Azerbaijan will lose much of its economic might in the next few years because of dwindling oil revenues and a massive waste of public money, President Serzh Sarkisian claimed on Wednesday.
“The picture in the region will totally change within three or four years, and we must be prepared for that,” he said, opening a session of Armenia’s National Security Council. “Experts anticipate the inevitable Azerbaijani fiasco already in the next two or three years.”
“Amid a chronic decline in oil and gas production the authorities of our neighboring country are continuing to spend their accumulated resources in a way that could not have been planned even by their adversaries,” he said.
Oil output in Azerbaijan, the backbone of the domestic economy, is on track to decrease for a third consecutive year in 2012 after a decade of rapid expansion that has earned the country tens of billions of dollars in revenue. Some of that money has been spent on a military build-up which the Azerbaijani government says will eventually help it win back Nagorno-Karabakh and other Armenian-controlled territories.
Sarkisian claimed that President Ilham Aliyev’s regime will also increasingly face anti-government protests in the coming years despite jailing scores of its political opponents and stifling free speech. “Azerbaijani youths were scared and silent as recently as two years ago but are now discussing, albeit in small groups, that the time to have their say will come soon,” he said. “And tomorrow is very close.”
The Armenian leader indicated that his comments are a response to Aliyev’s regular statements about a widening wealth gap between Armenia and Azerbaijan and its implications for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Aliyev has repeatedly stated that his country will eventually force the Armenians to make serious concessions because of having one of the fastest-developing economies in the world. Armenia remains mired in poverty and cannot compete with Azerbaijan anymore, he has said.
Sarkisian laughed off such claims, saying that Armenia’s economy grew much faster than Azerbaijan’s in 2012 and will continue expanding robustly in the years ahead. “We need to continue modernizing and diversifying our economy in order to gain more favorable positions in new regional regroupings anticipated in several years from now,” he told the National Security Council.