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Afghanistan’s GDP to expand by 3% in 2021: ADB

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(Last Updated On: April 28, 2021)

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) forecasts that Afghanistan’s gross domestic product GDP growth will increase by 3% in 2021 and 4% in 2022 after the normalization of business activity and market sentiment.

In its Asian Development Outlook (ADO) 2021 released on Wednesday, the ADB stated that Afghanistan’s economic growth is expected to recover this year and accelerate next year after a sharp decline in 2020 from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and continued violence and instability.

“Afghanistan’s economy experienced unprecedented disruption in 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic, political instability and continued violence, which cut remittances, trade, and revenue,” said ADB Country Director for Afghanistan Narendra Singru. 

“With a successful COVID-19 vaccine rollout and post-pandemic recovery, the country should be on track to achieve economic growth this year and in 2022 as business activity and market sentiment normalize,” Singru said.

According to the report, inflation more than doubled from 2.3% in 2019 to 5.6% in 2020 driven by higher food prices. Food price inflation in 2020 was estimated at 10% with the highest spike recorded in April when border closure and panic buying propelled it to 16.6%. Inflation is projected to moderate to 5.0% in 2021 and 4.0% in 2022 as food supplies improve.

However, risks remain, including implementing vaccinations in remote and insecure areas, conflict, criminality, corruption, political instability, and broader social fragility. If unaddressed, these could weigh heavily on the economy and impede recovery.

“Supporting the recovery of micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) hard hit by the pandemic is pivotal to safeguarding workers’ incomes and livelihoods, according to the report. Before the pandemic, MSMEs were estimated to provide nearly 1.6 million service and industry jobs. The government approved a 2-year support package worth $295 million in October 2020 to improve business conditions and implemented countercyclical measures that include support for MSMEs,” the report read.

The ADB suggests that Afghanistan should facilitate MSME access to markets by developing infrastructure, improving security, combating corruption, simplifying regulation, strengthening property rights and contract enforcement, and promoting innovation and better labor skills in order to improve the business environment.

“Increasing access to credit and further expanding the formal bank sector is also crucial,” the organization said.

“ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region,” the report concluded.

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Private sector calls for implementation of economic projects

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(Last Updated On: September 17, 2021)

Afghanistan’s private sector on Thursday called on the new government to implement large, regional projects saying this will create job opportunities, which will in turn reduce poverty and increase government revenue.

“There are many opportunities in the country. TAPI, CASA-1000, Railways, Belt and Road, [these] projects should be implemented; it is very important for the country. It is beneficial for Afghanistan. Taliban (Islamic Emirate) should take it seriously,” said Khan Jan Alokozay, a member of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment.

Some members of the country’s craftsmen association said the Islamic Emirate should start with projects that connect Central Asia to South Asia, in order to push Afghanistan’s economy.

“Our country has the capacity to implement large projects between Central Asia and South Asia. We call on Taliban (Islamic Emirate) to address the projects, said Abdul Jabar Safi, head of the association.

The Islamic Emirate meanwhile has stated that they are focusing on projects and that work on these will start soon.

Economic analysts, on the other hand, have stated that work on such projects should be accelerated.

“Attention should be paid to these projects, in order to move to a stable economy. Afghanistan needs such projects now,” said Abdul Wasi, an economic analyst.

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Central bank seizes over $12 million from former govt officials

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(Last Updated On: September 16, 2021)

Afghanistan’s central bank said it had seized nearly $12.4 million in cash and gold from former high-ranking government officials, including former vice president Amrullah Saleh.

In a statement, the central bank said the money and gold had been kept in the houses of officials, although it did not yet know for what purpose.

Saleh’s whereabouts meanwhile are unknown.

In a separate statement, the bank urged Afghans to use the country’s local Afghani currency.

This comes amid growing concerns that the country’s banks and firms are running short of money, especially dollars, which are widely used.

In a sign that the Islamic Emirate are looking to recoup assets belonging to former government officials, the central bank issued a circular to local banks last week asking them to freeze the accounts of politically exposed individuals linked to the previous government.

But on Wednesday, reports emerged that Afghanistan’s banks are running out of dollars, and may have to close their doors to customers unless the government releases funds soon.

Three people with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters that the cash squeeze threatens to upend the country’s already battered economy, largely dependent on hundreds of millions of dollars shipped by the United States to the central bank in Kabul that make their way to Afghans through banks.

Although the cash crunch has lasted weeks, the country’s banks have in recent days repeatedly underlined their concerns to the new government and central bank, two of the people said.

Banks have already pared back services and imposed weekly $200 payout limits, with long queues outside branches as people try to get hold of dollars.

But in a statement on its website on Wednesday, the central bank’s acting governor said banks were stable.

“The banks are completely secure,” he said, adding that commercial banks usually kept 10% of their capital as cash and that those in Afghanistan, on average, held 50% as cash.

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Efforts underway to reopen Torkham and Spin Boldak border crossings

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(Last Updated On: September 15, 2021)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s Acting Foreign Minister Mawlavi Amir Khan Mottaqi met with Pakistani Ambassador to Kabul Mansoor Ahmad Khan on Tuesday to discuss challenges at the country’s border crossings.

Suhail Shaheen, the spokesman for the Islamic Emirate’s political office in Doha, said the meeting focused on the people’s challenges at the Torkham and Spin Boldak crossings.

According to Shaheen, Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan has assured the Islamic Emirate that the crossings will soon be reopened to Afghans and all challenges will be resolved.

Pakistan closed the Torkham crossing to Afghan travelers, and traffic continued intermittently through Spin Boldak after the Islamic Emirate’s takeover of Afghanistan last month.

Thousands of Afghans are however currently waiting to cross into Pakistan at these crossings.

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