Vol. 3, No. 24 (December 15, 2010)

Baku offers ‘Azerbaijan model of development’ to others

Paul Goble
Publications Advisor
Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy

Two events this month call attention to a new vector in Azerbaijani foreign policy: Baku’s interest in presenting itself not just as a country that has successfully navigated the path from one social-economic system to another without the kind of instability that has plagued others in this situation but as a model for others.  On the one hand, Baku has released a new book entitled The Azerbaijani Model of Development in which various officials, journalists and scholars talk about what has taken place in Azerbaijan over the last 17 years.  And on the other, the Azerbaijani government has committed itself to opening cultural centers at its embassies abroad to share the Azerbaijani experience with others.

The first of these two developments represents the coming to fruition of an idea advanced earlier this year by Ramiz Mehdiyev, the head of the President’s Office and a full member of the country’s Academy of Sciences.  He suggested that Azerbaijan’s successful transit deserved to be described and offered to others and that Azerbaijanis themselves should reflect upon it as they seek to move beyond what they have accomplished already.

The new book, which already is available in Azerbaijani and Russian and will be translated into other languages in the near future, was edited by Ali Hasanov, a historian, and by Bakhtiyar Sayigov, a Milli Majlis deputy who also works as the editor-in-chief of the national newspaper Azerbaijan, which was responsible for its publication. 

Tracing developments over the country’s national history since 1994, the period of the rule of Heydar Aliyev and then his son Ilham Aliyev, the incumbent president, the book is both encyclopedic in its assemblage of data about economic trends and specific government policies as well as in its discussion of specific policies and trends. 

Ramiz Mehtiyev writes in the preface that the book shows how economic and political arrangements were transformed over this period, a process that Azerbaijan managed without the turmoil that has plagued others.  To achieve its current place in the world as one of the most rapidly developing post-Soviet countries, Azerbaijan had to undergo “the complete transformation of the system which had existed for many years and that was rooted in the consciousness and behavior of people.  The success of this was made possible above all by the combination of a strong political will, a carefully thought out economic policy and serious reforms.  Historical experience shows that the transition from one social-economic formation to another is accompanied by instability, conflicts and disorders.”  And Azerbaijan’s ability to escape such things thus offers a model for other countries. [1] 

The book describes the way in which the government strengthened the oil and gas sector and used the earnings from it to ensure “a balanced and stable development of the capital and the regions” even as it has sought to diversify the economy and lower the dependence of the country on its oil and gas exports through the development of other forms of infrastructure that will allow private enterprise to flourish and provide employment. 

The “basic” goal in all of this, the authors of The Azerbaijan Model of Development argue, is the transformation of Azerbaijan into a modern and “more powerful country” based on “the improvement of the social well-being of the population.”  Although far more attention has been devoted to the oil and gas sectors by most commentators, Mehtiyev and the other authors suggest that increasing the well-being of the population, securing the growth of social infrastructure, and reducing poverty and unemployment have been and remain the focus of the country’s leaders and thus are responsible for the success Azerbaijan has enjoyed and continues to enjoy.

Two Milli Majlis deputies underscored all these points.  Ziyad Samadzade, who is heading the parliament’s economic policy committee, noted that “Azerbaijan is one of the few countries which guaranteed itself economic freedom” at a time when it like the other former Soviet republics faced so many challenges. [2] 

And he suggested that “the appearance of the book” just now is itself a testimony to “the stable development of Azerbaijan.  Its translation into various languages,” he continued, “will help provide a closer acquaintance by the world with the Azerbaijani model of development” over the last two decades.

Meanwhile, Shamsaddin Hajiyev, the chairman of the Milli Majlis committee on science and education, pointed out that while “each country has its own particular features of development,” including resources and leadership, many countries can learn from the successes Azerbaijan has achieved.

He suggested that “there are no analogies to the economic development of Azerbaijan” over that period “anywhere in the world.”  In a very short time, Hajiyev said, the country “has traversed a path which other countries have not been able to cross in the course of a lengthy period.  The macro-economic indicators of Azerbaijan now exceed by four to five times those of Armenia and Georgia taken together.”

At least in part to share this experience with other countries as well as to further improve Azerbaijan’s standing in the world, the country’s council of ministers, on December 3, adopted a program calling for the organization of cultural centers in rapidly increasing number of the diplomatic representations of Azerbaijan abroad in fulfillment of a decree President Ilham Aliyev issued three months ago. [3]


[1] See http://news.day.az/politics/241916.html (accessed 13 December 2010).

[2] See http://news.day.az/politics/242451.html (accessed 13 December 2010).

[3] See http://news.day.az/politics/241423.html (accessed 13 December 2010).