The speech of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Heydar Aliyev at the opening ceremony of the new building of the International Bank in Baku - March 19, 1996

Putting into operation a new and modern building of the bank is a landmark event in our country and in the city of Baku. Before banking in Azerbaijan was not the same as it is today. Despite of the fact there is a building of the bank in Azerbaijan which was built in those days. This building is very well known in Baku. At that time the building which was located in the center of the city was really attractive. Indeed there are buildings of the banks that were built at the beginning of the century. For example, I remember, there was a building of "Insaat Bank" and another building in the center of the city which were given to Azerittifag. As Imentioned several bank buildings were built at the beginning of the century in Azerbaijan. But those buildings were used for other purposes. Therefore, to meet the modern requirements is a landmark event.

I could not keep an eye on the outer side of the building, but I looked inside and saw here the result of high-quality work. This is a very joyful moment. Because when we create something new, we must create it so that it will meet current and future requirements, and it will be an example to our other cases.

From this point of view, I have no doubt that the processes taking place in our country and in the economy of our country in the near future will lead to construction of new buildings in Azerbaijan. Therefore, the more modern buildings are constructed with architectural quality, the better they fit and decorate the appearance of our city. Baku is a beautiful city. In the past and in the last 20, 30, 40 years a lot of beautiful buildings were constructed here. But in recent years, due to the hard socio-economic situation of our country, construction works has temporarily suspended. But Baku will develop in future. Every new building built in our city has to decorate and make Baku the city of landmarks.

I wanted to say this idea long ago. Unfortunately, in recent years, roughly since 1985, the architectural order of Baku has been distorted. Because of the different facilities installed in older buildings, because of the buildings constructed in different parts of the city by individuals and private companies or because of the replacement of windows and balconies of old buildings, the buildings have lost a unique architectural image. It concerns me so much. As a man, a citizen, a resident of Baku city, as well as a person who made efforts in the construction of buildings in Baku, I am very sensitive to every change in every street. If the change is positive, then it pleases me. But unfortunately, in most cases, particularly changes in the last 4-5 years are of negative character. They damage the view of Baku. We must fight against it.

Chief architect of Baku should deal with these issues with great responsibility. I understand that the order has been slightly violated. But if someone for the sake of something or because of being a friend of someone violates the architectural appearance of Baku, he commits a great crime. There are many beautiful buildings in Baku. The architects of those buildings built balconies there. But the people construct different installations and build new balconies. Those constructions do not only spoil the general architectural view of our city but also they are dangerous.

I once lived in a beautiful house on Azerbaijan Avenue. After my arrival in Baku, I went and looked at the yard of the house and I was horrified. Inner and outer sides of the building were in a very beautiful architectural style. But each has built a balcony for himself and it spoiled and damaged the entire building. Earlier it was called the building manager and some people give him/her money and engage in illegal business. It is a shame.

You know, every person can change his clothes as he wishes, it is possible. Because then he can throw them afterwards. But it's building. 8-9 storied building will not collapse, but if everyone builds window and balconies according to his taste, all the beauty of the city disappears.

I could speak much about this, but we do not have enough time. I'll talk about it at meetings with the city community. You know, everyone should love the city, he must choose the general interests of the city with their personal benefits, and he must protect the beauty of the city. If you are building a balcony, which distorts the beauty, architecture and general appearance of the city, and in this illegal way doing yourself comfortable, you cause great harm to the city. Is it possible?

What fascinates us in the West? We all were, and have seen large and beautiful cities of the West. People protect the buildings. You can not see anything else besides flowers on the balconies and windows. But on our balconies there are no flowers, I said this 20 years ago, that is, it is not new, everyone uses the building as he wants. Heads of districts, the chief architect of the city and other people responsible for this get used to it. Everyone does what he wants. The city has turned into anarchy.

