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ADB approves $110 million grant to boost power supply to Afghanistan 

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(Last Updated On: October 1, 2020)

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Wednesday approved a $110 million grant to boost power supply and strengthen Afghanistan’s energy sector by improving its sustainability and promoting cross-border trade in energy.   

“The project will help address Afghanistan’s chronic power shortage by immediately doubling the volume of power imports and ensuring long-term cost-competitive electricity supply,” read a statement issued by ADB. 

Once complete, the project will provide improved access to customers and facilitate 500,000 new connections to households, commercial entities, and industrial customers.

“Demand for electricity is growing rapidly in Afghanistan and is essential for the country’s economic growth,” said ADB Energy Specialist Nana Gurgenidze. 

“The project will help provide reliable and affordable electricity to households and businesses by strengthening the grid and increasing power import capacity by 900 megawatts, with year-round firm energy imports of 3,000 gigawatt-hours.”

Afghanistan relies on energy imports from neighboring countries to meet its domestic demand and despite significant progress since 2002, only about 34 percent of the population has access to grid-connected electricity.

According to the ADB, the project will finance the construction of 201km of a 500-kilovolt overhead transmission line from the Surkhan substation in Uzbekistan to the Khwaja-Alwan substation in Afghanistan – a key interconnection node to receive power from Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. 

It will also fund the expansion of a line bay, including associated equipment, at the Khwaja-Alwan substation and the project will allow Uzbek power into the Afghan grid under a 10-year power purchase and sales agreement signed in August 2020 by the Afghanistan and Uzbekistan governments.

In addition, staff, including female engineers at the national power utility Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), will be trained to manage cross-border power transfer and parallel operations, including emergency operation systems with CAPS, read the statement.

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Saffron producers appeal for global exports to resume

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(Last Updated On: October 23, 2021)

Afghanistan’s Saffron Producers Union on Saturday called on the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) to help restart the saffron production and export sector, which came to a grinding halt due to the coronavirus pandemic and the change in government.

Officials from the union said that unless something is done to restart business, the saffron industry could collapse.

They said that now, without commercial cargo flights into Afghanistan, their international market flow has dried up.

“We had products, but stopped because of COVID-19. Our products and exports have been stopped. If there is no [export] corridor for us saffron production will be stopped,” said Abdul Basir Azimi, an exporter of saffron.

Officials of the Chamber of Agriculture and Livestock meanwhile called on the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) to find a market for domestic products.

“Our saffron was ranked number one in the world several times, but now faces problems. Export environment should be provided for saffron,” said Mirwais Hajizada, deputy head of the chamber.

Economic analysts meanwhile urged the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL)

to support the export of domestic products.

“We have seen that some of our products have a special place in global markets, and have many customers in the world. Now the market for products has disappeared. The basic problems should be solved,” said Saeed-ur-Rahman Imran, an economic analyst.

Afghanistan’s saffron is a valuable revenue generator for the country and the industry employs hundreds of thousands of workers directly and indirectly.

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Rising wood prices a cause for concern in Kabul as winter looms

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(Last Updated On: October 21, 2021)

Kabul residents on Thursday raised concerns about rising prices of heating materials as people started shopping to prepare for winter.

During the winter, Afghan families typically keep warm by using a wood-burning bukhari, a drum-shaped stove made of thin metal, or a pit of burning coal under a small table covered by a heavy blanket.

Kabul resident Abdul Khaleq Hashemi urged the new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) government to bring prices under control.

“The flour, rice, and oil taxes are in the control of the Taliban (IEA) and they should all have a certain fixed price. Same for wood, it should have a certain fixed price, and this issue should be brought under control. It is not right for everyone to sell wood at any price they want,” he said.

Facing an economic crisis as winter approaches, IEA officials appealed to the international community to release frozen assets of more than $9 billion and increase shipments of humanitarian relief as the nation faces an economic crisis.

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IEA won’t be allowed access to Afghan central bank reserves: US

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(Last Updated On: October 20, 2021)

Deputy U.S. Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo on Tuesday said he sees no situation where the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) who regained power in Afghanistan in August, would be allowed access to Afghan central bank reserves, which are largely held in the United States.

The IEA have called for the United States to lift a block on more than $9 billion of Afghan central bank reserves held outside the country as the government struggles to contain a deepening economic crisis.

“We believe that it’s essential that we maintain our sanctions against the Taliban (IEA) but at the same time find ways for legitimate humanitarian assistance to get to the Afghan people. That’s exactly what we’re doing,” Adeyemo told the Senate Banking Committee.

The IEA took back power in Afghanistan in August after the United States pulled out its troops, almost 20 years after the IEA were ousted by U.S.-led forces following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Washington and other Western countries are grappling with difficult choices as a severe humanitarian crisis looms large in Afghanistan. They are trying to work out how to engage with the IEA without granting them the legitimacy they seek, while ensuring humanitarian aid flows into the country.

“Our goal is to make sure that we are implementing our sanctions regime against the Taliban (IEA) and the Haqqani network, but at the same time allowing for the permissible flow of humanitarian assistance into the country,” Adeyemo said.

The Haqqani network is a group affiliated with the IEA based near the border with Pakistan and blamed for some of the worst suicide attacks of the war.

Adeyemo said the Treasury was taking every step it could within its sanctions regime to make clear to humanitarian groups that Washington wants to facilitate the flow of aid to the Afghan people, but warned that for humanitarian assistance to flow, the IEA have to allow it to happen within the country.

The Treasury last month further paved the way for aid to flow to Afghanistan despite U.S. sanctions on the IEA when it issued two general licenses.

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