Elshad Mammadov: "Azerbaijan could use the Soviet experience in restoration of liberated territories"
Soon after the liberation of the Azerbaijani territories from the occupation, Baku announced that the settlements of the region would be rebuilt based on the concept of "smart village" using the most modern technologies, which, in particular, would eliminate the difference between city and countryside in matters of service, earnings and receiving public services. In an interview with Vestnik Kavkaza, economist, professor of the Azerbaijan State Economic University UNEC Elshad Mammadov commented on the prospects for creating "smart villages" and implementing other projects in the liberated territories.
- Why was the concept of "smart village" chosen for the restoration of territories?
- This is a challenge of the time. The fact that settlements have to be rebuilt virtually from scratch even facilitates the task to some extent in terms of introducing innovations. The destruction of the existing infrastructure always creates problems for people, and here we are talking about building new infrastructure, planning jobs, employment of the population in these settlements. We must treat this issue systematically, combine different directions. On the one hand, of course, innovative projects should be developed (“smart city”, “smart village”), but at the same time the traditional activities of the rural population associated with the development of the agricultural sector should not be forgotten either.
If we want people to return to the liberated territories, we must provide them with work. Moreover, we need a qualified workforce that would work there. And these are questions for the education system, they are related to personnel training, which requires considerable investment. Who will bear these costs if not the state? Projects should rely on practical planning from the government and, at lower stages, indicative planning from the business side. But without the participation of the state in this process, it is impossible to achieve efficiency.
Urban and rural areas need to be combined with agricultural infrastructure projects. It is also necessary to develop animal husbandry and crop production. First, without this, it is impossible to achieve a mass resettlement of the population. Secondly, it is necessary to develop infrastructure in such a format that all categories of the population in terms of income level, in terms of qualifications could be provided with appropriate work.
- The experience of which countries can be used to reconstruct the liberated lands? During the recent visit of the President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko to Baku, the discussion was about the construction of agricultural towns. How do you look at the prospects in this area?
- Blind adoption of the experience of other countries often leads to serious problems. For us, someone else's experience may actually turn out to be not applicable. I think, first of all, we should rely on our own developments. Now, however, it is not fashionable to talk about it, but Azerbaijan has a unique experience of both construction and development of agriculture, and regional development in the 1930s, in the post-war years, when we actually restored our the economy. Moreover, what is especially important, the village was restored, the regions were restored.If you look at the state of the economy, agriculture after the First World War and what we came to in the 1930s-1960s, then this is a huge leap forward. This experience must be used and the distribution of productive forces must be planned.
By the way, Belarus, which you mentioned, is very successfully adopting and repeating the positive trends that were in the Soviet economy. Today we can see that Belarus is actually the only country in the post-Soviet space that has preserved the village in the format in which it should be, which has preserved the agro-industrial complex, which has preserved the spheres associated with the processing of raw materials.
Azerbaijan is a rich country in terms of natural resources. We received huge profits from the exploitation of natural resources, from natural rent, from the fact that our raw export products - oil, gas - are currency-intensive. But today, when it comes to the territories liberated from the occupiers, when in general we are talking about new challenges in the economy, we must focus on the processing and processing areas in industry and agriculture. For this, it is necessary to send labor to the regions. Labor resources must be provided with appropriate work. No business can cope with this without the state.
With regard to international experience, I think the experience of the countries of Southeast Asia, which in recent years have shown explosive indicators of economic growth, should be taken into account; this is China and its neighboring countries. There is a lot to learn from them. First of all, this is due to the fact that at all levels of government it is necessary to introduce responsibility for the decisions made. Only in this way will we be able to achieve an outstripping growth in innovations and investments. I believe that this very experience is applicable for our country in the territories liberated from occupation.