So here is the deal, president Aliyev love to splurge. Yes, we all know that by now. He loves to splurge for himself, for his family and of course, for his country. And splurging comes in various amounts, shapes and forms. You need a museum, lets splurge. The State Oil Company needs a new glass building, lets splurge, you get the picture.
The other kind of splurging comes in a package titled "image branding". That kind of splurging takes a whole lot of $$$€€€ and Azerbaijani Manats. We have done a lot of this kind of splurging too. The Eurovision, the Flame Towers, the Flag Pole, the European Games, the F1. We have hosted a whole series of conferences and summits that only our part of the world seems to know about although rarely gets to hear about it.
The most recent image branding activity took place not long ago in Baku as part of the 42nd Chess Olympiad. The government reportedly spent some 12million EUR covering all costs of international competitors. If you don't remember, we also picked up the tab during the European Games. In fact, this is becoming just like an old Azeri habit of picking up the bill when you are out with guests.
How generous of us.
And while over 300 guest players got to enjoy lavish opening on September 1, kilometers away from the capital a family in Serek village struggled to grab attention of local media as well as the government officials as they were forced to sleep outside when their old home got heavily damaged as a result of a heavy rain.
The family has asked pretty much every government institution for help but so far they have had little success. In fact, all they have been promised was 275eur to buy some construction material. The mother of three and the owner of the house is not happy. "What can you buy with that? We lost everything, what kind of treatment is this?"
She has a point. But will anyone budge?
The opening of the chess tournament featured glitz and glamour as per usual. Image branding was a success this time as well but what about the people?