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Baku to welcome athletes from 50 countries during Islamic Solidarity Games

With over 50 participating countries, from across four continents, the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games is a fantastic opportunity for the people of Azerbaijan to become a part of a major international sporting event, said Azad Rahimov.

The Youth and Sport Minister made the remark at a meeting with members of American Chamber of Commerce in Azerbaijan (AmCham), supported by PwC Azerbaijan.

Rahimov shared the information about the upcoming grand sporting events such as the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games scheduled for May 12-22 and 2017 Formula 1 Azerbaijan Grand Prix to take place on central streets of Baku on June 23-25.

He emphasized that the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games will see over 5,000 athletes to compete in 20 sports disciplines, while 16 sporting arenas are ready for hosting the competitions.

The minister also highlighted the Athletes Village, which meets all the international standards, and ready to receive the athletes.

“I am convinced that we will witness a grand sporting event,” Rahimov said. “Azerbaijan, as a country that has held a number of significant international sporting events such as the First European Games and Formula 1 at the highest level, will also demonstrate the top level of professionalism during hosting the 4th Islamic Solidarity Games.”

Finally, he mentioned that Azerbaijan will host the European Trampoline Championships in 2018 as decided by the Executive Committee of the European Union of Gymnastics.

Rahimov also thanked AmCham members and guests, voicing his willingness for the further cooperation with the Chamber.

In turn, AmCham Azerbaijan Executive Director Natavan Mammadova updated the participants about the latest and upcoming events, also announced new Tax & Customs and Travel, Hospitality & Tourism committees’ chairmen.

Olga Grygier, PwC leader in Central and Eastern Europe delivered a speech about the economic situation in Europe and Azerbaijan.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Azerbaijan is a leading private, non-profit business association supporting and promoting the interests of foreign and local businesses in Azerbaijan. Established in 1996, AmCham is composed of over 250 Regular and Associate Member Companies active in every sector of the Azerbaijani economy. AmCham Azerbaijan represents nearly 80 percent of all foreign investment, as well as a significant portion of local investment, in Azerbaijan.

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Azerbaijan’s State Customs Committee and American Chamber of Commerce in Azerbaijan signed a memorandum of understanding

AmericanChamberofCommerceinAzerbaijanAzerbaijan’s State Customs Committee (SCC) and American Chamber of Commerce in Azerbaijan (AmCham) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU).

The memorandum was signed during the Azerbaijan-U.S. business forum, held  in Baku on December 1.

The document envisages the use of “green corridor” and other access systems during the transportation of goods and vehicles for AmCham member-companies.

The MoU was signed by AmCham President Ilgar Veliyev and Chairman of Azerbaijan’s State Customs Committee Aydin Aliyev.

The document was signed for a period of one year. Under the MoU, the State Customs Committee is obliged to inform the companies about the terms and conditions of use of the “green corridor”, as well as the technical opportunities to determine the forms and order of treatment to use the “green corridor” and submit them in electronic form.

AmCham member-companies, for their part, are obliged to hold trainings and seminars in order to expand the use of the “green corridor” system.

The two sides are also obliged to create a working group, which will include their authorized representatives, to discuss joint cooperation.

The MoU enters into force from the date of its signing.

The event was organized by the American Chamber of Commerce in Azerbaijan with the support of the US embassy in Baku and the Azerbaijani embassy in Washington.

AmCham has been working in Azerbaijan since 1996 and currently consists of 270 companies representing more than 80% of foreign investments in the country. The Chamber serves as a bridge between the Government and private sector and has continuous constructive and results oriented dialogue with relevant government bodies. AmCham promotes the business interests of the member companies, contributes to the improvement of the business climate in Azerbaijan.

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American Chamber of Commerce in Azerbaijan proposes to establish agency to work with foreign investors

AmericanChamberofCommerceinAzerbaijanAmerican Chamber of Commerce in Azerbaijan (AmCham) has presented the sixth edition of the “White Paper”, entitled “Observations and recommendations on the improvement of the business environment in Azerbaijan”.

The document prepared and submitted to the Azerbaijani Government every two years aims at supporting different sectors of the economy, Trend reported with reference to AmCham.

The White Paper reflects collective view of AmCham members on changes ensuring strength of business environment and ultimately, the country. This document consists of two parts – “Overview” part which is very significant, as of its content covering the most influential issues for Azerbaijan and “Second”, which involves recommendations on more specific issues in detail.

“It’s important to inform the Government about vision of private sector and changes in business environment,” noted Natavan Mammadova, Executive Director of AmCham in Azerbaijan. “Taking this into account, the publication of White Paper this year covered positive measures taken by the government to strengthen various sectors of economy, and issues to be solved in different fields to develop the business environment in taxes, customs work, finance and insurance, information technologies, labor and migration issues, tourism and law court.”

