What’s the Economic Story, Azerbaijan?
If you want to talk about the current economic story of Azerbaijan, this is the place to go: Center for Economic and Social Development. It’s an NGO out of Baku that focuses on Azerbaijan’s economy and has many affiliations across the country. On that page that I linked to, about half-way down the page, you can see where they mention that they work with Peace Corps volunteers (!) where they discuss they’re volunteer involvement.
To that end, we met with the Chairman of the CESD, Vugar, and he was a fantastic dude. He, and his colleagues at the Center, are American-trained economists who are committed to tellingthe economic story, transparency, and giving good economic advice to the government (whether they follow it or not!). Over the course of the discussion, we talked about the hot-button issues in Azerbaijan: 1) Oil (of course) 2) Corruption and Bribery 3) the NGO sector 4) Non-oil sector (very small) 5) Future directions for Azerbaijan.
The basic nuts and bolts are: Oil is more than 70% of the economy and, despite laws being passed to manage the oil wealth appropriately, it is not being managed appropriately. Inflation and rising cost-of-living are causing major problems for the middle-class folks in Azerbaijan (exacerbated by poor management of the oil resources). Bribes are a way of life in Azerbaijan. NGOs are not very strong in Azerbaijan. And the non-oil sector does not have a whole lot of prospects right now. I’ll go into these a little more in the posts going forward.