There are heads of the districts of the city, and it seems every district also has its own architect. And what is this architect for? Is he to take money from people and tarnish the architectural appearance of the city? Or he is to improve the architectural level of the district? So I warn you and demand to put an end to such negative things, which spoil our city. I think you have to destroy these facilities.

I remember, I have fought against such cases. In 1970s there was a building constructed in Basin Street, and each had a balcony built for himself in the courtyard of the building. I just expressed my opinion that the constructions were illegal and they should be destroyed. Then some saboteurs demolished these buildings with axes. Everybody said that it was the order of Heydar Aliyev. And some have reached to stir sabotage. I'm not afraid of anything, and I am not concerned about it. I reiterate, features, quality and architectural appearance of Baku is the most important to me. But I have met with cases of sabotage, therefore, I warn everybody not to go to such subversive way.

Architectural order must be established in the city. Chief architect, architectural management, architects of the districts and Mayor are responsible for this matter, they should seriously pursue the case. It has been already a year that I want to express these thoughts, today I have just found the right moment to speak about. I am quite frank, every time when I go to meetings and see such incidents my mood spoils for 2-3 days. Because, I consider every stone, street and building of our city native. If a person loves his nation, homeland and our capital Baku, he must live with such feelings. Everyone creates his own conveniences that can not even be considered cultural, and thus they spoil the architectural appearance of the city. We must put an end to this.

Compared with those negative cases, the construction of such a new building is very positive, which gives the city beauty. This place is one of the focal points of the city. This beauty deserves appreciation. The creators of this building did a great job. In this regard, I congratulate leaders of the city, leaders of the International Bank and the leaders of the Turkish company who did construction works.

It is a good building. I say again, I could not see everywhere and every detail. but from what I saw, I got the impression that it is a good building- it is beautiful, usable, visible and there are good conditions for work. I congratulate you. One of the peculiarities of the construction is that this is the result of cooperation between Azerbaijan and Turkey. I have repeatedly said that let entrepreneurs from abroad, especially from neighbouring Turkey do business here. One of these entrepreneurs is the head of the company who built this building. They did a great job. This proves once again that our republic may cooperate with the Turkish Republic and with its private companies. I approve it. I have repeatedly said and say that there are conditions for such useful things in Azerbaijan and this opportunity must be used.

Now I want to say a few words about the responsibilities of this bank. This bank is a very important institution in our republic. Generally, the bank of each country is a reliable part of its economy and finance. In the past, we have long lived in a socialist regime and could not feel the importance of banks. Because, at that time, the bank worked with the laws and orders of the state, and perhaps because of this not all conceived its importance. An ordinary citizen was never able to know what the bank does. Cashiers used to provide salaries, and sometimes they seized money from salaries. In any case, people got money, but did not even know where the bank was located.

In the past, the main link between people and the banks was connected to savings: People put their money as a deposit and in return they were given 2 per cent or nothing. That is, our citizens were not familiar with the banking system. But our citizens must be in close relationship with it. The International Bank has a great responsibility to serve the economy and to the citizens of our republic.

I want to express my hope that the staff of the International Bank who obtained the building where there are favorable conditions to work well should continue to work productively. What should be its work? I do not want to go into details; it is the internal affairs of the bank. You know this better than me. But I want to talk about the need to ensure the improvement of the banking system. Reforms to improve the banking system is one of the main challenges in implementing economic reforms and in developing our republic along the road of the market economy.

The current banking system of Azerbaijan should meet current and future requirements. Thus we must carry out serious reforms in this area. I put these duties to the National Bank, International Bank, other banks and the Cabinet of Ministers. I demand to make various proposals and on the basis of these proposals we will be able to implement reforms. From this standpoint, the International Bank is of particular importance. In comparison with other banks, the International Bank has close ties with great banks of the globe. Therefore it can do much to improve the banking system in the country. I expect that from the staff of the International Bank. I hope you will fulfill these responsibilities.

