Speech of President of the Republic of Azerbaijan at the opening ceremony of Baku-Khazar Vegetable Oil Factory- District of Nizami, Baku, December 29, 1997

Ladies and gentlemen!

Honorable guests!

I cordially congratulate you, all the people here in this hall on the occasion of the achievements of Intersun Holding as a result of the activities in Azerbaijan.

Today we are participating in the opening ceremony of the Margarine Plant, established in the past, but fully reconstructed and equipped with modern technology within the framework of the joint activities of Intersun Holding in Azerbaijan. It is a bright example of changes and renewal in production in Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani economy is under the multifaceted process of establishment of a new economic system. One of these facets is to modernize and renew the industrial spheres, to raise them to world standards, also to produce goods in accordance with the demands of society and market. In this regard, reconstructing the plant built in the 1960s in Azerbaijan and engaged only in the production of margarine and ensuring high quality oil products is appreciating. I appreciate it and consider it a significant event in our economic policy. I think that it is a useful example for the establishment of new industries in accordance with the requirements of the new period.

I congratulate you and all the collective of the factory on this occassion. I would like to express my hope that the promises you gave me today will be fulfilled. I am sure that the factory will reach the planned volume of production and produce a wide range of oil products.

Intersun Holding has multifaceted activities in Azerbaijan. The activities carried out by such a large company in several spheres of the private sector in Azerbaijan demonstrate normal conditions for bringing foreign companies and investment to Azerbaijan for fruitful business. It displays the results of our economic policy and measures pursued in the recent years. Free economy, initiative, market economy, entrepreneurship are no longer words, but new economic principles which have found their places in the modern life at Azerbaijan. I appreciate it. I think that the activities of Intersun Holding in this sphere are a successful result of our relevant steps. The activities of Intersun Holding also demonstrate the development of economic relations of Azerbaijan with Turkey and other countries through the private sector. This is our policy. This is the practical action we have implemented.

With its activities, Intersun Holding shows an example to overseas companies and opens ways for them to launch businesses and joint ventures in Azerbaijan. We have always supported and will support businesses founded on healthy principles. The economic policy implemented into life in Azerbaijan is based on the principles of the market economy. We have adopted laws, documents, decrees and orders necessary for the implementation of the economic policy. We have guaranteed freedom in business for foreign investors; Intersun Holding is a bright example. We are ready further to create necessary conditions for any investor willing to start business in Azerbaijan. I think that another important aspect of the activities of Intersun Holding is their clear ideas. It is the main condition in accordance with my principles. Along with the positive results in the recent economic transition of our country and similar republics, there are attempts of illegal business by some businessmen, including foreigners. Perhaps, some persons and foreign businessmen managed to make money illegally when we started to make economic conditions favorable. By doing so, they harmed our economy and society. We are aware of such cases. But now everyone should know that we shall not allow such things to happen. Our laws, decisions, requirements will ensure the elimination of such cases. Therefore, noting that the successes of Intersun Holding are, first of all, based on solid foundations, and being confident that it will continue so in future, I warn all the businessmen, both national and foreign, to give up all kinds of illegal ways of business.

Azerbaijan now offers favorable conditions for running business and earning money fairly and honestly and within the legal framework. These conditions should be used. There is no need to work illegally. Everyone can enjoy liberty. While looking around the mall built by Intersun Holding near Galaba Square, seeing shops and a wide range of goods there, talking to shop owners and feeling their mood, we understand how much public, economic and commercial life has changed in Azerbaijan. Such solid business benefits both entrepreneurs and population.

The information on the activities of Intersun Holding was provided here. These activities are very beneficial for our people. The company started with trade, then built a tea factory. They erected a huge mall near Galaba Square, demonstrate a good model of trade, got involved in oil production and construction. As they say here, they also pay special attention to the social sphere. By mentioning them, I would like to remind that these spheres are priorities for our country today. The Azerbaijanis like drinking tea. Perhaps no other nation consumes as much tea as the Azerbaijanis do. Tea is our favorite drink and food. It is appreciating that we already have this sector, which meets the needs of the country and export products. Of course, oil is a product necessary for each person. In the past very few people bought margarine and used it for preparing only a limited range of meals. Speaking honestly, wealthy people never used margarine as they considered the Azerbaijani milk butter the best. In general, the Azerbaijanis were very fond of butter. I remember that vegetable oil, especially olive oil imported to Azerbaijan in the 1970s were not bought and remained in stores. No one used to buy sunflower oil. Most people in Azerbaijan were not aware of bean oil. For example, some of our citizens, who had connections with the Central Asia informed that Uzbek pilaf was cooked with oil made of cotton seed. The surprised Azerbaijanis thought that pilaf must cooked with milk butter only. It was characteristic to our people. A margarine factory was operating in Azerbaijan and producing margarine; however, the rich would never buy margarine. The processes going on in the world and opening the doors introduced the world to Azerbaijan and Azerbaijan to the world. Our citizens already consume a wide range of vegetable oil. Vegetable oil and other oil products, including butter branded as margarine, are of high quality.

