From the speech of the President of Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev with the inhabitants of Vandam village in Qabala region - November 8, 2002

Village elders: You are welcome, mr. president! May You live long and have a sound health!

Heydar Aliyev: You know Ilham, don`t you?

Voices from places: Yes, he is in our hearts.

Heydar Aliyev: How are you? Is it the centre of the region, or it`s not?

Voices: No, it is the centre of Vandam village. It has 8 thousand population and comprises 7 villages.

Heydar Aliyev: 8 thousand? I thank you for coming here to meet me. I greet you all. I extend my best wishes and high esteem to you all.

Voices from places: Thank You very much, we are very grateful to You.

Heydar Aliyev: I see that Vandam is a big village with 8 thousand of population and at the same time, it is a place of magnificent nature. I used to come this way in the past too. You apparently know that at one time, I myself provided the opening of this road. You used to go to Baku by the other road before.

Voices from places: That`s right, we used to go to Baku by Aghdash and Goychay at that time.

Heydar Aliyev: You passed by Aghdash and Goychay to go to the capital. And that was a long way to cover, wasn`t it? We opened this road and built several bridges. It was the last period in 1981-1982. I remember well, it was requested to construct this road and I did it. Now the road to Baku is shortened, and on the other hand, it passes through such a nice wood. A man enjoys this beautiful nature where you live. People who live here are usually healthy both physically and mentally and they used to be labourer and selfless as well, didn`t they?

Village elders: I am above 90 years old.

Heydar Aliyev: Above 90 years old…, what are you saying, man?

Village elder: Yes, and my name is Souleyman, Amirov Souleyman Mikail oglu.

Heydar Aliyev: Bravo!

Souleyman Amirov: We all the way pray for You.

Heydar Aliyev: Have you got children?

Souleyman Amirov: Yes, I have a grandchild too, he is at the front line, he is a major in rank, and has 400-500 soldiers in his possession.

Heydar Aliyev: Oh, well done. Thank you very much that your grandchild is at the front line, and you are 90 year of age. May be I`ll come to live here, unless I live up to 90 years. What do you grow here, grain?

Voices: We grow grain and maize.

Heydar Aliev: Have you got cattle?

Voices: Yes, we have.

Heydar Aliyev: Kolkhoz and Sovkhoz are liquidated now. Formerly, in those days, when I worked, we remember, there were all these. Everything has changed now. We became independent and follow the market economy. We have ensured the property and distributed the land and the cattle among the peasants and gave freedom to people. He, who is capable to make use of it and works, his condition is all right, and who is not capable…

In the past, in that system, I myself worked for 25-30 years and was the leader in that system, it was like this: 15 persons worked and 15 persons lived on other`s account, didn`t they? Now it`s different. Everything now is given to people`s disposal. He, who makes use of it, lives well and he who can`t, lives badly. Concerning the regional centers and towns, it`s true that there is neither land nor cattle, there is unemployment there, and it is natural too. There are some reasons for it. However, we try to open work places in the regional centers and in the towns. It is not an easy task to do it. Because it is impossible to establish state enterprises today. And some of them were ruined and others don`t operate at a required level, since they were all accommodated to the soviet socialist system of economy. Now in the condition of market economy, we have contacted with the many other countries and the capitalist world. We have to live and work as they do, and we want to live like that. This is why, it`s evident that there are problems to overcome.

Asif Hashimov (head of the village municipal administration): Mr. President, I`ll have you know that there were 6 combine machines in our village before the reforms, now there are two more combines of foreign production. During the harvesting campaign, we face some difficulties, however, we take urgent measures to liquidate them. As far as I remember, during the kolkhoz period, the harvest time lasted till the end of August. Now it ends in the midst of July. Last year Qabala region produced 42 thousand tons of corn. This year we have twice and even thrice as much corn to meet the needs of Qabala region.

Heydar Aliyev: How much corn do you collect in Qabala?

Asif Hashimov: Last year it was 42 tons. But this year, due to continuous rainfalls and unfavorable climatic conditions, it was rather below than that. But this figure is more than the need of the population in Qabala region. We have no problem of bread here. The people would like to develop the work in the sphere of tourism here. We have good places for traveling and sightseeing. If some investments were made in those spheres, we would have eliminated our problems by ourselves. Anyway, those who compare the condition of our village of some 4-5 years ago and today, they see that there is improvement here for better day by day. Now to use the service of the mobile telephone in the village, You see an installation is assembled for this purpose. It is for the communication service of Azercell.

Heydar Aliyev: Is that for your mobile telephone? How many people have their mobile telephones there?

Asif Hashimov: About 400-500 people have mobile phones.

Heydar Aliyev: In one village only?

Voices: Yes.

Heydar Aliyev: People can possess mobile telephones if they have meansfor that. There are problems, and it is possible to solve them. As for instance, it is possible to solve the problem of television relaying. There are some difficulties in electric power for a few years. However, you just imagine, that at one time, - I am saying this for you to know that I have done them before while working in Azerbaijan - if we didn`t build big power stations, we would have no electric energy after the collapse of the Soviet Union and after our getting independence. We constructed them in those years and they are made of use now. But some of them are out of date, and some need to be repaired. Anyway, you get more or less electric energy. Do you pay for it?

Voices: Partly we do.

Heydar Aliyev: You should know that since part of the population over Azerbaijan don`t pay for gas, water and for electricity, the government is obliged to deliver 350 million dollars from the budget to produce the energy, and the gas - by the way we receive gas from Russia too - and other means to produce water. Our budget in the forthcoming year is intended to be 1 billion and 350 million dollars in total. Now you can just imagine that if we could have collected the payment for gas, electricity and water from the population, we would not spend 350 million dollars for that, but we could spend it to improve the welfare of the people. You should know that we produce the electric power and we can`t get the most part of its cost production. We receive natural gas from Russia too, distribute it, but can`t collect its payment. Such difficulties arise during the transition period. Is there gas in your village, or not?

Voices: The gas is in the centre of the region.

Heydar Aliyev: Have you got any question to ask me?

Voices: We wish You good health only, good luck to You. Thank You very much You came to meet us.

Heydar Aliyev: Well, excepting all the said, is there anything left in connection with government, or what`s your idea about the activity of the government?

Voices: It`s necessary to help us in tobacco-growing and cultivation.

Heydar Aliyev: There were tobacco factories in former days. They don`t produce cigarettes from this tobacco in quality now. Do you understand me? This is why, the situation is like that. By this I want to say that we are in desperate situation. But we shall settle this problem and you should know the reasons of the problem. What are the reasons for it? In the former soviet days, may be one percent of the people used to smoke foreign cigarette only. This is just for the notice, and you have to know the reasons. I am aware of it too. At one time, I myself organized it. When I was in the power in Azerbaijan in 1969, we could annually produce 8 thousand tons of tobacco only. And I was able to increase it up to 50 thousand tons. Do you get me? Much income was taken from this sphere. The profit coming from tobacco, could be gained in no sphere. We will do our best to solve these problems as well. In your turn, try to make maximum use of your opportunities, we will cope with this transition period and everything will be good for everyone. As I look at you and see that, touch wood, you are in good health, safe and sound and handsome. No one starves of hunger or thirsty.

Thank You very much, may You live long.

Thank You for your good will and desire. On my part, I`ll try to realize your prayers, live long and do a lot of work together with you afterwards. I thank you, good bye.

Voices: Mr. President, thank You, we wish You long years and good luck.

"Azerbaijan" newspaper, 10 November, 2002