“Furthermore, we think that business community is of a great importance in implementation of the economic reforms and founding healthy business environment,” she added. “Considering these factors, we have addressed some recommendations to Azerbaijan’s business community for the first time within White Paper.”

All the recommendations provided by AmCham are focused on making activities of different institutions more transparent, increasing the level of services provided to population, and ultimately, making Azerbaijan more powerful country in the region.

Particularly, AmCham offered the country’s government to explore the possibilities for tax exemption in the priority areas of the non-oil sector.

AmCham members also proposed to consider application of a new tax regime in the priority areas of the non-oil sector.

“It should be acknowledged that Azerbaijan’s proven experience in attracting foreign investments is mainly limited to the oil and gas sector. We believe that other areas of industry and business should be introduced with concessions or be exempt from taxes, given the current economic situation and the targets for the non-oil sector development,” the paper says.

For this purpose, advanced experience of other developing countries should be studied, according to the AmCham representatives.

The Chamber also offers to introduce voluntary social insurance system in the country.

AmCham members offer to establish the regulatory, legal and administrative framework for the establishment of non-state pension funds.

“The legislation to be adopted in this field should stipulate the mechanisms of accumulating the voluntary social insurance contributions, accounting for these funds and revenues from their investments in the individual accounts, requirements on asset managers, investing rules, establishment of non-state pension funds and organization of their activities, formation of adequate mechanisms in these institutions ensuring to fulfill the liabilities, appointment, payment of non-state pensions, main directions of state regulation in this area and other issues,” the document said.

AmCham has been working in Azerbaijan since 1996 and currently consists of 270 companies representing more than 80% of foreign investments in the country and currently serving as a bridge between the Government and private sector and having continuous constructive and results oriented dialogue with relevant government bodies, Chamber promotes the business interests of the member companies, contributes to the improvement of the business climate in Azerbaijan.

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American Chamber of Commerce in Azerbaijan welcomes a new legislative change merging taxation and tourism sectors

AmericanChamberofCommerceinAzerbaijanAmerican Chamber of Commerce in Azerbaijan (AmCham) welcomes a new legislative change merging taxation and tourism sectors. President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, H.E. Ilham Aliyev signed one more decree towards diversifications of economy and stimulating tourism sector of Azerbaijan. The decree covers the rule on refund of VAT paid by foreigners and stateless persons for goods purchased in the territory of Azerbaijan.

According to the legislation, tourists visiting Azerbaijan will be able to refund VATs on the border. It covers expenses over 300 AZN and obviously excludes production or commercial related activities. Executive Director of American Chamber of Commerce in Azerbaijan, Mrs. Natavan Mammadova, welcomed the new law and stated that “the recent change in the legislation of Azerbaijan will pave the way for boosting tourism industry of Azerbaijan. Herein, the flow of tourists will not only increase, but also create stimulus to shop and spend more. It is a clear step forward from the President of Azerbaijan towards economic development, with a focus to tourism.”

At the same time, increasing turnover among the tourists is highly expected to create positive impact for development of entrepreneurship, production of local goods, as well as, broadening formal business practices. As a multiplier effect to governance, informational database, application of electronic tax invoice, coverage of e-platforms, cooperation among various organizations (Ministry of Taxation, Ministry of Finance, private banks, Customs Union and State Border Service) will be enhanced. Thus, the recent legislation on refund of VAT paid by foreigners and stateless persons will positively affect increase of attractiveness of Azerbaijan as an ideal tourist destination.

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President Aliyev reveals country’s economic priorities, hears AmCham recommendations

AmericanChamberofCommerceinAzerbaijanThe number one goal of Azerbaijan is to reduce dependence on oil and gas, as well as diversify the national economy.

This was stated by President Ilham Aliyev at a meeting with a delegation of the American Chamber of Commerce in Azerbaijan on April 12.

President Aliyev believes that sharp decline in oil prices has actualized the implementation of many works related to reforms. No any developed country is rich in oil and gas. But these countries could become a leading force in the world by developing through innovations, business environment, and technologies.

“Azerbaijan is determined to conduct serious economic reforms,” President Aliyev said, adding that in the past 10 years, Azerbaijan was able to create more than one million permanent jobs, to achieve the development of regional infrastructure, and to create industrial capacity.

“But this is not enough, and there is a need for a more dynamic growth of non-oil sector,” he said.

Despite its industrial potential, Azerbaijan is keen on diversifying the national economy and achieving development of the non-oil sector.

