Introductory speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the meeting with the Directors of the "Crédit Commercial Bank de France" and representative of the business circles of France - Paris, December 04, 1995

Ladies and gentlemen!

My colleagues and I are very happy to be here with you, in one of the largest commercial banks in France. I mean that my visit to Paris, as well as my visit to London, is associated with the development of cooperation between Azerbaijan and foreign partners. The World Bank arranged a special meeting with the business community, investors and representatives of financial centers. This meeting is devoted to the development of the Azerbaijani economy. Tomorrow we begin the practical activity and I shall speak there. But you advanced the World Bank and invited me here today. I believe that these meetings do not contradict each other. The more meetings and financial relations we have with large, medium and commercial banks, the more we shall have chances to ensure the development of economic and financial relations.

If I start talking about Azerbaijan in order to make sure that you have the full picture, it will take too much time. But I have yet to hold meetings. Therefore, I shall be brief, but I will try to make sure that you have the complete picture of our country.

Azerbaijan is a country that gained its independence four years ago. In the past Azerbaijan was part of the Soviet Union. Of course, the whole economy of Azerbaijan was based on financial and economic system of socialism. After Azerbaijan gained independence, first of all it chose the path of independent, sovereign development and set the task of democratization of all areas - public, economic and, in one word all spheres. Above all, it emerged from the need of strengthening the economy of Azerbaijan, of ensuring the integration of the Azerbaijani economy and financial system into the global financial system. Economic reforms are carried out which are aimed at the application of the principles of the market economy, privatization of the state property, and all this is carried out in Azerbaijan at the moment. We have created conditions for the private entrepreneurship, and will continue to create more favorable conditions, we ensure the inviolability of private property, and we have a number of private enterprises. There are more than 1000 foreign and joint companies in Azerbaijan.

All this is reflected in the Constitution of Azerbaijan adopted on the 12th of November. This is the first Constitution of independent Azerbaijan. On November 12, we held the first parliamentary elections in Azerbaijan. Elections were held on a democratic basis and we formed our parliament. The Parliament has already begun to work. Our Constitution defines all the legislative bases for our future activities. All this creates favorable conditions for foreign investment.

This issue was the main topic of discussions at the conference in London organized by Adam Smith Institute. As I have said, this issue will be discussed tomorrow at a meeting organized by the World Bank. According to the privatization program, we create simplified conditions for the acquisition of property of foreign companies in Azerbaijan in order to stimulate foreign investment in Azerbaijan. These conditions are provided by our laws. We intend to give some large corporations under the control of foreign firms. We are creating an economic zone in Sumgait, in one of the largest cities of Azerbaijan. This program is done in accordance with the the UN development program. We believe that we have favourable opportunities for foreign investors and foreign companies in Azerbaijan.

You know that a year ago an agreement was signed between Azerbaijan State Oil Company and a consortium of the biggest multinational oil companies on the use of oil deposits in the Azerbaijani Sector of the Caspian Sea. This project is being implemented now. Recently another contract has been signed on the use of other major oil deposits in the Caspian Sea. In the nearest future we plan to sign several contracts for the development of oil deposits.

Azerbaijan has enormous industrial potential, mixed farming agriculture, favorable climate and rich natural resources. All this creates good opportunities for cooperation. We hope that this meeting could be a new step towards strengthening our cooperation.

Closing remarks

I noticed at the befinning and I want to reiterate that we have great potentials. For years, for decades, we lived under the socialist administration. All the property belonged to the state. Since 1985, the events of the past 10 years in the Soviet Union made it clear that the socialist form of rule is not good. Socialist form of economy did not stand the test. In all the republics of the former Soviet Union, now in the independent republics, economic reforms are carried out in order to make a transition to the market economy. Some countries have achieved much in this direction and some of them have fallen behind. But in all thecases this transition period caused a sharp decline in the production in all the republics of the former Soviet Union. Social situation deteriorated, wages decreased, people began to live poorly and financial conditions worsened. International and our experts have come to such a conclusion that the simplification of the economic system and the implementation of reforms are the way out of economic crisis, for the improvement of economy, for ensuring economic development and welfare of people and solution of all social problems.

That's what led us to you, to the International Monetary Fund. Earlier, no one knew about these banks in the Soviet Union. But now we want to establish economic relations with you. We hope that these relations will soon lead to an increase in production and improve the overall economy.

Thus, I invite you all to Azerbaijan. I charge the Prime Minister to review your proposals, and if necessary we shall have separate meetings. I still have three meetings, but the other questions I charge to the Prime Minister to look through your specific proposals and our capabilities. This is my first visit to London and Paris where I only deal with financial and economic issues. I invite you all to Azerbaijan.