Azerbaijan is now a recognized and important player on a global stage, Rob Sobhani, director general of the Caspian Group Holdings, told Trend.
He noted that the first few words that come to mind when one thinks of Azerbaijan’s achievements in the last several years are “Consequential”, “Historic”, “Amazing”, and “Ground-breaking.”
The statistics speak for themselves: for example, GDP has increased by an average of 7 percent each year for the past several years, poverty levels have dramatically dropped according to World Bank numbers, and the middle class in Azerbaijan is growing, said the US expert, adding that these are remarkable achievements for a young nation.
“In addition, Azerbaijan is now a recognized and important player on the global stage. The foreign policy of President Aliyev which is grounded in having friendly relations with all countries is a key to preserving the independence of Azerbaijan. Furthermore, President Aliyev has put Azerbaijan firmly on the map of energy exporters,” said Sobhani.
He recalled that indeed, during the recent visit of US National Security Advisor John Bolton to Baku he emphasized the role of Azerbaijan as an important transport hub.
Sobhani pointed out that a free market economy is the key to success for any nation.
“One can argue that the reason why the Soviet Union collapsed was its centralized economic system, yet the United States with only 240 years of history has the world’s largest economy. Therefore, Azerbaijan is on the correct path for sustainable economic development, because its economy is free, but not free of government oversight, which is absolutely necessary. Take for example the 22 percent debt to GDP ratio – this is a major achievement for the government of Azerbaijan, because it means that it does not live beyond its means and its borrowing from multi-lateral institutions is prudent,” said the US expert.
What is also important to note, according to Sobhani, is that the leadership of President Aliyev has allowed the Azerbaijan middle class to grow by creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.
“A job is a human right because it provides dignity to a human being and allows that person to be a productive member of society. I believe that by reducing poverty and providing jobs for its citizens Azerbaijan is upholding human rights,” said Sobhani.
Further, talking about the important energy projects, which are being implemented by Azerbaijan, Sobhani noted that Azerbaijan will play a critical role in western energy security in the coming years.
“As Europe continues to find ways to diversify its sources of imports, the role of Azerbaijan will increase. Furthermore, to the extent that Azerbaijan under the leadership of President Aliyev is stable, customers will opt to buy gas from Azerbaijan as opposed to some other countries that may play politics with their gas exports,” noted Sobhani.
He also hailed the atmosphere of tolerance in Azerbaijan, saying that the fundamental commitment of Azerbaijan to religious and cultural tolerance is unique not only among Muslim countries but also on the global stage.
“When the leading Jewish leader in Azerbaijan makes the statement that “if any Jew anywhere in the world is afraid of persecution they should come live in Azerbaijan” it is proof that religious tolerance is a way of life in Azerbaijan. And while members of the Bahai Faith are persecuted in other countries, this community is allowed to practice its faith free of any interference in Azerbaijan,” he said.
Sobhani went on to add that religious freedom is the bedrock of human rights and one can argue that by allowing all Azerbaijanis to practice their faith freely, Azerbaijan is promoting the human rights of its citizens.
“It is however very important for all Azerbaijanis to play a role as ambassadors for the promotion of this positive image to the world. Through social media, radio and television the fact that Azerbaijan’s religious tolerance is ingrained into the fabric of society must be promoted even more,” he added.