived with great interest in the world. One of Ilham Aliyev’s important initiatives, “ASAN xidmət”, has gained worldwide fame as the intellectual brand of Azerbaijan. “ASAN xidmət”, which has put up a barrier to corruption, bribery, bureaucracy, and red tape in the services sector the population is in daily contact with, is not an ordinary project, but a radical reform that has caused satisfaction throughout the country and creating revolutionary changes in people’s mindset. According to recent opinion polls, popular satisfaction rating of this service is 99.4 percent. Today, “ASAN xidmət” with a gradually expanding network of centers has received more than 34 million applications. The solution rating and the number of requests are evidence of great efficiency of the project.
Family and path to success
In one of the interviews, President Ilham Aliyev said that he spends his free time with his family and draws energy from it. “I am the person who happily goes to work and happily returns home,” he said.
Ilham Aliyev and Mehriban Aliyeva have been together for many years. First lady Mehriban Aliyeva, who plays an active role in the public, political and cultural life of Azerbaijan, is highly intelligent, principled and kind person, has won great love and sympathy of the people. The Heydar Aliyev Foundation she has been heading for 15 years makes a valuable contribution to the development of our country with its important programs and grandiose projects. Over the years, as part of the “A new school for a renewing Azerbaijan” program, more than 3,000 schools have been overhauled or rebuilt. Thousands of people have been treated through and with the support of the Foundation. The Foundation also plays an indispensable role in preserving our material and spiritual heritage. Therefore, the appointment of Mehriban Aliyeva as First Vice President was met with approval and a logical result of the work done.
Mehriban Aliyeva is the closest ally of the President. Deeply aware of the responsibility of the mission entrusted to her as first lady, she provides the head of state with enormous support in resolving crucial issues for the country. She believes that everyone who works in the government agencies should be guided by such spiritual values as “philanthropy, mercy, mutual respect, kindness” in their daily activities. Only in this case can you achieve the brightest victories and rise to the highest peaks.
In my opinion, Ilham Aliyev’s path to success originates precisely in the ideal family hearth. He grew up in the family of one of the brilliant political figures of our time, Heydar Aliyev, and outstanding scientist Zarifa Aliyeva. He was raised by them. Subsequently, destiny linked him with such a noble wife with a sensitive soul and a rich spiritual world as Mehriban Aliyeva. Their views coincide and complement each other, and this is one of the factors determining the success of Azerbaijan. The successful visit of First Vice-President Mehriban Aliyeva to Moscow in November this year, the negotiations with the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev are an indicator of her international authority.
The great leader once passed his own experience to his successor step by step, taught him how to act in a given situation. As a result, the new leader of Azerbaijan in the 21st century, Ilham Aliyev, emerged as a strong personality with a strong character, well ahead of his era, his time, and this is manifested in every step of the President both in domestic and foreign policies. He has transformed Azerbaijan, which is located in a troubled region, into an island of security, a country with a modern economy and enjoying authority in the world. In particular, the implementation of TANAP, a giant transnational project, has further enhanced the fame of President Ilham Aliyev. Just pay attention to the thoughts regarding his leadership that were voiced in the past month alone.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: We can’t forget the leadership of my brother Ilham Aliyev in the implementation of TANAP.
Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili: The merits of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, in the implementation of the TANAP project are invaluable. He is one of the most successful leaders of our time.
King of Jordan Abdullah II: You are playing a very important role in the international arena. I express my gratitude to you for this role in the region and the world. I always count on your leadership, kindness and support towards our country.
It is very nice to hear these words from world leaders. Our people and every grateful Azerbaijani is proud of their President, one of the most successful leaders of our time who plays an important role in the international arena. Because the path of victories which began 16 years ago leads Azerbaijan from one top to another.
Mi’raj News Agency (MINA)