Speaking at the JW Marriott Absheron Hotel on Wednesday 1 April, PricewaterhouseCoopers Country Managing Partner Movlan Pashayev announced the firm’s latest milestone: 20 successful years in Baku. He touched on the challenges during the course of that time, which the firm has overcome to comprise the strong, 100+ workforce it is today.
As Azerbaijan weathers two interrelated crises – the significant drop in oil prices and the Russia-Ukraine conflict – which have been shrouded in uncertainty, Movlan wanted also to share some thoughts about the current status of the economy and what businesses can expect for 2015:
“In our opinion the government is yet to take action, to diversify the economy and use the opportunity to create more jobs.
“How is the central bank going to save the banks [after the devaluation of the manat]? It’s one of the biggest issues on the agenda. I think we are going to see a few more banks going bankrupt this year.
“A second issue is the major drop in confidence. The trust in the stability of the financial system, from businesses and the general population, has faded quite significantly.
“Sales of apartments has caused a lot of controversy: If you own an apartment but haven’t lived thee for more than three years then you will be taxed on the difference between the sale price and the purchase price. The question is, what is the purchase price?
“We’ve also seen tightening of immigration, in particular when it comes to short-term business trips. If you do not fit in to to one of eight specified industries – retail and consulting, for example, are excluded – by decree you are liable to obtain a permit, even if you are visiting for just one day.”
As there are crackdowns in some areas, elsewhere doors are opening: “A lot of opportunities will come from Turkmenistan. Certainly politically, related to the diversifying of energy resources due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. We have already seen some signals that Turkmenistan is starting to open up. I think it’s a good place to start expanding.”
British Embassy News
Deputy Ambassador Adrian Lee, whose three–year posting is coming to an end, gave his final BBG speech. He summised some good news: “We had the final visit of the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy Charles Hendry, during which an agreement was signed between the government of Azerbaijan and the British government on a joint economic trade mission. I hope will give a positive mood for all our trade interests. It’s a really good success.”
Adrian also gave dates for a busy April ahead:
8-12 : British Film Festival (spring)
11-12: British Education Fair
13-15: Visit by UKTI energy officials
On healthcare, Adrian announced that from 6 April there will be a change in eligibility of healthcare for British visitors the UK. Any visitors staying for more than six months will now have to pay for their health care.
Lastly, Adrian thanked the BBG for having him, and asserted how relevant and important he has come to find the BBG over the years: “The first time I came I thought, we have a nice meal, we are entertained by John…. After three years I can see the real value added to the business world in Baku. I can tell by the number of people that attend, the number of business cards that get exchanged, and by the energy that this group has that it really works well. And when we get a really informative presentation by the sponsor as we have had tonight I think it’s even better.”
New Deputy Ambassador Stephen McCormack has now taken over the position.
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To find out more about PricewaterhouseCoopers in Azerbaijan please visit their website.