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Azerbaijan Oil and Corruption: Building Schools -- Laundering Money

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Published on Apr 1, 2012

It is more than 100 years since Azerbaijan's first oil boom, but in the glitzy centre of the capital, Baku, it looks like the glory days never ended. Concert halls, caviar restaurants and car showrooms stand alongside the turn-of-the-century apartments built on oil money at a time when British, Dutch and Russian extractors were rushing to the city.

Then, the prime beneficiaries were the local and foreign oil barons. These days, a new Azeri upper crust has most to gain from Azerbaijan's fortune. Drilling for oil has spread in the Caspian Sea in post-Soviet times The government controls the prices of most energy products and owns key enterprises.

In its 2009 corruption perceptions index Transparency International placed Azerbaijan at 143 out of 180 countries. But it is the widening gap between rich and poor which is the most obvious result of the new energy boom. The rich businessmen who preside over the city live in polished stone and marble mansions nestled among Soviet-era concrete blocks. The Azeri elite keep themselves to themselves, but most people know who they are.

Investors - particularly in construction - also appear to be reaping handsome profits while the energy boom lasts. A feature of this boom is the concentration of oil revenue in the hands of the political elite, one local expert says. The situation is unlikely to change in the very near future.

Outside Baku, there are signs of widespread unemployment and poverty. The way Azerbaijan spends its money is frowned upon by Western governments. The divide is as clear-cut as the glass-and-metal skyline of booming Baku. (Source: BBC)

Geysar Gurbanov is a civil rights activist from Azerbaijan. He advocates for peace, democracy, and human rights in the South Caucasus. Watch other videos on his YouTube channel (http://youtube.com/geysar7). Learn more about the South Caucasus at South Caucasus Diary (http://southcaucasus.blogspot.com)

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