Ilham Aliyev: "Azerbaijani people founded democracy in the East"
The presidential election is being held in Azerbaijan today. A few days before the vote, TASS Deputy Director-General Mikhail Gusman interviewed the incumbent President Ilham Aliyev. Speaking about the past five years of his presidential term, Ilham Aliyev said that sustainable development of the state is possible only if the steps are planned correctly, if there is proper sequence and prioritization, and everything should be focused on the result.
"We have always been far from populism. Sometimes we even tried not to show ourselves too much, and just did what was necessary for the country to develop successfully. There were no difficulties with issues related to our domestic development, and I think there won't be any. The only concern was occasionally raised by issues related to the regional situation: how the aggravation of the regional situation can adversely affect our citizens, our country and what needs to be done to protect our people and country from the risks?" Aliyev said.
According to him, dynamics of people's appeals is the key indicator of social and economic development. "In my first years as president, there were many appeals over issues related to infrastructure, a poor state of schools and hospitals, a lack of electricity, gas and water, a lack of roads, etc. But as these issues were gradually resolved, proposals became completely different, of course."
Today, looking back at the path we walked, we see that almost all infrastructure issues in Azerbaijan have been resolved. Over the past 15 years, we have commissioned more than 30 power plants and turned into an energy exporting country. The level of gasification in Azerbaijan will reach 95% by the end of this year. We have been commissioning more than 100,000 hectares of irrigated land every year recently, which gives a strong impetus to the development of agriculture. Over the past 15 years, including this year, 15,000 kilometers of roads, as well as over 3100 schools have been built in Azerbaijan - this is about 80% of all the schools. More than 600 medical institutions have been rebuilt or renovated.
I visit the regions very often, and at first, local leaders thought: he has come and given instructions, and no-one knows when he will come here again. But I went back in six months and then again six months later. So leaders on the ground realized that it was necessary to execute decisions and do their work not from one visit of the President to another, but on a daily basis. This type of live communication allows me the opportunity to keep my hand on the pulse, know what people are concerned about and, of course, monitor the implementation of decisions. I think that the main direction of our activity in the coming years will be to improve the system of governance - issues related to social justice, violations and bureaucratic lawlessness. This is exactly what public oversight I spoke about at the beginning of our conversation is needed for. This is mostly the reason behind my travels.
By the way, I must say that we are completing the third program of social and economic development of the regions of Azerbaijan this year. The first program was adopted in 2004. All of these programs, most of them are based on suggestions from the ground. In other words, these programs are not general in nature, they are not about slogans. They specifically state what will be done in each city and village and when. It is a graphic document of our activity for five years. We are about to complete the third program. It is already clear that we have significantly exceeded it. Therefore, I think that the most important task for the future will be to improve governance, increase the effectiveness of our work and create even better conditions for entrepreneurs and for diversifying the economy."
Ilham Aliyev recalled that 2018 has been declared a "Year of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic" in Azerbaijan. "We will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the democratic republic during the year, and this is the main event of the year. When we look back on history, we think that it was no coincidence that the first democratic republic in the Muslim world was created by the Azerbaijanis. It originates from the history and from the character of our people - freedom-loving, proud and progressive. After all, if we read the works of classical Azerbaijani literature, there are quite a few philosophical themes in their works connected precisely with the issues that are so relevant today.
The creation of the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan 100 years ago is a historic event for us. We feel a legitimate sense of pride for the fact that it was the Azerbaijani people who founded democracy in the East. The traditions of the democratic republic are alive today and modern Azerbaijan is its successor. A lot has been done in a short period of time to carry out political reforms. Suffice it to say that women were granted the right to vote much earlier than in many European countries.
Today, looking back, we certainly remember the founders of the first republic with gratitude. But we should also learn from what happened to it. It existed for a little less than two years and, of course, we should not forget these lessons. Therefore, we are doing everything to strengthen the independence, sovereignty, economic potential and international authority of Azerbaijan, so that our country is always independent not only in form but also in essence. I think that if the founders of the first democratic republic could see Azerbaijan today, they would be very proud.
Speaking about preserving cultural heritage the president of Azerbaijan said: "Our cultural heritage is a great asset. We are proud of our outstanding representatives. For centuries, Azerbaijan has been giving the world prominent thinkers, poets, scientists and public figures. These traditions are continued today. Of course, the luminaries of Azerbaijani culture are the people who glorify Azerbaijan. They are the cultural heritage of our people. And we are very sensitive about our cultural heritage.
The main task is that the younger generation of Azerbaijanis is also brought up on the example of our outstanding personalities, is educated in the spirit of patriotism and is attached to our culture. Of course, the younger generation should be open to the world, but they should also be attached to their historical and cultural roots. This is the guarantee of the progressive development of Azerbaijan and our society. We may have a strong economy, a strong army and a strong foreign policy, but we will not succeed in the absence of a foundation and roots. Therefore, the modern Azerbaijani state is based on deep cultural, national and moral roots and values, which we cherish, of course. We are certainly proud to have presented so many outstanding cultural figures to the world."