Aaron in Azerbaijan

Just another blog about Azerbaijan.

Don’t Describe a Country as Loving “to Vibrate”

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“Azerbaijanis still love to drill and vibrate.”

I cannot imagine any article starting out with that line and still having any import whatsoever.  Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time Amanda Paul has alluded to Azerbaijanis’ purported affinity for vibrating, as she used the same line in an April 2010 article:

…the world’s first oil well was drilled in Baku in 1848. The country has not stopped vibrating ever since.

Ms. Paul makes a few good overarching points, such as Azerbaijan being a major energy exporter in the region, and a geographically important potential partner for many countries, including both Russia and the US.  That makes Azerbaijan a country that might have to exercise some diplomatic muscles.  But there isn’t much else going on here in the article, and I just wanted to point out two things that caught my eye as being a bit too glib for truth.

Azerbaijan pursues a smart policy of diversification. It has no intention of putting all its eggs in one basket, becoming over-dependent on one market. It wants to spread its energy around, keeping as many options on the table as possible. While Russia and, to a lesser extent, Iran remain important markets, Azerbaijan is increasingly beefing up its energy relations with the West and in particular the EU.

Uh…yes.  Congratulations, Azerbaijan, you have managed to attract more than one customer to your black gold.  That’s great, but I think we need to expand the definition of “diversification.”  If Azerbaijan were pursuing a “smart policy of diversification,” we’d instead be seeing investment in agricultural development, trade infrastructure, and finance.  And they might even try to improve their education and health services.  That’s not really happening.  I don’t think expanding your customer base for oil really counts as “diversification.”

Azerbaijan has done considerably better than many other energy-rich nations in making transparent its use of the funds. In 1999 the government established its State Oil Fund, which is responsible for the management of these revenues. So far substantial amounts of money have been used to solve the housing shortage created by the Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territories in the aftermath of the war over Nagorno-Karabakh, which saw some 1 million Azerbaijanis displaced.

Fair point on the transparency part, at least partially.  Azerbaijan managed to achieve awards for transparency for their oil fund, but they still have some questions lingering.  And look who they are competing against, too.  We’re talking about other extractive industry countries like Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Congo, Iraq, and Afghanistan.  Way to really set the bar, Azerbaijan.  She also makes note of the major housing shortages for Internally Displaced Persons as a result of the conflict with Armenia.  If you saw the housing these people have in Bərdə or outside of Bakı, you would probably never use the word “solve” in the same sentence as “housing shortage” in Azerbaijan.

The last thing I’ll not is that the article does make a good observation in that Azerbaijan isn’t really interested in becoming a part of NATO or the EU.  And they probably don’t want to be a part of the WTO, either.  While you could feasibly argue that Həydar, in his hey-day, probably would have angled for it, the Azerbaijan of today is not interested in that sort of integration.  There would probably be too heavy of demands levied on Azerbaijan to reduce corruption, increase transparency, and free the media for the current power players to handle in trying to become a part of those organizations.

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Written by Aaron

August 23, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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