Since the epicenter of last week's events was Georgia, which had to hold mass protests to force the government to withdraw the law on ‘foreign agents’, that was considered a litmus test of democratic values, we will start this weekly review with Armenian civil society organizations which were only one (officially available among neighboring countries) that made an announcement in solidarity with Georgian civil society and democratic processes in the region. “We consider unacceptable and reprehensible the similar oppression of people’s free will and right to hold peaceful assemblies and democratic processes in the neighboring fraternal country... We, the undersigned organizations of the civil society of the Republic of Armenia, express our solidarity with all partner organizations and individuals who are fighting for democracy, freedom, and human rights and the path chosen by the people in neighboring fraternal Georgia,” the authors of the statement said.
From the same topic of freedom and democracy, let's touch on the annual reports of Freedom House published last week, where Armenia scored 54 points out of 100 and became ‘partly free country’. According to the report, Armenia is only behind its northern neighbor Georgia, which scored 58 points. The other countries of the region were located as follows: Turkey - 32 points, Russia - 16 points, Azerbaijan - 9 points.
And now, below are the main economic and business developments in Georgia’s neighboring Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Last week, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has set May 14 as the date for Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections, almost a month before they were originally scheduled, in what many say will be the toughest election in his two-decade-long rule.
Prior to that, Turkey opposition named Kemal Kilicdaroglu as joint challenger to Erdogan. “Turkey's fractured opposition parties ended months of fractious debate on Monday and agreed to nominate the chairperson of the Republican People's Party (CHP), Kemal Kılıçdaroglu, as their joint candidate against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the upcoming May polls.
Charging stations for electric cars in Turkey will be operated by Tesla. “Turkey’s Energy Market Regulatory Authority (EMRA) awarded US-based electric carmaker Tesla a license to operate a charging network in Turkey, EMRA said. Tesla is now one of 119 companies to operate charging stations and offer support to electric vehicle drivers across Turkey.
Turkey’s industrial production in January expanded by 4.5% on a yearly basis, official figures from the country's statistical institute revealed. Among subsectors, the mining and quarrying index decreased by 7.6%, the manufacturing index increased by 5.8% and the electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply index dropped by 5.7% in January 2023 compared to the same month last year, according to TurkStat. On a monthly basis, the industrial production index was up by 1.9% in January. "When the subsectors of the industry were examined, mining and quarrying index increased by 4.4%, manufacturing index increased by 2.1% and electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply index increased by 1.4% in January 2023, compared with previous month," TurkStat added.
Turkey’s unemployment rate was at 9.7% in January, decreasing 0.5 percentage point from the previous month, the country's statistical institute revealed. The number of unemployed people at least 15 years old was down by 166,000 on a monthly basis for a reading of 3.4 million, according to TurkStat. The employment rate was 48.9%, up by 0.5 percentage point. The rate was 66.9% for men and 31.2% for women.
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will invest up to €1.5 billion ($1.6 billion) in southern Turkey over the next two years after powerful earthquakes shook the region on Feb. 6. The EBRD aims to support the recovery, reconstruction and reintegration of the region’s economy to preserve human capital, livelihoods and jobs in the affected cities, the bank said in a statement on Thursday. The bank provides €600 million in credit lines to local lenders for businesses and individuals directly affected by the earthquakes, as well as new lending to companies participating in recovery and reconstruction efforts in the area. It will also support the reconstruction of sustainable infrastructure in the affected cities, cooperating with municipalities such as Hatay and Gaziantep. The bank will also focus funds on the reconstruction of the railway network to re-establish connectivity between the southeastern region and the rest of the country.
The initial pumping of the natural gas Turkey discovered in the Black Sea into the national grid is facing a delay of up to a month because of the catastrophic earthquakes that ripped through the southeastern region last month, according to the country’s energy minister. The delay comes as thousands of staff working on the project to bring the gas onshore had to leave to care for their relatives affected by the Feb. 6 quakes and strong aftershocks that killed more than 46,000 people.
The Turkish Treasury's cash balance posted a deficit of 171.5 billion Turkish liras ($9.1 billion) in February. The figure was a 55.5 billion Turkish liras ($4.1 billion) surplus in February 2022, the Treasury and Finance Ministry data showed. Cash revenues of the Treasury amounted to 208.3 billion Turkish liras ($11.1 billion) last month, down from 277.5 billion Turkish liras ($20.4 billion) a year ago. Including interest payments of 31.4 billion Turkish liras ($1.7 million), its expenditures hit some 379.8 billion Turkish liras ($20.2 billion) this February versus 222.8 billion Turkish liras ($16.4 billion) in February 2022. The average US dollar/Turkish lira exchange rate was around 18.84 last month.
Saudi Arabia signed an agreement with Turkey to deposit $5 billion in the Turkish Central Bank. A statement by the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD) said the agreement was signed by SFD chairman Ahmed Al-Khateeb and bank governor Sahap Kavcioglu.
