Author: Namig MAYILOV Baku
The First Vice-President of Azerbaijan Mehriban Aliyeva held her first meeting with government officials. As promised immediately after the appointment, she went hard for solving the problems of socially vulnerable layers of the population.
However, this mission is not new for the First Vice-President. She has been dealing with social problems since the entire period of her tenure as the President of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. From now one, she will continue this work at the state level. In particular, the first meeting chaired by M. Aliyeva as the First Vice-President of Azerbaijan was dedicated to improving the living conditions of internally displaced persons temporarily housed in hostels and other public buildings in the cities of Baku and Sumgayit.
"Despite the work done, quite a lot of IDP families still live in a difficult situation, in emergency and unsuitable buildings. As instructed by the President, the State Oil Fund annually allocates funds for the construction of new settlements. Funds for this purpose are allocated this year too. However, in order to accelerate the implementation of activities in this area, it is necessary to take additional and urgent steps," said M. Aliyeva underlining that all families of displaced people living in unsuitable, emergency buildings of Baku and Sumgayit are soon to be moved to new apartments.
The state program to improve living conditions and increase employment of refugees and internally displaced persons was approved by the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev in 2004. Under this program, more than ₼6.2 billion were spent to solve the housing and social problems of IDPs including the construction of 95 settlements and residential complexes, which house 250 thousand IDPs. The head of the State Committee for Refugees and IDPs, Deputy Prime Minister Ali Hasanov highlighted that this figure is comparable in scale to population of two cities such as Mingachevir.
New settlements are provided with the entire communal infrastructure including a total of 150 schools, 58 cultural facilities, 58 medical institutions, many kindergartens and two Olympic sports complexes. Over the past thirteen years, 400,000 refugees and internally displaced persons have been employed. To increase their level of employment, the National Fund for Entrepreneurship Assistance provided ₼40 million in preferential credits to 2,000 entrepreneurs from IDPs creating 3,600 new jobs. As a result of these measures, the level of poverty among IDPs decreased from 75 to 12%.
To improve living conditions of IDPs and support their ability to make for living, President instructed to conclude a new agreement with the World Bank for $78.5 million.
There is still a need to improve the living conditions of 80,000 families, or 340,000 internally displaced persons. 35% or 217 thousand of all IDPs live in Baku, which shows the scale of the work to be done in Baku and Sumgayit. A. Hasanov noted that today 3 settlements and 9 blocks have been constructed in Baku and Absheron, in which 6,500 families and 29,000 people have been provided with new apartments. On the direct initiative and with the support of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation in the city of Khirdalan, new residential buildings have been built for 600 displaced people. In Baku and the surrounding area, the construction of four buildings to accommodate internally displaced people living in two emergency buildings has already begun.
In addition, land plots were allocated for construction of new residential complexes in Baku and adjacent villages - near the village of Kurdakhany of Sabunchi district for 800 families, in Pirallahy district for 330 families, and in Sumgayit for the first 1000 of 2900 IDP families. "Of course, this is not enough," noted the head of the State Committee on Refugees and IDPs.
He stressed that 8,000 families of internally displaced persons live in 117 facilities under extremely poor conditions. Moreover, judging by the results of inspections of the Ministry of Emergency Situations, 4,000 families living in 44 of such emergency buildings are in need of urgent measures. These families must be provided with new apartments as a priority.
Moreover, in order to speed up the works, it is planned to act in two directions: the construction of new houses and the acquisition of vacant apartments in ready-made buildings of cities. "To this end, it is necessary to allocate additional funds, determine the territory for the construction of buildings and soon begin their construction. Along with this, it is necessary to purchase apartments to accommodate refugee families in new buildings built in the cities of Baku and Sumgayit. The goal is to ensure that in the current and next years all displaced people living in emergency buildings have new apartments, "the first vice-president of Azerbaijan said.
Incidentally, purchasing of complete apartments in new buildings of Baku looks effective from several points of view. "I think that for a more rapid resolution of this issue in 2017, we must go in two ways. Of course, the construction of new settlements must continue. At the same time, new buildings must be constructed, unsold apartments must be purchased by the state and transferred to refugees. Thus, we will be able to solve the problems of our citizens living in a difficult situation quicker, as the construction of new buildings takes time. In addition, there are many vacant apartments in Baku and other cities, the state can buy them. This, in turn, can revive the construction sector, increase taxes," said President Ilham Aliyev at a regular government convention held in 2016.
The resettlement of IDPs will also contribute to solving many infrastructural problems such as the lack of kindergartens in Baku and Sumgayit, inactive sanatoriums and recreational facilities along the Caspian coast. According to the Head of the Baku Executive Power Hajibala Abutalibov, releasing educational institutions will provide more than 8,000 additional seats in the kindergartens of Baku.
The situation is not better in Sumgayit. According to the Head of Sumgayit Executive Power Zakir Farajov: "The city operates only 25% of additional school and kindergarten classes and there is a great need for the construction of new ones. In 50 of 56 kindergartens, there are internally displaced people."
Yet another priority for the government is the creation of jobs in new settlements for internally displaced persons. The potential for opening small processing enterprises, weaving shops, etc. is being considered. According to official statistics, about 400,000 IDPs have been employed over the past 13 years. Half of them are permanent jobs. However, according to the State Committee for Refugees and IDPs, another 161 thousand people still need permanent jobs. "Therefore, regional executive powers should think about this, maybe it makes sense to prepare proposals for small businesses. As you know, the President instructed to allocate considerable funds to eliminate the unemployment problem, and jobs have been created. It is necessary to attract more people to workplaces," instructed M. Aliyeva.
Meanwhile, as underlined by the First Vice-President of Azerbaijan, new settlements and apartments for IDPs are "their temporary address". Azerbaijan believes that soon or later they will return to the lands currently under Armenian occupation. The government has developed the Great Return Program, a kind of a pilot project currently implemented in the village of Jojug Marjanli of Jebrail district.