National Geographic Covers Trains, Azerbaijan
As a relatively frequent train passenger here, I’m always interested in developments in the railway. I’m a big fan of improving the trains here, as they probably haven’t been touched since Soviet times. There’s a program starting over the next four years to ramp up the railway system that is fairly exciting, though I probably won’t be here to reap the benefits. There’s also this recent feature in the August edition of National Geographic. I’m a little late getting to this, but it makes for a good read. Notice the particular emphasis on Azerbaijan now being able to fund it’s share of the rail development itself.
When the oil spigot turned on in 2005, briefly making Azerbaijan the world’s fastest growing economy, the hesitance of international financiers no longer mattered. Azerbaijan can now afford its own portion of the railroad, upgrading 313 miles of outdated lines to the Georgian border. It is also loaning Georgia a few hundred million dollars for its section on neighborly terms—25 years at one percent annually. Magnanimity is a pleasure of abundance.
That’s a huge shift in just a few years. Also enjoy how the corruption, not explicitly mentioned in the article, keeps capable workers from participating in the project. Our friend Grigoriy is probably losing a potential job to someone who’s less qualified but has either a brother to pull strings or enough money to buy the job. I could be wrong, but that’s usually how it works here when demand for a job is high.
Also, while the article talks about the opening of the rail system leading to a possible opening of the North Caucasus to freethinkers, I’m personally hoping that that works, too, in Azerbaijan. This is a place where a lot of great potential is being held back. Business development, agricultural development, social media development; all of these could spring forth if the country would focus on that instead of building an untouchable island resort in the bay off of Baku, putting up lavish hotels that nobody uses, and sporting luxury shopping experiences for a city that will never have a market for that.
I guess there are probably a lot of people pinning hopes on the development of this train route. And I’m also guessing that most of those hopes are unreachable. Whatever the case, we’ve finally got an article with Azerbaijan in National Geographic.