What have been some of your Ministry's key achievements?
The Republic of Azerbaijan is recognized worldwide as an example of safety and stability. The main goal of our government is the prosperity of the Azerbaijani people. One of the main preconditions for this prosperity is the safety of our citizens. From this perspective, the establishment of the Ministry of Emergency Situations by an executive order of President Ilham Aliyev in December 2005 attests to the importance our state attaches to the safety of its people, as well as the protection of its population and territory. Over the past 10 years, according to the instructions of the head of state, the Ministry's management structure has undergone major transformations. The material and technical infrastructure of the organizations dealing with safety has been significantly improved and their facilities have been upgraded in line with contemporary requirements. In order to ensure the timely and adequate fulfilment of the Ministry's responsibilities in the country's districts, nine regional centers have been set up, the unserviceable depots, offices, and technical buildings of the Ministry's organizations were overhauled, and new facilities commissioned. As a result of the commissioning of the Ministry's Crisis Management Center and the 112 hotline, important work has been done to prevent potential emergency situations and eliminate the consequences of natural disasters. The different tactical drills carried out in our country in recent years, in particular the Khazar-2009, Khazar-2010, Khazar-2013, and Khazar-2015, have contributed to enhancing the Ministry's material and technical infrastructure, personnel preparedness, emergency response, search and rescue capacity, and identified areas for a further improvement. In the last decade, our personnel have repeatedly displayed courage and professionalism. Our workforce has worked tirelessly to mitigate the consequences of earthquakes, floods, fires, landslides, other natural and manmade disasters, and conduct search and rescue operations. According to the Integrated Action Plan on Improving the Environmental Situations in Azerbaijan, the premises of the Baku Iodine Factory and the Neftchala Iodine Bromide Factory have been refurbished. A park covering an area of 6ha has been established in Sabunchu District of Baku. In order to implement these projects in line with international standards, the Ministry of Emergency Situations invited experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Ministry is also successfully accomplishing the important mission of conducting awareness campaigns in respect to the prevention of emergency situations. In order to educate children and teenagers about emergency situations, a national competition called Emergency Situations Through the Eyes of Kids is organized every year. The national and international contests Young Rescuer and Firefighter and Young Rescuer organized jointly with the ministries of education and youth and sport, have been instrumental in communicating our safety messages to children. In order to improve the competence of our personnel, agreements were signed with educational institutions in several countries, including Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus. These agreements have allowed our people the opportunity to expand their knowledge and skills. In addition, according to an executive order signed by President Ilham Aliyev, the Academy of the Ministry was established in 2008 to ensure specialized training of Ministry personnel, expand their qualifications, and conduct scientific research in the field of emergency situations. The training process at the Academy is organized in accordance with European Credit System requirements. There is a modern campus with sophisticated educational infrastructure and state-of-the-art equipment. In an effort to expand international cooperation, steps have been taken to increase collaboration with relevant institutions of several countries, including a number of authoritative international and regional organizations. Over these years, we have established and maintained relations with similar agencies of more than 60 countries and international organizations. These reciprocal visits, meetings, and agreements have allowed us to strengthen our assets and resources, study best international practices, and build up our personnel. The Ministry has been involved in eliminating the consequences of calamities in different countries and delivering humanitarian aid to disaster-affected places. The Ministry of Emergency Situations has provided assistance in dealing with the forest fires in the Russian Federation and the State of Israel, the floods in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the earthquake in Van province of the Republic of Turkey, the floods in Krasnodar Territory and Dagestan Republic of the Russian Federation, the earthquake in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the torrential rains in the north of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and the floods in the Republic of Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. We have also extended assistance at the level of the Azerbaijani government to eliminate the consequences of the earthquake in Haiti and the hurricane in the Philippines. The Ministry has provided financial assistance to eradicate famine in Somalia. Humanitarian assistance has been provided in the aftermath of devastating earthquakes in Osh province of Kyrgyzstan and Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region of Tajikistan. The planes of the Ministry of Emergency Situations were involved in the emergency evacuation of the Azerbaijanis fleeing from armed confrontation in Egypt and our countrymen stranded in the epicenter of a powerful earthquake in Nepal. The work the Ministry has been doing to create a high level of safety and security in the country and prevent potential emergency situations is evidence of the fact that we are taking the right steps to live up to the expectations of the country's leadership.
