The standards of fines should be commensurate with the minimum wage and pension

The standards of fines should be commensurate with the minimum wage and pension

Azerbaijan is set to implement a series of new fines, many of which are associated with driving and parking violations. The proposed amendments to the Code of Administrative Offenses were discussed at a meeting of the Committee on Legal Policy and State Building of the Milli Majlis on June 12. These amendments suggest a significant increase in fines, with some penalties set to rise sixfold.

For instance, the fine for parking in spaces designated for the transport of persons with disabilities is proposed to increase from 10 to 60 manats. Similarly, the fine for driving a vehicle without a license is set to double from 100 to 200 manats, and if repeated within a year, it will rise from 300 to 400 manats. Fines for failing to start the parking period will also double, and additional penalties are introduced for bicycle and scooter riders not parking properly, as well as cars driving in bus lanes.

This surge in fines comes amid frequent increases in fines and duties in various sectors in Azerbaijan, particularly concerning parking. Critics argue that some fines now exceed the country’s minimum wage of 345 manats, which they see as disproportionately harsh.

Fazail Agamaly, a member of the Milli Majlis Committee on Legal Policy and State Building, defended the increases, citing serious transportation issues. He explained these problems to Turan  to poor urban planning by previous administrations, leading to severe traffic congestion. Agamaly stated that the Ministry of Digital Development and Transport is conducting extensive research to address these problems, and fines are a tool to enforce traffic rules and reduce congestion.

Despite acknowledging the necessity of fines, Agamaly opposed the notion that they are a budgetary measure. "The main philosophy of fines is to deter," he asserted. Agamaly also suggested that employees should be exempt from parking fees during working hours to alleviate financial pressure.

Conversely, Deputy Fazil Mustafa criticized the fines, arguing they lack practical benefits without proper infrastructure. "Increasing fines does not provide a logical solution if there are no parking facilities," he said Turan, emphasizing the need for better conditions rather than punitive measures. Mustafa believes that the fines merely serve institutional interests without considering citizens' needs.

Economist Natig Jafarli highlighted the broader context, linking recent infrastructure efforts to the upcoming COP29 UN Climate Conference in Baku. In an interview with Radio Azadlig, Jafarli criticized the lack of alternative solutions for parking and automotive infrastructure. He pointed out that state-owned underground parking lots have also raised their prices, contrary to logical expectations of more affordable state-provided options.

Jafarli also noted that in many countries, fines are correlated with citizens' incomes, a practice not followed in Azerbaijan. "There should be a standard that aligns fines with the minimum wage and pensions," he argued. Without such standards, fines can appear arbitrary and disproportionately harsh on lower-income individuals.

As Azerbaijan prepares for COP29, the debate over fines highlights broader issues of urban planning, economic policy, and social equity. The challenge for policymakers is to balance enforcement with fairness, ensuring that fines serve as deterrents without unduly burdening citizens.

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