“We need a more rapid growth in non-oil sector of the economy. Therefore, diversification is the number one issue,” he said, adding that new jobs should also be created in the country.

“New jobs should be created, as in connection with a positive demographic situation in Azerbaijan, we should annually create thousands and even tens of thousands of jobs. The growth rate of population is higher than the rate of opening new jobs,” he noted.

President Aliyev believes that creation of new jobs should be coordinated with reforms in education, because more specialists will be needed for those sectors, where the government is planning to achieve economic activity.

Another priority of the Azerbaijani government is to reduce dependence on imports.

“We managed to reduce dependence on the main areas of consumption. However, we are still in a state of dependence. Therefore, the inevitable devaluation of our national currency due to oil prices and developments happening in the neighborhood, of course, had an impact on inflation,” President Aliyev stressed.

Currently, production of export-oriented goods is also among Azerbaijan’s priorities.

“At first, it was not a priority, because, frankly, cash gained from oil was enough to ensure a budget surplus and tangible foreign exchange reserves. Currently, when oil prices have fallen, we should compensate it with other products of export orientation,” President Aliyev noted.

Azerbaijan, which enjoys favorable investment environment in the energy sector, also intends to create the same conditions for doing business in other sectors.

President Aliyev believes that projected investment environment should be created in the country as only in this case, Azerbaijan can attract investment under the current circumstances.

“We should ensure the same condition in all other sectors of the economy, so that the investors to be fully confident in the protection of their investments, to avoid changes in the conditions, interventions,” he said.

There are several sectors in Azerbaijan’s economy that enjoy significant potential to attract foreign direct investment.

“One of them is agriculture, which could create additional capacity, including export products. It can also contribute to the employment issue, as half of our population lives in rural areas,” President Aliyev noted.

The high-tech sector is also among these priority sectors.

“There is a good cooperation between Azerbaijani and American companies in this sector. We can grow more products on the same land plots by using your technologies in the agriculture,” President Aliyev said.

The tourism sector is also very important for Azerbaijan in terms of involving huge investments.

President Aliyev believes that the existing situation in the tourism sector does not match with the country’s potential. Therefore, Azerbaijan should create a tourism industry.

“Currently, additional steps are taken to make it easier for foreign tourists to visit Azerbaijan. In particular, given the geographical location, the hospitality of our people, security, friendly atmosphere and the existing infrastructure both in Baku and in the regions, as well as a variety of climatic conditions, we can attract more tourists,” he said.

Azerbaijan will further provide a governmental support to the small and medium sized enterprises, at the same time continue control over the financial and banking sector.

In his closing speech, President Aliyev touched upon the activity of the ASAN Service, and said that the services rendered through this body will be extended.

“This means transparency, service, culture, zero corruption and zero bureaucracy,” he said, adding that ASAN is an Azerbaijani brand.

AmCham’s recommendation

Speaking at the meeting, the U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Robert Secuta said that the U.S. companies are operating together with other foreign companies to be active not only in the production sector, but also in the service and other sectors.

“I think that we can help you in the agriculture, high technologies and tourism sectors, as well as in the development of new areas that you have mentioned,” he noted.

Secuta also said since 1992, the U.S. has made assistance worth more than $1.2 billion to Azerbaijan through different lines, and added that one of the areas in which the U.S. focus is the development of entrepreneurship and agriculture in the country.

In her remarks, Teyba Guliyeva, the First Vice President of the AmCham and the representative of the Societe Generale Company in Azerbaijan, said that first of all, the speed of reforms is very important.

She believes that maintaining the same level of operation by taking serious steps towards changing the current business environment in Azerbaijan is very important.

“We believe that this level should be maintained and the economy should be strengthened. This is important not only for large companies, but also for small and medium sized enterprises,” Guliyeva added.

She believes that the establishment of the Boards of Appeal will serve for faster and transparent resolution of disputes. She appraised the establishment of the Financial Market Supervisory Body.

Rossen Papazov, the General Director of Holcim Azerbaijan, in turn, said that further development of infrastructure, roads and railways, completion of construction of the Baku International Sea Trade Port could be priority for Azerbaijan.

“Secondly, optimization of logistics costs and change of transport tariffs is necessary to ease export,” he added.

Nurlan Karimov, who serves as a representative of the Deloitte and Touche LLC, praised the reforms carried out for ensuring transparency in doing business.

He believes that the more transparency is ensured the more tax revenues will be transferred to the budget.

“At the same time, the tax system should be further improved for involving more tax paying investors in the country,” he said. “Thanks to Azerbaijan’s geographic location, the country can act as a regional center. Thus, favorable tax regime can be very useful for investors.”

He expressed confidence that the more the cash payment is small, the more tax evasion and other law violations will occur.

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