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AZRBAIJAN'S MINISTER OF ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT SPEAKS AT USACC BRIEFING

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For more information contact:

Mahir Iskender
Phone: (202) 333 8702
Fax: (202) 333 8703
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www.usacc.org

Washington DC – April 19, 2005– Yesterday, the U.S.-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce (USACC) held a briefing entitled “Progress of Non-Oil Economy in Azerbaijan”.  Farhad Aliyev, Minister of Economic Development of Azerbaijan spoke to the USACC audience.

Minister Aliyev addressed the dynamics of Azerbaijan's economic growth, highlighted investment opportunities in the non-oil economy, and spoke about the government's plans for investments in the public sector.

Minister Aliyev noted that the average annual economic growth has been at steady 10% since 1996.  Following the 10.2% growth registered in 2004, Azerbaijan's real GDP growth is expected to soar to 14.5% in 2005, 19% in 2006 and 22% in 2007, positioning Azerbaijan as one of the fastest growing economies in the world.  Although mostly through investments in the energy sector, the Minister noted vitalization of the non-oil economy in recent years.  “Through non-oil growth, we aim to improve living standards for the people of Azerbaijan,” the Minister noted.  The Ministry of Economic Development is spearheading implementation of the Regional Development Program and Poverty Reduction Strategy, developed together with the international financial institutions.  Just during the past year, 150,000 jobs have been created.

Touching on US – Azerbaijani relations, Minister Aliyev noted active cooperation with American companies in the area of energy development and transportation. “The United States helps us in our efforts to create sustainable economic development.  We cooperate in implementation of the regional development program,” the Minister noted.  He invited US companies to take an active part in development of the non-oil economy.  “There are very attractive opportunities in the areas of machine-building, telecommunications, food processing and packaging, and tourism and we would like to have close cooperation with American companies in these areas.  We want to increase cooperation with US companies in development of non-oil economy to the level of partnership we have developed in the energy sector,” the Minister said.

On privatization, Minister Aliyev told that privatization of small-medium size enterprises is almost completed and he invited investors to participate in large-scale privatization projects.  “We are interested in attracting foreign investments, and in their transparent management.  Law on Investment Activities, which will be adopted soon by the Parliament, will provide solid protection expected by investors,” he said.

As part of integration to international institutions, Minister Aliyev noted active partnership with IMF and the World Bank, and Azerbaijan's efforts to join the World Trade Organization (WTO).  “With assistance from the United States, we have prepared all the documentation required by the head office in Geneva and plan to start the negotiations process shortly,” he said.

Minister Aliyev also noted potential for increasing exports from Azerbaijan to the international markets.  “Currently most of Azerbaijan's exports are either oil or oil products.  Our economic policy aims to change that.  We will establish special economic zones and industrial parks in the near future to increase domestic productivity,” he said.

As part of public infrastructure development, the Minister noted that the Regional Development Program includes development of infrastructure in the regions and villages. “Azerbaijan needs to upgrade its power generation/distribution, repave its roads, and improve its railways, water supply, and irrigation.  These large-scale projects will establish the necessary infrastructure to boost economic development in the regions,” the Minister noted.

“I would like to invite the US companies to participate in this process.  We would be pleased to see you in Baku and discuss specific projects,” he concluded.

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