Azerbaijan catches interest of world economic elite in Davos

By Vestnik Kavkaza
Azerbaijan catches interest of world economic elite in Davos

Day two of the World Economic Forum summit in Davos, Switzerland came to an end. Experts were struck by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev's activity, who held more than a dozen meetings with representatives of the world economic elite in two days, expressing Azerbaijan’s willingness to cooperate. Analysts interpreted the intensity of discussions as a result of interest in Azerbaijan.

At the meeting with President of the World Economic Forum Borge Brende saw the laying of the foundation for cooperation between Baku and the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution of the World Economic Forum. Brende noted that Azerbaijan has taken resolute steps towards the fourth industrial revolution, and that its capital has changed rapidly in the past twenty years to become unrecognizable. Ilham Aliyev, for his part, said that industrial production in the non-oil sector increased 9.1% in Azerbaijan last year and stressed the significance of the implementation of large transport and infrastructure projects, including East-West, North-South transport corridors and energy projects.

President of Visa Ryan McInerney did not conceal that the main purpose of his visit to Davos this year was to meet with Ilham Aliyev, because Azerbaijan has made significant strides in terms of the development of digital payments in recent years, pointing out Visa’s close cooperation with the country's relevant bodies in the implementation of various projects in this area. McInerney said that tax incentives and other initiatives applied in Azerbaijan for the development of cashless payments will be very useful, adding that this is an example to other countries as well. Noting that Visa branded cards are widely used in electronic payments in Azerbaijan, McInerney stressed the company’s keenness to expand its activity in the country and its readiness to support the widespread use of non-cash payments in many areas, including in public transport. Ilham Aliyev responded that the development of e-payments has become one of the crucial issues for the country and pointed to the large-scale reforms carried out in this regard, saying these reforms have already yielded results. It has been reflected in international rankings, for example, in the Doing Business 2019 report, in which Azerbaijan climbed 32 spots from 57th to rank 25th.

Ilham Aliyev and Chief Executive Officer of BP Robert Dudley hailed the development of cooperation between Azerbaijan and BP during the meeting, as well as discussed the issues of cooperation in the Azeri-Chırag-Gunashli, Shafag, Asiman, Absheron and other oil fields.

In addition, Aliyev met in Davos with Executive Vice President and Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at CISCO Gerri Elliott, who noted that "having a capable leader who carries out reforms in Azerbaijan, the existence of specific development plans, realization of these plans and defining responsible bodies for achieving the goals that will ensure the development of the state in this regard as the key factors for the country’s progress." She underlined the close collaboration with the government of Azerbaijan, particularly with the Ministry of Justice towards the integration of courts, and penitentiary institutions, and improvement of the level of electronic services in this area.

Chief Executive Officer of SAP SE Bill McDermott said that the reforms and development programs implemented in Azerbaijan in recent years have aroused great interest. SAP SE has already opened its office in Baku, and McDermott expressed his readiness to contribute to the development of digital economy, generally digitalization both in the public and private sectors. According to McDermott, stability of Azerbaijan's economy and the strengthening of the country's financial sustainability create a solid foundation for the development of the digital economy, while digital economy encourages a rapid increase in the number of jobs

Chief Executive Officer for the World Bank Kristalina Georgieva congratulated Ilham Aliyev on Azerbaijan's climbing 32 spots to rank 25th in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 report, noting that this is one of the most successful and greatest achievements in the history of the Doing Business rating. In her opinion, the importance of structural and economic reforms in Azerbaijan is increasing against a background of the global economic slowdown in recent years. Georgieva proposed Azerbaijan to consider increasing its shares in the institutions of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), and the International Finance Corporation, noting that this can encourage additional support to the future economic development of Azerbaijan by the World Bank. According to her, Azerbaijan's economic transformation has become one of the most successful practices along with China and India, because Azerbaijan, which had received assistance from the World Bank once, turned into a donor country in a short time.

At the meeting, the sides also discussed the implementation of new programs by the World Bank in Azerbaijan. Ilham Aliyev lauded the reforms carried out jointly with the World Bank, especially in the field of court. He said that projects on cooperation with the World Bank in the fields of tax, customs and compulsory health insurance have been prepared. The activity of the World Bank in this area could be useful in the expansion of self-employment projects in Azerbaijan, especially the programs aimed at increasing self-employment of internally displaced persons.

At Ilham Aliyev's meeting with Chief Executive Officer of French Total company Patrick Pouyanné, they exchanged views on the projects implemented by Total in Azerbaijan, including the successfully realized Absheron project as well as cooperation prospects.

Microsoft Vice President, President for Europe, Middle East and Africa Michel van der Bel stressed that Microsoft, the world’s leading technological company, will continue supporting the projects implemented in Azerbaijan. For his part, Ilham Aliyev spoke about the support for the development of information technologies and the expansion of public services, noting that the application of information technologies is expanding in state programs and in all spheres of economic and social life in Azerbaijan.

Chief Executive Officer of Signify company (former Philips Lighting) Eric Rondolat spoke about the joint work on the project of Baku lighting system management.

President of Europe Selling & Market Operations at Procter & Gamble Loic Tassel noted that the business environment and conditions created for investors in Azerbaijan encourage companies to expand their activities in the country. Being the largest advertiser in Azerbaijan’s TV space, the company also carries out its social responsibility mission by sponsoring various social projects, sporting competitions and other support measures.  Procter & Gamble is keen to expand its activity in the region by taking use of emerging business environment. The current business environment in Azerbaijan has led the company to choose Baku as a regional center.

Chief Executive Officer of The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Rich Lesser expressed support for the reforms carried out in Azerbaijan, as well as business environment, saying that his company has digital solutions that will provide a higher level of governance, both for public and private companies, as well as in healthcare and compulsory health insurance. The application of these solutions in Azerbaijan will lead to the creation of new jobs and make a significant contribution to improving the management systems.

Chief Executive Officer of Lazard Freres company Matthieu Pigasse stressed that the company has been providing consulting services in financing various projects and addressing investment issues in Azerbaijan since 2000. Now favorable conditions have been created for conferences and other investment-related events in Azerbaijan. Global companies and investors are interested in holding such big events in Azerbaijan. It is also important for supporting measures to support foreign investors, attract investments and further improve the business environment. 

Executive Vice-President of SUEZ for International Development Eric Ghebali spoke about the company's activities in water infrastructure development in Azerbaijan.

Ilham Aliyev and Chief Executive Officer of Equinor (former Statoil) Eldar Saetre discussed the issues of cooperation between SOCAR and Equinor on Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli oil fields, the promising Garabagh, Ashrafi, Dan ulduzu projects, as well as repair work on Dede Gorgud drilling rig.

Naturally, Ilham Aliyev met with Russian partners as well. With President of LUKOIL Vagit Alekperov he discussed the LUKOIL-implemented projects in Azerbaijan, the issues relating to their execution, and the cooperation prospects.

At the meeting with President and Chairman of VTB Bank Management Board Andrey Kostin, they discussed Azerbaijan’s successful cooperation with VTB Bank and the bank’s fruitful activity in the country. They emphasized the importance of the development of the banking sector in Azerbaijan, the measures taken in this area in order to create a more favorable environment for the private sector, and exchanged views on cooperation prospects.