[Nagorno Karabakh] [Role of Islam] [Corruption] [Oil Revenues] [Civil Liberties] [Relations with the West] [Social Welfare] [Government Transparency]
 Policy Guide Print this page
Social Welfare

More than 40 percent of Azerbaijan’s population lives in poverty. Many argue that the billions of dollars in oil revenue expected to flow into state coffers over the next several years could help reverse that situation. The question for candidate members of parliament is how best to make use of this wealth, and whether the onus is on the state to lead the way.

Pro-Government: Yeni Azerbaijan Party (YAP):

Though a center-right party, YAP has supported increasing pensions, the minimum wage and other social programs. However, the party does not support spending money from the State Oil Fund on social welfare programs, though does advocate it for solving Internally Displaced Persons’ problems. In 2006, YAP will consider new pension legislation and a law to reimburse Soviet-era bank account holders for savings lost after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Opposition: Azadlig (Freedom) Bloc:

The Azadlig bloc claims that social welfare concerns are at the center of its program for change. “ The nation is divided between those who rob the country and those who suffer from the robbers,” says Fakhmin Hajiyev, deputy head of Azadlig Bloc’s campaign. “Our slogan is ‘One state – one nation.’” Azadlig has a poverty reduction program which focuses on multiple areas. The bloc advocates reducing VAT tax to 15 percent from 18 percent. Investments made for higher education, the development of local production centers and the construction of houses should not be taxed, it argues. Aid dispensation programs for the unemployed, economically disadvantaged, unwed mothers, invalids from the Nagorno Karabakh War, among others, should be strictly regulated, the bloc argues, to prevent them from becoming breeding grounds for corruption and excessive bureaucracy.

Opposition: Yeni Siyasat (YeS – New Policy) Bloc:

The YeS bloc demands more programs from the government that focus on social welfare needs. The increase in oil revenues can provide the necessary money for these programs. Taxes should also be reduced, the party argues, and the tax system revamped to encourage the development of small and medium-sized businesses.

Opposition: Liberal Party of Azerbaijan (LPA):

The LPA is not for a social welfare state, says Deputy Chairman Avaz Temirkhan. The party advocates a market economy that does not violate the norms of social justice, however. The LPA advocates anti-monopoly measures and a state regulation of prices in sectors of the economy where there are natural monopolies such as electricity distribution and railways. The party is also against bureaucratic interference with business. Sixty percent of Azerbaijan’s economy is in the black market, the party claims. LPA is for granting a financial amnesty to those individuals who have profited from the black market and corruption if they will invest their money legally into Azerbaijan’s economy. “This will provide for reconciliation” between black marketers and the rest of society, says Temirkhan.

Candidate: Ilgar Mammadov, Independent
Constituency: # 8, First Binagadi
Location: Baku suburb

If individual income taxes supply the majority of state budget revenue, the government would be assured of a more efficient revenue stream, Mammadov argues. A flat tax rate of 12-15 percent and improved enforcement of the tax law is essential for that, however. At the same time, the candidate adds, revenues derived from the VAT should decline. “Once people feel that they pay taxes they become more engaged in public affairs. Thus, the increasing role of individual income tax would both promote payment of taxes and compliance with tax regulations, and strengthen civic participation and activism.”

Candidate: Chingiz Mammadov, Independent
Constituency: # 38, Second Nizami
Location: Ganja, Azerbaijan’s second largest city (pop: 330,000)

“Strong government programs aimed at the defense of the most vulnerable parts of society – pensioners, the unemployed, disabled people, orphans – must be implemented,” says Chingiz Mammadov. “Only people whose needs are met and protected can be good citizens! Thanks to oil revenues, the government now has enough money to cover all these needs.”

AZERBAIJAN: ELECTIONS 2005 is a production of EurasiaNet.org with funding provided by the Open Society Institute.
Copyright © 2005 EurasiaNet.org.