I remember the history of this plant. Then, the plant was not so well respected in the business, despite its hard-working employees. I am very glad that most of them still work in the plant. They can compare the product of that time with the current one. Satisfaction of a large portion of demand in oil, thanks to domestic production, is remarkable. Oil is an important product consumed by everyone. In the recent years, particularly since the expansion of our foreign trade, a wide range of oil products is imported from abroad. If we can produce them in Azerbaijan, manage to meet the domestic demand and even export our products, then it will be our economic achievement. The activity of Intersun Holding is obvious; it produces tea, oil. These are important products for the society. In Azerbaijan, tea and oil are as important as bread. I am very pleased that Intersun Holding is engaged in this production. I emphasize that in the recent years some businessmen in Azerbaijan together with their foreign counterparts have been taking care of only profit, not the demands of the soceity. That`s why, the production of alcohol begun to increase in Azerbaijan in the recent years. A few months ago I expressed my opinion about it, and I repeat it today, that there were not so many alcohol drinkers in Azerbaijan in the past. Why did people start drinking so much alcohol? This is harmful for us. In the event of abundance, prices also go down. Production of alcoholic beverages, namely, vodka violates the traditions of our people. There is no necessity to prove how alcoholic beverages, particularly, vodka is harmful for health. Alcohol has never been popular in Azerbaijan. It is also banned by our religion Islam. Some businessmen consider that they can make more money by producing vodka. The number of vodka workshops have increased. I am informed that some of our high-ranking officials patronize alcohol production and try to make profits. I called thme to stop it. I do not prohibit alcohol in Azerbaijan. I just ask my compatriots not to violate our national, religious and spiritual traditions inherited from our forefathers over centuries. Let`s be faithful to our traditions and prevent the popularity of alcohol. This is my general opinion. As for the production, vodka and alcoholic beverages should be used in accordance with the demand. Production of others should be prevented. Today I have given relevant instructions to the Cabinet of Ministers, respective ministries and committees. It should be prevented. In this respect, I appreciate the business of Intersun Holding; it does not produce alcoholic beverages. I hope that it will not be inolved in alcohol production in future. Oil, tea, sugar and other products are important products for the Azerbaijani people.

Today we got acquainted with the activities of the company and visited Sibank. Personally, I think that this is a significant event for Azerbaijan because we are developing the private sector. Private banks should operate in the country. However, there was a turbulent period in 1990-1991, when a lot of people established banks. We wondered whether there are also so many banks even in bigger countries as in Azerbaijan. In other words, it was a trend. Some believe that 3-4 people can get together, establish a bank and make profit. We witnessed its tragic results. There were Khayalbank, Vahidbank and others. Their owners collected money from people and escaped; it was a crime. We adopted a law on banks. Our National Bank is also instructed that all the banking issues are acceptable only within the framework of the adopted law. At the same time, we encourage and support the establishment of private banks. But they should be real banks. Sibank is an investment bank, which is another important aspect. It finances various projects in Azerbaijan. Today we got acquianted with the new building of the bank. The building, the bank employees and the established system created very good impressions on me. I appreciate it. Small banks, which do not suit our general strategy should disappear. We should give priority to the creation of solid, well-established, well-grounded banks with highly educated and skilled personnel and with necessary capital.

Intersun Holding has already occupied its position in Azerbaijan. I suppose that the activities of the companies will lead to broader projects. As President of Azerbaijan, I support every serious initiative and step. The birth of the private sector in accordance with contemporary realities is important for Azerbaijan. We implement the privatization program in all the spheres, including industry, commerce, transport, agriculture. Privatization in agriculture is executed on the principles of the law on the land reform. Private ownership and free use of land are ensured. This process is now underway. Animal husbandry is now completely privatized. Land ownership is also being consistently privatized. I am sure that these actions will produce positive results. The privatization program should be implemented ceaselessly in all other spheres. In this regard, 1998 is to be a very productive year. We shall always take necessary steps to do our part. A person, who wants to operate in the private sector, should also learn the new entrepreneurial rules and the experience of foreign private sector, because these are completely new for us.

