Our Analytics 31 july — 15:23

Where did Natig Amirov's map take us? (Our analysis)

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BY ELNUR MAMAADOV, ECONOMICS SECTION

The other day, under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Novruz Mammadov, a meeting was held dedicated to the issues envisaged in the 'Work Plan of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Azerbaijan for 2018.' We had to seriously think again. After all, the agenda of the meeting with the participation of relevant structures included only two issues, one of which was the discussion of monitoring and evaluation reports prepared in connection with the implementation of road maps approved by the presidential decree 'On the Approval of the Strategic Roadmaps for the National Economy and the Main Sectors of the Economy.'

One remembers with what jubilation the Strategic Road maps approved on December 6, 2016 were met by economists. This important economic document has once again demonstrated how much attention is paid to the development of the national economy in Azerbaijan, the formation of a new qualitative model for its development. The document provides - literally point by point - in what terms and what structures should be implemented those or other projects that are of paramount importance for the development of the country's economy, which makes it possible to easily monitor their progress.

In general, the Strategic Roadmaps provide three periods for the development prospects of the national economy - short-term (until 2020), medium-term (until 2025) and long-term (after 2025). The development of such a complex document, under the guidance of Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Industrial Issues Natig Amirov, required the great efforts of the relevant structures, and it was duly assessed by the political leadership of the country and by the broad sections of the public. In the first year, they talked about it literally at every event, trying to attach almost every completed project to road maps. But gradually they forgot about it somehow, but now the Cabinet again remembered it. Let's try ourselves to return to this document.

Natig Amirov

And there is a good reason why the Cabinet apparently remembered it - the first half of the implementation of the short-term period of road maps has been left behind. Yes, half of the short-term period, covering a total of three years, has been left behind. Just a year and a half, but it is this period that has to lay that intricate foundation upon which a prosperous economic complex should then be built. On the start taken depends largely the outcome of the finish. Therefore, the question arises: what can we say about the first half-cycle that has been passed, how is it fulfilled?

'Unfortunately, I cannot say anything good. Our officials managed to put the breaks on even such a seemingly impenetrable economic armoured train as the Strategic Roadmaps,' one of the experts who took an active part in the development of the maps sadly answers the question of Azeri Daily.

This answer is very alarming. And immediately one recalls the words of the prime minister, who stressed that as a result of the sustained reforms carried out under the leadership of President Ilham Aliyev, important steps were taken to ensure the economic independence of the country, and this process is proceeding successfully.

'As a result of the targeted policy, a lot of work was done to create social and economic infrastructure of Azerbaijan, development of the private sector, industrialisation, expansion of production and export capacities of the agrarian sector, ensuring macroeconomic stability, improving the well-being of the population. Balanced development of the regions through the successful implementation of state programs also gave a powerful impetus to the growth of the country's potential. The issues discussed today are aimed at ensuring the sustainability of this development.'

Please note that this is literally the entire text of Novruz Mammadov's speech, which is quoted on the official website of the Cabinet of Ministers. But the prime minister, speaking on such an important issue, ccould not by say something about the Strategic Roadmaps themselves. Apparently, the press service of the government neatly cleared the text of his speech from the negative. And it's not difficult to guess that the negative took much more space than all the text on the website.

Novruz Mammadov

There is more specifics in the passage of the report of the Minister of Economy, Shahin Mustafayev. He notes that the Ministry has been identified as the main executor of the 151 events stipulated in the Strategic Roadmap, as well as the coordinator of the strategic road maps on 'Consumer Goods Production at the Level of Small and Medium Enterprises' and 'Development of Heavy Industry and Machine Building in the Republic of Azerbaijan.' The minister stressed that the implementation of strategic road maps would contribute to further growth of competitiveness, inclusiveness of the economy and social welfare on the basis of sustainable economic development in the country. But this specificity is also just seeming. Both sentences in the text are taken from the relevant presidential decree.

