DISPATCH: Inequality grows in Azerbaijan

Nov. 2 – Cash from oil and gas revenues is creating a two-tier society in Azerbaijan

BAKU – Off the back of a huge boom in oil revenues, Azerbaijan has become increasingly glitzy. Glitzy and expensive.

The world’s most fashionable brands line Baku’s streets and in the top restaurants diners can order filets of salmon and whale meat freshly imported from Norway.

But these options are only available to the very wealthy.

Tunzala Aliyeva is married to a surgeon. A natural host, the 44-year-old looked around her comfortable Soviet-era apartment in the centre of the city. The furniture was the dark solid type that was so expensive in the Soviet Union.

“The city is becoming more and more expensive,” she said. “During the Soviet time we could afford much more. Right now my husband and I can go out to restaurants maybe three or–four times a month.”

For many, the gap is even bigger.

Nigar Mehdiyeva, a widow and a mother of two works as an accountant at a local bank in Baku.

She said she can barely feed her daughters who are 12 and 9-years-old.

“The girls’ school costs me $200. With my $600 salary (per month) I would never think of visiting fancy restaurants or bars in Baku. Those are not for ordinary people.”


Copyright ©The Conway Bulletin 2012

This story was first published in issue 7 of the monthly Correspondent’s Notebook. To subscribe and for more information click here

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