Azerbaijan Faces Price Hikes Amid COP29 Preparations

At the end of June, Azerbaijan, this year’s host of COP29, experienced significant price hikes in gasoline, diesel, public transport, and household waste transportation. The Tariff Council cited environmental reasons for the diesel fuel increase, but experts believe it’s an attempt to offset declining oil and gas revenues.

Independent experts predict further hikes in basic food products due to increased fuel costs. Agriculture expert Vahid Maharramli explained that transportation costs have risen by 25%, impacting agricultural production and leading to expected sharp food price increases. Economist Natig Jafarli warned of impending hikes in utility services and a declining national currency, manat.

Mass renovation works in Baku ahead of COP29 have caused traffic jams and increased dust levels, adding to residents’ frustrations. Economist Akram Hasanov and opposition politician Camil Hasanli suggest that the government is using these hikes to cover a state budget deficit rather than addressing corruption and embezzlement.

New regulations for taxi drivers, introduced by the Ministry of Digital Development and Transport, have exacerbated the situation. Vehicles older than eight years are no longer eligible for taxi licenses, and specific colors are now required for different routes. These changes have drastically reduced the number of available taxis, increasing ride costs and sparking complaints on social media.

The extensive renovation work in Baku, costing approximately AZN 470 million (USD 277 million), suggests a focus on impressing international guests rather than addressing local issues. Some experts estimate the total indirect expenses for COP29 to exceed USD 1 billion.

This is not Azerbaijan’s first major event. The country has previously hosted Eurovision, the European Games, and the Islamic Solidarity Games, among others. Academic Gubad Ibadoglu highlights that significant state budget funds have been allocated for these events, raising questions about who bears the cost for COP29 and future events in Azerbaijan.