Shahin Mustafayev

In addition, the general management of the implementation of strategic road maps approved by the decree, and control are entrusted to the Presidential Administration of Azerbaijan. And the Centre for Analysis of Economic Reforms and Communication carries out measures for monitoring, evaluation and communication in connection with activities envisaged in strategic roadmaps. The Cabinet had only to bring the current regulatory documents in line with the decree of the head of state, and the deadlines for fulfilling the president's instructions had long ago expired. So what did the Cabinet discuss?

Agree, all this looks too intriguing, and the expert group of Azeri Daily decided to conduct its study. The fact is that earlier the economic model of our country relied on natural resources, and a sharp decline in oil prices on world markets led to the need to adjust the path of development. The choice is not big: the economic model, calculated on the intensity of labour, a model based on productivity, and an innovative model. The developers considered that the time for the introduction of the latest model in the country had not yet come, and they chose the first two models.

The Strategic Roadmap succeeded in achieving their combination for short-term (until 2020) and medium-term (until 2025) periods. But the strategic view indicated in the map until 2025 already provides for a transition to a model based on innovation.

Essentially, there was a shift from a resource-based model to a performance-based model. That's why it was not a program that was adopted, but a strategy, since it does not fit into one program at all. But it is very difficult to judge how exactly this most important strategy for the country is being implemented today.

The matter is that, as already noted, the overall management of the implementation of strategic road maps and control are entrusted to the Presidential Administration. But in administration there is not just one department and sector, but many: each of them is engaged in its own sphere - from foreign policy and economy to the media and social problems. One can only guess that the administration refers specifically to the presidential assistant's office on economic issues. But we cannot assert this, because this fact is not specified in the document. Therefore, it is difficult to determine a specific address, where one can get exhaustive answers to our questions.

It is somewhat easier to define monitoring, assessment and communication measures in relation to activities envisaged in the strategic roadmaps. These measures are carried out by the Centre for Analysis of Economic Reforms and Communication, which periodically publishes the results on its official website. But here we are faced with a problem that does not allow us to draw accurate conclusions. If, as a result of monitoring, there are no questions in principle, they arise when moving to an assessment of the performance of a specific program.

Presidential Administration of Azerbaijan

So, for example, according to monitoring data for the first half of the last year, the lower limit was below 50%. At the same time, say, according to the Strategic Map of the National Economy Perspective, only two state structures fulfilled their assigned tasks by 100%, while the performance of most ministries and state committees fluctuated around 50%. At the same time, the Ministry of Economy looked like the weakest performer. But when summarising the results of the past year as a whole, when assessing the work done, the lower limit for some reason unexpectedly amounted to less than 10%. Thus, the Centre for Analysis of Economic Reforms and Communication, having lowered the ceiling of the lower limit by five times at once, achieved an artificial increase in the evaluation of the implemented works. The Ministry of Economics at the same time achieved 100 per cent fulfillment of the tasks set, and the last place was taken by the Ministry of Taxes, which in mid-year ranked the average with the same performance indicators.

In addition, in terms of activities for the implementation of strategic maps, the deadlines foresee a period for the whole year. And the monitoring of the Centre is carried out twice a year. With this approach, even specialists find it difficult to understand what period of the year the event referred to in the monitoring results refers to. In our opinion, it would be better to specify the periods for the execution of certain events by half a year time periods too. Monitoring is carried out not only for a narrow circle of people, but also for the general public. And for the public, it would be better to submit the most accessible and understandable reporting forms.

But even the data given by the Centre is enough to say: according to the results of 2017, the implementation of all 11 road maps can be assessed as unsatisfactory. Only one map for the implementation of the national economy has been fulfilled by 92%. The performance of other maps ranges from 36% to 87%. Hence, one can come to the conclusion: either the implementation of tasks posed by the head of state is simply impossible because of the complexity and scale of them, or our ministries and departments with which all these tasks were agreed in advance have not coped with their tasks. Unfortunately, it is practically impossible to answer this question on the basis of the monitoring data of the Centre.

For our part, we can say only one thing. Strategic road maps, therefore, are so important that here all the planned activities are closely related to each other. And non-fulfillment of one item automatically leads to the disruption of the remaining items, which, in the end, will inevitably cause the failure of the entire strategy as a whole. More specifically, we intend to present our thoughts in the future when analysing the progress in implementing sectoral road maps...

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