Azerbaijan, the ‘Land of Fire’, hydrocarbons and impressive growth
AZERBAIJAN, THE ‘LAND OF FIRE’ is a relative newcomer to world attention, and is in the process of breaking away from the shackles of the hydrocarbon and petrochemical industries. Looking to diversify its economy by investing heavily in ICT, tourism and the services industry, Azerbaijan is a rapidly developing upper middle income country that is perfectly situated to take full advantage of its geographical position on the Caspian Sea. At the new crossroads of East and West, with undoubted natural and human resources, the nation built by the Aliyev family has become not only a regional power, but also an international player of positive repute.
The year 2014 marked the 20th anniversary celebrations of signing the ‘Contract of the Century’ for the Caspian Sea powerhouse. The Shah Deniz gas field kick-started the modern era of hydrocarbon cash flow for Azerbaijan, and the revenue it has generated over its lifetime has helped to turn the country into a middle income nation, with eyes on developing the country from the inside, as well as investing profits from their oil and gas revenue in other countries.
Famed for its tolerance and hospitality, Azerbaijan stands as a beacon for integration of religious minorities in a society that has undergone serious change in its economy, tripling in size over the past decade. But with this new growth comes new challenges for the leadership, with increased interest in corporate governance, the banking sector and the mobile telephony sectors which are primed for investment from international funds and backers, but also wary of the past image of corruption still tainting the country’s international standing.