Azerbaijan business opportunities are diverse thanks to the nation's rich deposits of oil and natural gas. Because western oil companies are able to tap deepwater oilfields untouched by the Soviet exploitation, Azerbaijan is considered one of the most important spots in the world for oil exploration and development. Tied to growth in the hydrocarbon sector, non-export sectors including construction, banking, transport, telecommunications, and real estate are also seeing exceptional growth, as is demand in consumer and luxury goods from the nouveau riche. Apart from oil, mineral resources include gold, silver, iron, copper, titanium, chromium, manganese, cobalt, molybdenum, complex ore and antimony (predominately in the region of the Lesser Caucasus). Grain, potatoes, sugar beets, cotton, tobacco, livestock, dairy products, wine and spirits are important agricultural products, while fishing is concentrated on dwindling stocks of sturgeon and beluga in the Caspian Sea. A national strategy to make tourism a major contributor to the economy has also proven successful, with more and more tourists visiting local religious, spa and health care destinations. Finally, the convenient location of Azerbaijan on the crossroad of major international traffic arteries – such as the Silk Road and the South-North corridor – highlights the strategic importance of transportation sector for the country’s economy. The transport sector includes roads, railways, aviation, and maritime transport, plus important pipelines that carry oil and gas to the EU.
With pervasive public and private sector corruption and structural economic inefficiencies remaining a drag on long-term growth, the government has taken proactive measures to create a more business friendly environment. In 2008 Azerbaijan started operating a one-stop shop that halved the time, cost and number of procedures to start a business. Minimum loan cutoffs were eliminated and taxpayers can now file forms and pay their taxes online. Such reforms have significantly improved the overall “ease of doing business” on the World Bank's rankings.