Wednesday, January 3

World's best airport in a country with best camouflage skills

So The Jakarta Post published this list of 13 best airports in the world. It is awesome to see Azerbaijan's new international airport featured on the list, and I am not surprised our media outlets picked up on the story.

What is however interesting is that how Azernews does not mention much about tourism stats or the point Jakarta Post makes about the importance of airports:
According to Citylab, airports play a crucial role in economic development as it moves people. The number of passengers and flights is said to be related to economic output, wages and income. Fortunately, more and more airports are being upgraded and modernized, giving comfort to passengers and supporting a country's economy.
According to the most recent stats, as shared by the Ministry of Culture, a total of 1.8million tourists visited Azerbaijan in 2017. The highest number of tourists are from Russia, followed by Georgia, Iran, Turkey, UAE, and others.   

And yet, our own citizens prefer going to neighboring Georgia for holidays such as New Year. The close distance, lower prices, friendly environment are certainly important in this decision. Even though Azerbaijan Tourism Association disagrees. It is not the low prices that attract Azerbaijani tourists but the closeness of the country. I think we should ask Azerbaijanis who travel there. I am sure price, quality and diversity would certainly have something to do with it. It is also easier to travel to Georgia as there are no visa requirements and although Azerbaijan is working to improve its visa handling through notorious ASAN service we are yet to see the results and impact on the country's tourism industry.

Now back to the discussion of economic development and the role of the airports. Y'all know about levels of corruption in Azerbaijan so who knows how much money was swept under the carpet during the construction of this airport. And since Y'all know all about how "caring" our leadership is towards its people, I don't have to tell you that the only economic development that can be a topic of discussion in Azerbaijan, is the economic wealth of the ruling family and its closest. 

Independence of institutions are nominal and all of the power is vested within the executive. The imitation of the multiparty system has been stellar even though those who are familiar with the country are aware that this is indeed an imitation and tolerance only extends to those parties who are supportive of the regime and its policies. Within such carefully built system, it is not surprising that the country's economy is and its capital is divided among families and the rumors of vibrant economic development are just rumors (or perhaps they are affecting state coffers only while leaving the general public out). 

According to this report, while in developed countries GDP per capita aligns with the average salary level, in Azerbaijan, the GDP per capita is almost 10 times the average salary. 

So while its great that Azerbaijan's international airport made it into the ranking, it would be grand to see the local media cover the economic development aspect with a bit more realistic analysis but then, if Azernews did that, it is likely it won't be around and available to its readers which is the case with a number of other independent and opposition media. But that's another blog entrance. 

Now, while I recommend visiting my beautiful home, I suggest staying away from glitz and glamor that sometimes can be too much and visit the countryside, go hiking in the mountains and enjoy the delicious national cuisine. And bear in mind that there are many hidden stories of struggle, poverty, and corruption on the streets of the City of Winds. 

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