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Country Reports

Azerbaijan Country Report

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Risk Level

Low
Moderate
Elevated
High
Very High
Severe
Extreme

Overview

Executive Summary

Oil- and gas-rich Azerbaijan has been ruled by the Aliyev dynasty since 1993. President Ilham Aliyev wields most political power in a highly authoritarian system that does not tolerate opposition. This is reflected by the systematic government crackdown against dissidents and civil society activists. In April 2016, Aliyev demonstrated that he is willing to use force through controlled escalations to change the status quo in the unresolved conflict with Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave. The Azeri government has been increasing defence expenditure, including acquiring advanced weapons systems from Russia, without indicating when these might be used. Azerbaijan is positioning to become the regional energy and transportation hub on the East-West (Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey) and North-South (Russia-Azerbaijan-Iran) trade routes. An ongoing rapprochement with Iran and growing strategic partnership with Turkey assist this endeavour.Azerbaijan’s business environment will remain constrained by nepotism and corruption, especially in the lucrative sectors of the economy. Protection of business rights and the ease of market entry remain an issue. Still, Azerbaijan improved its rating on the World Bank Ease of Doing Business ranking, by moving to 25 from 57. The upward move was due to better electricity supply and a notable reduction in red tape, but institutional reforms are unlikely in the near-term outlook. Azeri economic activity will strengthen through 2019-20 on the back of the recent normalisation of global crude oil prices: IHS Markit forecasts GDP growth averaging 2.9% annually. The statistical base effect and the manat's exchange rate stabilisation has contributed to a significant deceleration in consumer price inflation, from 14.0% at end-2017 to just over 2.0% in the fourth quarter of 2018, with annual inflation projected to average at 3.0% in 2019. This will enable the Azeri central bank to reduce its interest rates to mid-single-digits by end-2019, and thereby reducing credit costs.
Last update: September 6, 2019

Operational Outlook

Azerbaijan made some progress in developing infrastructure as part of a push to reduce the economy's hydrocarbon dependence. The recent stabilisation of the oil price has improved the government's financial position, as reflected in investments in upgrades of road network and electricity grid. In the past five years the ICT sector has expanded considerably, absorbing USD2 billion in investments and resulting in Internet penetration of almost 80%. Anti-corruption initiatives, including opening of ASAN service centres, reduced such practices at lower levels but bribe-taking at high level of state institutions remains very problematic.

Last update: May 16, 2019

Terrorism

Elevated

Sunni Islamic radicalism has been increasing, both in the traditionally Shi'a Azeri population, and Sunni ethnic minorities. The government's harsh measures to combat it, including criminalisation of non-state-sanctioned religious activities, contributes to radicalisation. Local militant groups generally lack capabilities to target state institutions, Western diplomatic assets or critical energy infrastructure. The potential threat posed by the return of fighters from Syria has been so far effectively mitigated by the security forces. Security co-operation with Israel poses risk of Iran activating its proxies in Azerbaijan, but given the ongoing Azeri-Iranian rapprochement, that is unlikely at present.

Last update: September 7, 2019

Crime

Oil price stabilisation mitigates risks associated with the economic conditions, including income inequality and crime levels. Azerbaijan is one of the main transit countries for Afghan opiates on their way to European and Russian markets and contraband of narcotics represents the main source of income for organised criminal networks. Although violent crime targeting foreigners is rare, domestic entrepreneurs are subjected to both extortion and racketeering. Death and injury risks are particularly high near the Armenian-controlled breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh due to ceasefire violations, including regular gunfire exchanges.

Last update: September 7, 2019

War Risks

The escalation of conflict over the Armenian-populated enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh on 2–5 April 2016, demonstrated Azerbaijan's willingness to change the status quo by force. It also reflected the Azeri government's frustration with OSCE-mediated peace talks. However, the ascent of new political forces in Armenia after the general election in December, likely prompted President Aliyev to replace regular troops along two sections of border with Armenia with border guards, which represents the most significant de-escalatory measure since 2016, reducing war risks. Aliyev's goodwill gesture is likely aimed at eliciting reciprocal steps from the Armenian PM, who has a new public mandate to resume talks.

