I was originally working on an article about the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy of Azerbaijan, but with the recent events that took place in my country, it is important for me to give an immediate reaction and call for justice.
During the 18 years of my early university life and my following business career in Turkey, being a self-grown professional consultant and entrepreneur businessman in an intense industry, I can deeply feel how Turkey and other places close by are sincerely concerned about the problems of Azerbaijan and the Armenian occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Recently Armenia spread its aggression to the Azerbaijan-Georgia borders.
While the number of our military martyrs is increasing, unfortunately, we are also facing the loss of civilians, whose houses are attacked and are under continuous gunfire and rocket fire.
If we geographically analyze the position of Tovuz city, which is under the Armenian attacks, we see that it has nothing to do with the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Tovuz is very close to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum natural gas pipelines. These pipelines are the opening gates of Azerbaijan that bring our oil and natural gas to Turkey, Europe and other global markets.
Call for justice
Armenia shamelessly keeps Nagorno-Karabakh and many territories of Azerbaijan under occupation, but the entire world is not reacting to this aggression at the expected level. Together, with the correct reaction of Turkish parliamentarians and the support of the Turkish nation, I am sure that this situation shall be brought before the international authorities, where I believe our pain would find its deserved justice and will stop new murders. The strategic importance and seriousness of the case cannot be understood adequately if we are not be able to prove the deep pain and threat faced by Azerbaijan to the international community.
Using this opportunity, I would like to personally thank President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the people of the Republic of Turkey for the support and friendship we get from our loyal friend.
With the tragedy described above, I wish to draw you a picture of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the social life and economy of Azerbaijan. The first official case of the coronavirus in our country was declared on Feb. 28, 2020. Since that date, we have daily faced rising numbers of infected citizens.
By maintaining close cooperation with the World Health Organization (WHO), our government made right and timely decisions to prevent this pandemic situation from turning into a national crisis. All health institutions of our country were urgently alarmed, and necessary investments were made to support our community in its resistance against the virus. New factories for personal hygiene products and facial masks have begun production. In nearly every city in the country, new hospitals dedicated to treating this virus have been established. So there has been no deficit in masks or personal hygiene products, and fortunately we did not face any overloading in our hospitals.
Thanks to such preventive steps, the number of deaths is far below the global average, and recently we have received positive news on the increasing number of recovered patients.
In addition to the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, a sharp decline in oil prices weakened the global economy. Together with oil and oil-related business branches, the areas of service, hospitality, tourism and aviation throughout the globe sank into a deep recession. Almost every country whose economy depends on those areas of business was affected severely by the crisis. Along with Turkey, the European Union, the U.S. and the governments of almost every country in the world united against the pandemic. However, the calls for people to stay home and self-quarantine brought the global economy to historic lows.
For the success of national economic growth and industry, we all have to look much farther and choose the right paths that would lead us to a healthy recovery from such a slowdown. In this context, we need to develop areas that face the highest demand during the pandemic.
Agriculture, which is a mandatory sector in which farmers must daily tend to their crops, is one of the sectors that will be least affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike the other EU countries, Azerbaijan as well as Turkey is not on the list of countries that receive seasonal labor support for agriculture, so the recent crisis passed by on the lowest level in this branch of business.
While oil and oil-related industries were the first to be affected by the COVID-19 crisis, the fact that since 2008, Azerbaijan has been enacting an industrial transition to decrease its dependence on oil helped minimize the impact of this new crisis on our state.
As an example, I can present the experience of our country’s largest non-oil industrial group, Sumgayit Technological Parque (STP). With its 12 factories and more than 2,500 employees, a serious saving program is being implemented here. New products and markets were developed and successfully presented. But the most important part is that even the lowest-ranking employees’ ideas to improve the company’s workflow were analyzed and implemented in the most technical way possible. Each department head was involved in a management mechanism. This attitude brought much flexibility and a fast reaction to the market’s needs.
A lack of capacities was analyzed, unused machinery was brought back into service, and the company could recover from the crisis by using this moment as a positive opportunity. The suggestions of aluminum factory workers to sort through the raw material that was separated as scrap brought a very positive result. We obtained 40% of useful material, and the remaining scrap was successfully sold to a third party. Such steps helped us to successfully deliver an order for our Egyptian customer.
Therefore, each penny that we earn is extremely valuable. We may not have given attention to this during the normal routine workflow. But now we understand how we can achieve critical savings even from very simple things.
During the quarantine period, for the first time in Azerbaijan, we could successfully export aluminum profiles to Kazakhstan. As a new market, we expect to start exporting similar products to Ukraine very soon.
It is possible to reproduce similar cases in each of our various sectors.
In such a difficult time, it is important for companies to focus on entering new and profitable markets, and as a result of research and development and product development activities to develop and present strategic new products.
The most important thing is to maintain confidence and increase sincere teamwork in the company. Each employee should unite with the aim of economic recovery and give their efforts to support their company in the most effective way. The motivation of the team has great importance here, and gifted managers shall show their real proficiency.
With great satisfaction, we have achieved positive results from Azerbaijani-Turkish cooperation during such an unexpected global crisis. Despite all the negative impacts that the crisis brought to both countries, considerable steps were made on the geopolitical level. These steps will support the strengthening of each economy in the medium- and long-term.
Azerbaijan will always give the necessary support to contribute to the success of our elder brother.
*High-ranked professional manager and business entrepreneur in Azerbaijan