When looking around the mall of Intersun Holding, we were both surprised and glad. A wide range of various products made all over the world is available in Azerbaijan. Seeing those goods, I and my colleagues remembered the past days. Most of the stores were empty 10-15 years ago. The so-called imported goods were hidden by the salespersons under the counter. Those goods were sold at higher prices or through acquaintances. The word “deficit” therefore, was widely spread then. I remember that the famous artist Arkady Raykin was joking that it was impossible even to live without deficit. Now there is no deficit or shortage. Everything is available. One can find goods of any sorts. It is the result of our policy in the sphere of free economy and free trade. Today I felt that the present shop owners differ from the shop owners of the past. Most of them used to work in stores in the past. I asked one of them how he felt to work then and now. He answered that it was impossible to compare. It was the same person, who worked in trade then and is working now again. Then he may steal something and sell at a higher price. But now he is free to sell his own goods at any cost he wants and make legal profit. It is lawful. But it was not lawful then. This is not the experience of one or two days. We have achieved a lot in the field of trade. Because trade has all been privatized in Azerbaijan. I can state with a great pleasure that the the sight of the most shops in Baku have completely changed. They are also full of goods inside. Their splendid appearance beautify the city and attract the buyers. This practice has already been mastered the field of trade. It should be widely spread in all other spheres, especially in the industrial spheres. Therefore, I think that the experience of Intersun Holding should be studied as it may be a useful example for many businessmen.

Today, in one of the last days of 1997, we got acquianted with a small result of our policy and activities carried out in th field of domestic economy. It is gratifying. I hope that we shall witness such cases more frequently in 1998. I repeat that the privatization program will be consistently conducted and our people will benefit from privatization. Another important aspect of what we saw today is that our citizens have got new jobs here. If each company coming to Azerbaijan or an emerging local company creates new jobs, it will be beneficial both for them and for our country. I was told that 97 percent of the employees of this company are the citizens of Azerbaijan. It is very appreciating. Most of them have been working here for a long time. They introduced themselves so when I got acquianted with the workshops. Now they work with new management, methods and technology. They have developed themselves and now work in trade, factory, plant and other places. I see that most of the employees are young, which makes me very happy. Of course, their wages are higher than the wages in the past. Such activites reduce the number of the unemployed and create new jobs. They contribute to the accomplishment of social tasks we face. I appreciate it. Mr. Goozal asked me either to rent or to privatize a sports complex in the vicinity of the plant.

Abdolbari Goozal: We want to use it for charity.

Heydar Aliyev: Who will own the building?

Abdolbari Goozal: Mr. President, we would like this building to be handed to our charity office. The head of the complex also consents to it.

Heydar Aliyev: Then the Prime Minister, mayor of Baku and Chairman of the State Property Committee should consider this issue and inform me. On this occasion, I would like to say that the sports complex was built in the 1970s. I remember that it was established as part of the Azerelectroterm plant. It was an exemplary sports complex. It was intensively used and had nice conditions. Unfortunately, the building has remained useless for several years. Someone possesses it, but does not use. Therefore, I think that the issue should be resolved on the basis of effective use of the complex. You can privatize it if you need it. But I would not understand if you use it while it is owned by someone else. You know, everything in the public sector will be privatized. You say that the head of the complex has approved your offer. Who is that person? He has the right onr the complex if he uses it. He has no right unless he exploits the complex. As it belongs to the state, we should determine what to do with it. We can either privatize the copmlex or use it other way. The head of the complex has no right onr it. And you say, both you and he have agreed.

I instruct the mayor power and the chairman of the State Property Committee to deal with this issue, while the Prime Minister will control this work. Overall, I appreciate that your company pays special attention to social issues, and I hope that these issues will be in the focus of attention also in future. I congratulate you on the occasion of your achievements and wish Intersun Holding further successes.

We are meeting on the eve of the New Year. We are to meet 1998, which is going to be a year of new successes for the Republic of Azerbaijan. We are also meeting on the eve of the Day of the all the Azerbaijanis of the world. On the ocassion of the Day of Solidarity and New Year, I congratulate all of you and wish you good health, happiness and successes.

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