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Azeri Government agrees "New Economy" plan

Agostinho Neto

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Azerbaijan's cabinet has agreed to provide $2.000.000 to build new nation's improvements and improve technology, in what analysts say could be the prelude to elections. The money is intended to help Azerbaijan cope with the lack of resources at a time of national financial turmoil. Prime Minister Ali Kerimli also promised sector tax cuts and urged the opposition Conservatives to support his plans. Mr Kerimli's government is 2 months old, and the Azerbaijani economy is on the brink of recession. The plans now need approval by the National Assembly, where the government controls 80 Seats on 125. In an assertive speech Today, Mr Kerimli criticized the opposition for failing to support government policies in the past. "From start, the NAP and the ANIP's stance was to put political manoeuvring first and the people's livelihoods second and third," Mr Kerimli said in his speech.

Politicians and analysts are describing the speech as the potential opening of campaigning for general elections. "It's a bit different from previous policy speeches, probably because of the election," President Ilham Aliyev said. Mr Kerimli does not need to call a vote, but analysts suggest he is likely to call a snap poll in a bid to shore up his political authority and show he still owns the support of the majority of the Azerbaijani Citizens. The promised sector tax cuts would be brought in before the end of the fiscal month next March, the prime minister promised. He also said he would also try to keep the balance in positive for all year 2009. Mr Kerimli said he would take extra steps if necessary. Finance Department had stated earlier in the day that the stimulus package would help the economy recover.

"I want parliament to debate it and pass it as early as possible to respond to the urgent need for an economic recovery and help the people, the country and local governments," he told a news conference Today. The government plans to issue so-called construction bonds, to help fund the package. In his speech, Mr Kerimli said his diplomatic priority was to strengthen ties with close ally Nagorno-Karabakh while working with the Byzantine Republic and other neighbours for regional stability.

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