What can you say about the prospects for the construction sector in Azerbaijan?
In general, construction is one of the leading sectors of the national economy. Linking many sectors, it contributes a lot to the overall development trend. The dynamic development observed in the country's construction sector in the years of independence was preconditioned by its high profitability, the increased demand for the construction of various buildings and facilities, and the successful implementation of state programs. Thanks to the support of President Ilham Aliyev, the role of the construction sector in overall economic development has significantly increased. Against the backdrop of a global economic recession, President Ilham Aliyev issued instructions to maintain the current pace in the construction sector. Documents signed in recent years have paved the way for more robust business activities. The new edition of the Code on Town Planning and Construction signed into law in January 2013 established a deadline of 20 days for expert examination of draft construction documents. This period can be extended only for complex construction, potentially hazardous, or similar facilities. In addition, according to the new Code, all construction facilities have been divided in three groups: those not requiring a permit, those requiring a permit, and those requiring a notification. The facilities requiring a construction permit are subdivided into those requiring expert examination of construction projects and those not requiring it. As a result, Azerbaijan advanced by 17 steps in 2014 and by a further 36 in 2015 in the construction permits ranking of the Doing Business report. Construction companies, including business entities, have to embrace new opportunities. The favorable investment and business environment in the country, the liberal town-planning and construction laws, and a flexible system of governance are opening up extensive opportunities for those engaged in construction. There is still a lot to do in the construction sector, with many neighborhoods and settlements in Baku alone that are not on the master plan of the city. It is time to remove the obsolete and rundown buildings that are already in emergency condition and build modern settlements with sophisticated infrastructure. With this aim, a new concept has been designed to construct modern buildings in micro-districts of Baku and landscape these areas. With the “one window” principle, and bureaucratic obstacles eliminated, we believe that this should serve as a basis for business people to expand their activity in construction. The realization of this concept will also lead to the expansion of the housing market, which will inevitably improve the well-being of our population, contribute to greater employment opportunities, and align construction activities with modern requirements. We hope that both construction organizations and individual entrepreneurs will make their contribution to the implementation of complex construction and architectural ideas and the establishment of unique buildings and structures, thus helping the country's construction sector to enter a qualitatively new stage.
What is the Ministry's safety agenda in the run-up to the Baku GP?
Azerbaijan is a country capable of conducting major events safely. The Eurovision 2012 song contest, the 2012 U17 Women's Football World Cup, and the inaugural European Games held in Baku in 2015 were tremendous successes. The Formula One European Grand Prix will be remembered for its proper approach to safety matters. The Ministry started preparations far in advance for this high-profile event. Permanent representatives were appointed to the Baku Circle Operating Company in October 2015. A working group comprised of the Ministry's executive office and relevant organizations has been set up to organize safety issues at the proper level. The number of the Ministry's firefighting and rescue personnel, as well as units of relevant hardware and equipment for the Formula One European Grand Prix, has been determined. According to our initial expectations, four fire trucks and 12 units of emergency rescue hardware will be deployed for the Formula One European Grand Prix. Our personnel, firefighters, and rescue machinery was also deployed in the entertainment event organized by the Baku Circle Operating Company in the National Seaside Park in December 2015. In addition, employees of the Ministry's Fire Safety Service will be on standby in the makeshift building to be constructed outside the Government House, at the Media Center, the areas for spectators, the National Seaside Park, and the hotels where teams will be staying. The Fire Safety Service is currently examining and monitoring public catering, recreation, entertainment facilities, hotels, guesthouses, and similar institutions across the country for their compliance with safety standards. The State Agency for Monitoring Safety in Construction exercises state control over temporary buildings and structures; the State Agency for Regulating Nuclear and Radiological Activity conducts radiological safety monitoring; the State Agency for Industrial and Mining Safety is responsible for safe installation of potentially hazardous equipment and facilities. According to an approved plan, the Ministry's personnel and resources will operate in a robust security regime during the Formula One European Grand Prix. Therefore, we will do our best to conduct the Formula One European Grand Prix in Baku in full accordance with safety requirements.