Unfortunately, the banking system of our Republic has negative cases such as appropriation of benefits, giving illegal loans or providing loans knowing that a person taking a loan will not be able to return it, and thus exacerbate the already difficult financial system. Our special investigative authorities investigate such cases. All the people who have committed crimes in this area will be brought to justice. Unfortunately, there has been chaos in this area in recent years. Different people used the financial and credit capacity of the state for their own purposes and appropriated the money. Therefore, our financial situation is difficult. We can not give people their salaries or it is difficult for us to raise their salaries. Sometimes the fraudster liaises with the bank, takes credit, does something and then disappears. Unfortunately, there are crooks, thieves among us who do harm to our lives. If our banking, financial professionals are faithful to their work, dignity, conduct their affairs and not make a mistake and do not abuse their positions, then these people will not be able to carry out evil plans. Basically it happens because these crooks, thieves operate together with bank employees. Both sides take profits. One gives a credit and takes a portion of the credit himself. And what he does when the loan is not returned? That's when the problems begin. A person who gives the credit and he who does not return it will be punished.

International Bank is also to be blamed for this. You know it. Investigative authorities are investigating and informing us that there were given loans but they were not returned. Ten days ago, Chief Prosecutor of the Republic told me that they were able to return part of the loan and try to return the remaining part. I gave an order and tell you that it would be better if these credits are returned soon, and thus you can soften your situation. But if not, many people will be severely punished. Therefore I warn bank employees, especially workers of the International Bank.

Our Prime Minister writes a letter to spend 1, 2, 3 million dollars and I think whether we can give this money or not. But I hear that 3 million dollars spent there, 5 million here. Who gives the money? International Bank. And now chase after them to return these benefits. Maybe I was going to utter these words these days. Today you gave me an opportunity, I say all this and demand that the leaders of the International Bank, National Bank, Ministry of Finance and heads of other banks to resolve these problems soon. These loans must be returned, and in future banks must act within the law. Our foreign exchange capabilities are limited. This is due to difficulties in the economy of our republic. It has its own reasons. In such circumstances, every dollar and penny is important to us. But you give credit in the amount of hundred thousand dollars, or millions, then I mobilized prosecutors to look for the man who took the credit, where he is, and when he is able to return the money. They are happy to inform me that they could return 2-3 million. Evidently a great job has been done. We give the money to bad people with our own hands, and then spend lots of time to get it back. Who is to be blamed? Bank employees, people who support them are to be blamed for this. Unfortunately, people in high positions are involved in these dirty actions.

I hope that what I said clarifies everything. I demand to put an end to such cases. Director of the International Bank is a young professional, I personally trust him, and we appointed him a director of a large financial institution. Head and all the staff of the International Bank should be aware of this. Everyone should know that you are responsible. The majority of your employees are young. They have received a good education, know finance. All this is very good. I want to express my appreciation. In addition to all this, every bank employee must have high morals and should know that a bank employee must work more accurately and honestly, than the employees of other spheres.

For many years, there is a view in the world that bank employees are very demanding and as accurate as they can not do something negative. There is general opinion about bank workers. It is natural and not unreasonable. Certainly there is a tradition in banking work in the world. In the past, there were such honest people who worked in our banks for many years. But unfortunately, in recent years, most people are so spoiled, that one can not understand who is honest and who is not. I express my satisfaction for the positive qualities of your staff. But honesty, truthfulness, morality, to protect our finance and the currency are primary duties and these requirements stand in the first place for all of us.

I congratulate you and all who gathered on the occasion of this event. I want to express my confidence that International Bank will not allow the mistakes it has made so far. Negative cases will be brought to an end and inside of these beautiful walls, in these beautiful offices, in the workplace high moral cases will be done. It will all be directed towards the development of financial opportunities and the economy of Azerbaijan, and will meet the demand of citizens of our republic with regard to these problems. And all this will help the development of the market economy and the development of economic reforms in Azerbaijan.

"Azerbaijan" newspaper, March 20, 1996