Sky-high New Year's prices in Shusha caused public outrage and political debate

A widespread advertising campaign inviting revelers to welcome the New Year in Shusha has triggered a wave of indignation across Azerbaijani society, as exorbitant prices for the celebratory package have left citizens questioning accessibility and fairness. The promotional material suggests a cost ranging from 2500 to 3500 manats for a two-person holiday package, prompting a barrage of critical responses on social media platforms for the past three days.

One resident of Aghdam, Ilham Huseyn, voiced his frustration, highlighting that despite the city's liberation three years ago, economic barriers prevent many from experiencing Shusha. "For 30 years, these places were closed to us by the Armenians. And now we can't see Shusha because of the high prices. One night in Shusha costs the same as the annual minimum wage," lamented Huseyn.

Economist Khalid Karimli weighed in on the debate, attributing the steep New Year's holiday prices to the principles of a market economy. Karimli emphasized that the pricing structure is determined by private companies, with minimal state intervention in such areas.

The exorbitant costs, however, are not unique to Shusha alone. Similar high price tags for New Year's holidays have been reported in various hotels across the country. In Sheki's "Marhal," a getaway for two comes with a price tag of 1500 manats, while in Tufandag (Gabala), the cost is 3590 manats for two. Last year, VIP class hotels in the same location demanded as much as 4860 manats. Ismayilli offers a slightly more budget-friendly option at 2000-2500 manats for a two-night, three-day stay during the holiday season. Restaurateurs, however, argue that the delivery of food and staff to Shusha incurs additional costs.

Beyond economic concerns, the advertising of New Year's celebrations in Shusha has become a political talking point as Azerbaijan gears up for the presidential election on February 7, 2024. Ali Karimli, Chairman of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan, asserted that the exorbitant prices in Shusha reflect the city's affiliation with the ruling clan. Karimli highlighted economic statistics, indicating that only 1.7 million out of ten million people in Azerbaijan have permanent jobs, with half of them earning less than 480 manats per month. He criticized the exclusivity of the holiday in Shusha, saying that it is intended for corrupt officials, not liberators of Karabakh, who receive a pension of 80 manats. Thus, the debate over New Year's prices in Shusha has become an unexpected but important element of the unfolding political controversy of the year ending.

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