Azerbaijan Is Rich. Now It Wants to Be Famous.

Baku - Azerbaijan 2012(…..) Few countries have come as far in mastering the art of geopolitics as Azerbaijan. After being occupied by Cyrus the Great, Alexander the Great, the Seljuks, Mongols, Persians, the Russians, the Ottomans and, finally, Soviets, Azerbaijan, which achieved its independence in 1991, has cultivated few relationships with US, many European countries, deepened relations with Russia and key Central Asian “stans”. These days, Azerbaijan, which is overwhelmingly Muslim, buys advanced weapons systems from Israel in return for oil. A new member of United Nations Security Council, the country sided with the United States against Russia last year on a resolution condemning Syria. “This is a very small country on a very significant piece of real estate,” says Matthew Bryza, former U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan. “Azerbaijan pursues a very realpolitik policy.” In the old days, they came for geography (Azerbaijan is perched on Caspian). About century ago, they started coming for oil. Then, after Soviet Union collapsed, energy sector became a source of enormous wealth. Now Azerbaijan is trying to take an advantage of that wealth. As such, Avesta’s sales and marketing team recently produced a gleaming 101-page coffee-table book in a gilded box promoting Khazar Islands. It features photographs of men in Italian suits, women with pouty faces; everyone drinks wine and is on a cigarette boat or in a Mercedes convertible. There’s also a video that shows computer renderings of Khazar Islands in not-too-distant future. The video lasts 5 minutes 6 seconds and includes an image of a make-believe skyline at night and another of Ibrahimov on a cellphone in front of a private jet, even though, conceded, he doesn’t own one. 2 things about the video are striking. First, there isn’t any information about asking prices, square footage, move-in dates, why anyone would want to live in Baku. And then there’s the soundtrack, which is a synthesized blast of violins, harps, horns and snare drums that makes you feel as if you’re riding a stallion in the desert in the 1980s. The day before my three-hour flight from Moscow to Baku last spring, Avesta’s sales and marketing director at the time, Kenan Guluzade, flew to the Russian capital to hand-deliver book and DVD to me at a Starbucks. Guluzade said he had to be in Russia anyway, he was also worried that, as a journalist, I might not get into Azerbaijan. Guluzade came with his assistant and his father, who sported an elegant, silk scarf and a tailored jacket. Guluzade spoke quickly, in English. “It’s really nice to feel attention to our construction project,” he said, and then he handed me a fancy shopping bag with the DVD and the book. His father sipped a latte. “The new Baku is stunning,” his father said. Then Guluzade said: “This is true. It’s amazing what is happening.” When I arrived in Baku, first of the Khazar Islands had already been plunked down, and first few apartment buildings were going up. The entrance featured a menacing, falconlike archway. Boulevards and traffic circles had been paved, and there were long strips of palm trees, “Ibrahimov loves palm trees,” Nigar Huseynli, Ibrahimov’s assistant, said, and everywhere there seemed to be mounds of earth and retaining walls and the concrete outlines of future cineplexes and shopping malls. Amrahov Hasrat, who was chief engineer at the Khazar Islands, told me that 200 trucks brought in rocks every day from a bluff eight miles away. “We are destroying the mountain,” Hasrat said, pointing off into the distance in the direction of a hill, “and taking the rocks back to the sea to build the artificial islands” (…..)



Acerca de ignaciocovelo
Consultor Internacional

3 Responses to Azerbaijan Is Rich. Now It Wants to Be Famous.

  1. Professor Uziel Nogueira says: Mr. Ibrahim Ibrahimov fascinating story of building a new city in oil rich Azerbaijan reveals two important facets of a brave new world of the 21st century. First, the engine of world growth is moving rapidly from the aging, highly indebted industrial North Atlantic G-7 economies to Asia-Pacific and resource rich countries. The group of emerging dynamic economies known as BRICS is a good example of this new global phenomena. As Willie Sutton would say: That’s Where the Money Is. It remains to be seen whether the gross income distribution inequality existent in those countries can be adequately addressed by the local elites. Second, North Atlantic G-7 economies have reached apogee in wealth generation and job creation. From now on, the political process will be under stress by two opposite forces. A large middle class fighting to preserve a welfare state while the rich 1% attempting to keep control of fewer profitable business activities. The young generation faces a grim job market. As a consequence of the changes mentioned above, immigration may take a reverse trend. Increasingly in numbers, ambitious, well educated young people from Europe and North America will seek jobs and business opportunities in dynamic emerging economies such as Azerbaijan, mentioned in this piece. In conclusion, the world of the 20th century has changed for good.

  2. HT: The prediction of large numbers of well-educated Americans seeking jobs in an oil backwater like Azerbaijan sounds about as far-fetched as this guy’s fantasy of turning Baku into Dubai. This comment is an excellent example of what they call recency bias. He looks at the most recent few years, which have been characterized by strong worldwide commodity prices and recessions/high unemployment in developed countries, and extrapolates that out to a “brave new 21st century” where natural resource-based economies continue to do well and G-7 employment and growth permanently stay at 2009-2011 levels. Azerbaijan is hardly a “dynamic” economy. It’s an oil state. And that’s a problem, because a lot of these “aging, highly indebted” industrial economies are sitting on immense natural resources that they are now tapping into thanks to the last decade’s run-up in commodity prices. The US will become the world’s #1 oil producer this year and will remain the world’s #1 gas producer, thanks to new drilling technologies. China may have even larger natural gas reserves than the US. Azerbaijan would be wise to invest its oil money in education and diversification of its economic base rather then spending it on luxury hotels and fake palm trees.

  3. Jeffrey: HT, the government of Azerbaijan spends more money per capita on infrastructure and services that benefit the general population than any other government in the world today. They do it because they have the resources. But what a private citizen chooses to invest in has nothing to do with what the leadership of Azerbaijan does with the resources available thanks to the discovery of large oil and gas deposits. One benefit of large scale investment in construction is massive job creation and secondary enterprises which will support the new city and provide vital services to those who choose to live there. The private sector doesn’t normally finance the public sphere; that’s the purview of government. Go to Azerbaijan and see for yourself what they have already achieved in 22 years of independence. It is unprecedented.


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