February 20, 2021

In early February, the President signed an Order on approval of the “Azerbaijan 2030: National Priorities for Socio-Economic Development”. According to the order, the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan must prepare a draft “Strategy of socio-economic development in 2021-2025” in accordance with the National Priorities and submit it to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan within nine months. According to the document, five National Priorities for socio-economic development of the country must be implemented in the next decade. Sustainably growing competitive economy; a society based on dynamic, inclusive, and social justice; competitive human capital and space for modern innovations; great return to the liberated territories; clean environment and “green growth” country.However, economist Rovshan Agayev said in an interview with ASTNA that such programs should be developed by impartial persons.


– Rovshan bey, the President signed an Order on approval of “Azerbaijan 2030: National Priorities for Socio-Economic Development”. What is in this program? How do you evaluate this program?


Rovshan Agayev- This is not a program but a document that sets priorities for all programs and strategies that the government will develop in the next 10 years in the socio-economic sphere. That is, the programs and strategies to be adopted in the future will be developed taking into account 5 priorities. These priorities include building a sustainably growing competitive economy, building a society based on inclusive and social justice, building a country based on competitive human capital and modern innovations, returning to the liberated territories, and ensuring a clean environment.


Every government should have a clear vision of the country’s future, and a medium-term and long-term vision should be based on professional planning. In this regard, the adopted document on priorities should be considered as one of the important planning elements of modern management. Especially at a time when an effective budget system is being formed, the development of national development priorities and appropriate strategies is a step in the right direction in terms of integrating government programs into the budget.


In other words, in the current situation, it is possible to discuss to what extent these priorities take into account the country’s development priorities rather than the necessity of adopting national socio-economic development priorities


– Do you think it is possible to change the real situation with such programs?


– Even the best-developed program and strategy document, the most perfect legal mechanisms are not a “magic wand” that will bring countries out of the crisis. A professionally developed document also gives better results when there is an effective government with the political will to fully implement the measures provided for in that document. Program management should be developed with the participation of all stakeholders, including civil society and business. The program contributes to economic development when it fully takes into account the needs of society, has measurable indicators to measure results, and is based on an independent monitoring mechanism to evaluate results. Otherwise, the program creates an image as a formal document and remains useless.


– Earlier, several such development programs and strategic roadmaps were approved for some years. Do we see these programs being implemented in real life, working, or yielding any results?


– Extensive research and systematic monitoring are needed to determine the effectiveness of the documents you have mentioned. Unfortunately, there is no monitoring, systematic assessment, and diagnostics in this area by any organization which is independent and of which reliability is not in doubt. But, of course, it is possible to draw conclusions, albeit in the form of a summary, on the basis of some important target indicators identified in the documents you mentioned. For example, the document “Azerbaijan 2020: Look into the Future” adopted in 2012 stated that the Azerbaijani economy should grow by an average of 7% annually. However, compared to 2012, even without taking into account the effects of the pandemic, the Azerbaijani economy has grown by an average of a maximum of 1.5% annually over the past eight years. Or this document provided for the balanced development of the regions. But when we study, we see that 8 years ago, 80% of national income in the country was formed in Baku and the Absheron Peninsula, and today the situation is the same. Also, the 3-4% share of regions in exports and budget formation has not changed over the past 8 years.


Another document was the roadmaps adopted in 2016. According to the Strategic Roadmap, the goal was to increase non-oil exports per capita from $ 170 to $ 450 by 2025. This figure has not changed in the last 5 years. Or the dependence on the Oil Fund was to be significantly reduced, the process of denationalization was to take place in a number of areas, especially in the communications sector, and the share of small and medium enterprises in GDP was to be increased to 15%. No steps have been taken in this direction, no positive indicators have been observed.


– Rovshan bey, in your opinion, what should be the national priorities for socio-economic development in Azerbaijan?


– The 5 priorities can be considered normal. However, effective government building should be among those priorities. Ensuring decentralization, the efficiency of public expenditures, participation in public administration, transparency and accountability, and improving the quality of economic legislation should have been at the forefront of these priorities.


Or regional development should not be taken as an element of any priority. On the contrary, balanced regional development should have been a separate priority.


Another example: the current document takes poverty reduction and the creation of a fair social security system as an element. However, I think it would be a very logical approach to eliminate the unequal distribution of wealth and income, which is a problem that prevents Azerbaijan from developing and even threatens national security, and to build a society without corruption as a separate priority.


The development of civil society and democratic institutions were separate targets in the “Azerbaijan 2020” Concept. These directions are not included in the current document. However, compared to that time, we need more initiatives and reforms in both directions.


– What is your proposal for the implementation of this program, its application and results in real life?


– It is impossible to achieve targeted economic development with programs developed without increasing the efficiency of management. If it were possible to revive the economy only with the help of prepared documents, any country could develop even by preparing the most perfect documents with the involvement of experts from the world’s leading think tanks. However, we still come to the question of how effectively these programs are implemented. My proposal is that all programs and strategies should not be the product of civil servants’ offices – they should be the result of a broad and comprehensive public discussion. Evaluation of the implementation and results of these documents should be entrusted to completely impartial, professional, and specialized institutions. It is also extremely important to implement radical institutional reforms. For example, I think that in order to achieve balanced regional development, there is a need to create a separate, autonomous state body responsible for regional development, which is directly responsible for this issue. Alternatively, the powers and financial independence of local governments should be increased in the development of the region. Projects related to the construction of regional infrastructure should be implemented by the bodies elected by citizens under their control.


Public participation in management must be expanded, and the transparency and accountability of all government agencies, without exception, must be maximized. As a result of these measures, adopted documents will yield positive results.


Source: Turan News Agency

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