Azerbaijan plans massive privatisation to kick-start battered economy
BAKU - Agence France-Presse
AP photoAzerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev ordered the government Jan. 18 to draw up a major privatisation programme in a bid to revive the energy-rich nation's stalling economy hit hard by falling oil prices.
The move came after a wave of popular protests shook the ex-Soviet Caspian nation amid swelling discontent over price hikes and the collapse of the national currency.
Aliyev "instructed the cabinet of ministers to prepare a plan for large-scale privatisation," his office said in a statement.
"Measures must be taken to revitalise the economy and improve the business environment," the statement quoted Aliyev as telling a government meeting.
Last week police clashed with protesters in several provincial cities across the country where local residents took to the streets against growing inflation and unemployment.
Azerbaijan's economy has suffered a severe blow as a result of oil price slump.
Exports of hydrocarbons constitute up to three quarters of Azerbaijan's state revenues, making the Caucasus country's economy highly dependent on global energy prices.
Azerbaijan in December recorded an 11-fold acceleration of inflation, with consumer prices rising by 4.4 percent after a 0.4-percent increase in November.
Annual inflation stood at 7.6 percent in December.
Azerbaijan's national currency, the manat, plummeted last month by over 32 percent against the dollar.
The central bank in December said that the economy was hurt by "falling oil prices and the continuing devaluation of partner countries' currencies."
The International Monetary Fund said last year that Azerbaijan's once-booming economy was expected to grow by 2.5 percent in 2016, compared with four-percent growth last year.