The Turkish Competition Board on Monday fined Twitter CEO Elon Musk for not taking permission from the authority during Musk's takeover of the social media platform. Musk is fined 0.1% of Twitter's gross income in Turkey in 2022. The board added that Musk’s takeover did not effectively violate competition, but the probe still ended with a fine due to the lack of board permission.
Turkey's gross domestic expenditure on research and development (GERD) increased to 101.74 billion Turkish liras ($11.3 billion) in 2021, up over 47% compared to 2020. GERD includes spending on R&D activities by businesses, higher education institutions, government, and private non-profit sector. While the share of GERD in the country's GDP was 1.37% in 2020, it was at 1.4% in 2021.
Turkey has appeared to halt the transit of sanctioned goods through its territory to Russia. According to report, several managers said earlier this week that Turkish customs authorities had started rejecting the transit of goods to Russia and Belarus where declarations included customs codes of items named on a European Union list of sanctioned goods. The executives said that Turkish customs officials cited a government directive to halt transit, but there had been no formal public government announcement of any change in Turkey’s transit policy on goods going to Russia or Belarus. The report also cited some logistics executives who said there were broader restrictions on the transit of goods destined for Russia and Belarus through Turkey, with only the export of Turkish-produced goods allowed.
Armenia’s foreign trade in January 2023 amounted to about $1.3 billion, which is 93.8% more than in January 2022, the National Statistical Committee said. However, compared to December last year, the foreign trade in January 2023 was down 18.3%. In January 2023, the volume of foreign trade turnover in Armenian drams amounted to 514.4 billion.
Armenia's domestic trade upped 17.7% in the first month of 2023 from the same time span of 2022 to about 293 billion drams (in current prices), the National Statistical Committee reported. It said the retail trade amounted to about 113.3 billion drams, up 1.3% from the first month of 2021. The wholesale trade grew by 31.4 % to about 167 billion drams. Sales of vehicles raised over 13.1 billion drams growing by 31% year-on-year. Stores accounted for 80% of the retail trade or over 96 billion drams showing 2.1`% y-o-y growth. Consumer goods markets accounted for 4.4% of the total or about 5 billion drams having slashed by almost 10%.
Armenia’s construction sector grew by 12.2% in the first month of 2023 from the first month of 2022 to a little over 16 billion drams ($42 million). About 1.6 billion drams ($4.2 million) worth construction was financed by the government. Compared to the first month of 2022 the figure almost doubled to about 10% of the total. About 884 million drams ($2.3 million) worth construction was financed by communities, 5.4 times rise from January 2022 (5.5% of the total).
Taxes paid by 17 Armenia-based commercial banks in 2022 grew by AMD 9.2 bln ($24 million) or 17.6% from the previous year to about AMD 52.3 bln ($136 million), the Union of Banks of Armenia (UBA) said.
Armenia's services sector surged by 25.9% in the first month of 2023 as opposed to the same month of 2022 to about 216 billion drams ($ 563 million).
Russia’s largest technology company Yandex is planning to expand its office in Armenia, Yandex New Products Director and Yandex Hub curator in Armenia Dmitry Stepanov said last Sunday, while speaking at an economic forum hosted by the Russian-Armenian University in Yerevan. "Back in March 2022 we rented a big office in Yerevan on 3.5 thousand square meters and now we are thinking about expanding, because it cannot accommodate all our employees anymore," Stepanov said.
More than 70 charging stations for electric cars all over Armenia will be installed during the current year by Team Telecom Armenia.
Azerbaijan’s non-oil exports amounted to $651.4 million in January-February 2023, up 36.6% from the previous year, Azerbaijan Export and Investment Promotion Foundation (AZPROMO) said. In February alone, non-oil exports stood at $366.9 million, up 50% from a year earlier.
Azerbaijan will start to export ‘green energy’ to Europe soon, that's according to the country's president. “Azerbaijan becomes for the European Union a more important partner with respect to energy supplies. We always were considered by European Commission as a reliable partner,” said the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, adding "And today we export oil, natural gas, electricity, petrochemicals, and oil products, and hopefully soon we will start to export green energy.
Azerbaijan is trying to create new energy corridors. The country strives to create the necessary conditions for the implementation of these projects, Minister of Energy Parviz Shahbazov said at a regular panel meeting on the topic “The Role of New Energy and Transport Corridors in Eurasian Zone” within the 10th Global Baku Forum. He noted that the closure of the Silk Road route had a negative impact on the economies: “Today’s situation is no different from what it was then. Azerbaijan's goal is to provide our region and other countries with secure energy resources. We have several projects. They will be implemented jointly with our partners.”
Azerbaijan will further increase its natural gas exports to Europe, Minister of Energy, Parviz Shahbazov, said at the next panel meeting on "The role of new energy and transport corridors in Eurasian zone" within the X Global Baku Forum. According to him, Azerbaijan will double its gas exports to Europe from 2027: "We have been working with partners in this direction since January." Shahbazov noted that the Zangazur corridor would be both a transport and an energy corridor: "We plan to export energy to Nakhchivan, then to Türkiye and Europe through this energy corridor."
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