Last update: September 7, 2019

Social Stability

High

The authorities use the carrot-and-stick approach to mitigate civil unrest by increasing the punishment for unauthorised protests while maintaining social spending commitments and investing in regional development. The atomised opposition cannot mobilise public support on a scale that will threaten President Ilham Aliyev's rule. The riot police use harsh crowd control measures, which increase the likelihood of accidental injuries to bystanders and property damage to nearby businesses. The government has cracked down on opposition activities by arresting prominent dissident activists and harassing civil society. Repeated Western protests have had no deterrent impact.

Last update: September 7, 2019

Health Risk

Severe

Vaccines Required to Enter the Country

No vaccinations are required to enter the country.

Vaccines Recommended for All Travelers

Routine vaccinations: Consult your doctor to ensure all routine vaccinations - such as for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, influenza, measles, mumps, pertussis, rubella, varicella, etc. - are up to date (include booster shots if necessary).

Vaccines Recommended for Most Travelers

Hepatitis A: The vaccine is given in two doses, six months apart, and is nearly 100 percent effective. The WHO recommends the vaccine be integrated into national routine immunization schedules for children aged one year or older.

Vaccines Recommended for Some Travelers

Hepatitis B: The WHO recommends that all infants receive their first dose of vaccine as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours. The birth dose should be followed by two or three doses to complete the primary series. Routine booster doses are not routinely recommended for any age group.

Malaria: There is a low risk of contracting malaria. As such, doctors usually advise travelers to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites rather than prescribing antimalarial medications.

Rabies: The rabies vaccination is typically only recommended for travel to remote areas and if the traveler will be at high risk of exposure (e.g. undertaking activities that will bring them into contact with dogs, cats, bats, or other mammals). The vaccination is administered in three doses over a three-to-four week period. Post exposure prophylaxis is also available and should be administered as soon as possible following contact with an animal suspected of being infected (e.g. bites and scratches).

Last update: April 5, 2019

Natural Risks

Severe

Azerbaijan is located in an active seismic zone and the country is regularly hit by earthquakes. In the first half of 2017, the Republican Seismic Survey Center of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Science, the country's main research center on earthquakes, reported some 800 quakes, although all were relatively minor. The last major earthquake occurred in 2012 in the northwest of the country, leaving 15 people injured and causing major damage to infrastructure and buildings.

Extreme weather patterns are common in Azerbaijan. Floods and rain-induced landslides are frequent, particularly in the Great and Little Caucasus mountain ranges, which cover half of country. In June 2016, severe flooding in the Goychay, Shamakhi, and Ismayili districts caused a major landslide which seriously damaged infrastructure (e.g. bridges) and agriculture as well as cut off access to affected villages.

Azerbaijan is also prone to droughts.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Transportation

Moderate

The reliability and safety of public transportation is not guaranteed and tourist infrastructure is not well developed outside the following areas: Baku, Quba, and Lankaran, and along the coast of the Absheron Peninsula, which extends into the Caspian Sea.

Highways and major city roads are in good condition, however outside of Baku there is generally insufficient street lighting and signage. Rural roads are largely unpaved. Driving can be dangerous due to reckless drivers and poorly maintained cars. Extreme care on roads is advised, particularly during the winter as roads are inconsistently cleared of snow or ice.

Although travelers are advised to avoid the public bus network in Baku due to safety concerns, the capital's metro system offers an inexpensive and safe public option for transportation. Police patrol each metro station regularly, carrying out bag checks, and security cameras operate on a regular basis.

If using a taxi, use established companies and/or professional private drivers to avoid the risk of being overcharged. It is better to negotiate the fare before beginning a trip in a taxi. Use of purple, London-style taxi cabs, which use meters, is also advised (although passengers should ensure the meter is activated). Uber has recently been launched in the country.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Practical Information

Climate

Azerbaijan's climate is tempered by the Caspian Sea and the country's reliefs protect it from Siberian winds. Winters are cold (0°C in January) and summers mild (25°C to 30°C). The country receives its heaviest levels of rain in mountainous regions as well as the Lankaran region (which has a humid subtropical climate); conditions in the rest of the country are relatively dry.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +994
Police: 102
Fire Dept.: 101
Ambulance: 103

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

Last update: April 5, 2019