Economic Future Looks Promising
The country's economic troubles are expected to be transformed through Western investment in Azerbaijan's oil resources, an untapped reserve whose estimated worth is trillions of dollars. Since 1994, the Azerbaijan state oil company (SOCAR) has signed several billion-dollar agreements with international oil companies. Azerbaijan's pro-Western stance and its careful economic management have made it the most attractive of the oil-rich Caspian countries for foreign investment. In the years since its independence, the country has undergone rapid privatization, and the IMF gave it high marks as one of the most successful economic overhauls ever. In Sept. 2002, construction of the 1,100-mile Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline (a route through Georgia and Turkey) began. Major investors are Britain's BP (33%), Azerbaijan's SOCAR (25%), the U.S.'s Unocal (8.9%), and Norway's Statoil (8.7%). In July 2006, the pipeline opened.
In 2003, President Heydar Aliyev, who was seriously ill, chose his son as the new prime minister, paving the way for his eventual succession. The opposition protested strenuously. In October elections, the president's son, Ilham Aliyev, was elected president. Heydar Aliyev died in December.
In Nov. 2005 parliamentary elections, Aliyev's New Azerbaijan Party won the largest number of seats. International election monitors declared the election fraudulent, and opposition candidates staged protests.
On Oct. 15, 2008, in presidential elections, Ilham Aliyev won a second term with 89% of the vote. Turnout was about 75% of the population.
On Jan. 1, 2012, Azerbaijan began a two-year term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The country's standard of living and economy continues to grow, including a construction boom in Baku, the capital.