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Anti-graft commission probes ‘catastrophic’ customs corruption

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(Last Updated On: May 20, 2021)

Anti-corruption agencies have described reports by the acting minister of finance that as much as $8 million is being embezzled by customs on a daily basis as being “catastrophic”.

The Anti-Corruption Commission says it is investigating the acting minister’s claims.

“The Anti-Corruption Commission is investigating the matter and will obtain further information from the Ministry of Finance,” said Mohammad Salim Safari, media officer at the commission.

This comes after acting finance minister Khalid Painda told MPs in the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament) on Wednesday that between $7 million and $8 million was not being collected daily by customs across the country.

MPs in turn accused government leadership, especially the Ministry of Finance, of being the main culprits regarding corruption in customs, and said Painda needs to stop corruption instead of complaining about it.

On Wednesday, Painda told MPs in Parliament that there are reports of corruption involving governors, police commanders, employees of the Ministry of Finance as well as members of the public.

Asked about who is behind the multi-million dollar corruption scheme, Painda was not able to give satisfactory answers, members of the administrative board of the Wolesi Jirga said.

“Instead of giving statistics, the Ministry of Finance should fight corruption and reveal the list of corrupt people,” said Hujatullah Kheradmand, Deputy Secretary of the House of Representatives.

Members of the public, however, have a different view, saying that the head and leadership of the Ministry of Finance are primarily responsible for the corruption but instead they are blaming others.

President Ashraf Ghani has in the past accused the interior ministry of being at the heart of corruption in the country. But some members of the public say it appears that the ministry of finance has now taken that top spot.

In response to the scandal, the Ministry of Industry and Trade says that the smuggling of commercial goods into the country has reduced domestic production.

The Ministry says that joint efforts have been launched with the Ministry of Finance to address this challenge, and that tariffs on imported goods should be increased by 100 percent.

The private sector, on the other hand, says that domestic industrialists still do not have access to production resources.

Members of the private sector say that if the government supports the private sector, investments in the country will increase and jobs will be created.

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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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