Ernst & Young participates in many different conferences and events in Azerbaijan and was the consulting partner at the first Azerbaijan sustainable development and CSR conference. How does participating in these events contribute to your mission in Azerbaijan?
Participation in conferences and events is an effective way to strengthen our presence and voice as a leader, expand our network with clients and stakeholders, and build awareness of our company. Moreover, in times of legal and institutional reforms, active participation in such events provides an opportunity to build an open dialogue between entrepreneurs and state authorities to discuss challenges faced by entrepreneurs, to share valuable experience, and contribute to Azerbaijan's attractiveness for investors. The EY Tax & Law Department has also benefitted from such opportunities, and we not only participate in conferences as sponsors and speakers but also hold our own events. EY Azerbaijan organizes annual Tax & Legal Update seminars for clients and, by virtue of this, provides insights into tax and legal updates and their practical implementation in Azerbaijan. Following current market and legal trends and updating clients on issues crucial for their businesses boosts our close ties with them and contributes to our mission of building a better working world. Taking into account an increasing interest in sustainability in Azerbaijan, EY considered the first Sustainability and CSR conference in 2015 as an extremely important initiative to familiarize the business society with the concept of sustainability and integrate the latter into the management of companies. EY was a consulting partner for the event and had a major role in building the conference's content. The conference covered major aspects of sustainability, such as economic and environmental sustainability, the role of education in sustainability, green economy, and so on. We believe that in the near future, business society in Azerbaijan will realize the importance of integrating sustainability into business strategy and it will play a necessary role in the formation of a sustainable society in the country.
What is the regional significance of Azerbaijan for Ernst & Young?
EY has been present in Azerbaijan for more than 20 years, successfully blending the best global practices with local expertise, sharing our knowledge through rendering high-quality services to our clients, and supporting a great number of initiatives. Azerbaijan is a vast emerging market within the CIS and retains its position as one of the highest-ranked countries among the republics of the former Soviet Union according to the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Index. There is always room for improvement and Azerbaijan is steadily moving along the path of reform, creating new growth opportunities for companies working in the country. As an emerging market, Azerbaijan does not only have significant potential for rapid economic growth, but also implies a higher return potential and is expected to expand faster than mature markets. Relying on all of these growth opportunities, EY is determined to focus further on the development of its practice in the country, to invest in the enhancement and perfection of its range of services, and to contribute to the community in line with its global mission and policy.
What is your outlook on the development of the non-oil sector?
Azerbaijan is one of the most attractive locations for foreign investments in the region. Out of the $20 billion invested last year in Azerbaijan, half were foreign investments. At an early stage of Azerbaijan's independence, foreign investments were largely in the oil and gas sector, which is still the driving force generating the most interest from foreign investors based on statistical indicators. Today, the volume of foreign investments in the non-oil sector is also growing due to the government's latest legislative reforms. Foreign direct investment in the non-oil sector is mainly focused on construction, services, transport, telecoms, and manufacturing.