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Cash-strapped government puts new projects on hold

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(Last Updated On: August 1, 2021)

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance (MoF) has informed all government departments they need to cut back on budget spend, including that on planned development projects.

In an official notice to all government institutions, MoF has ordered them to stop projects where contracts have recently been signed, and which employ contract workers.

All planned development projects have also been put on hold.

The MoF said that due to the increase in spend for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), the increase in health spend and a drop in government income, all government departments need to cut expenditure.

“After the assessment of the development and general budgets by the cabinet, changes have been brought to the ministries and all government budgets because of the increase in ANDSF and health spending. Contracts from the… budget should be halted or suspended,” read the notice.

The MoF said that the government has lost $33 million in customs revenue since the Taliban seized five border crossings in the past month, amid rising violence in the country.

“Sher Khan port in Kunduz, Spin Boldak in Kandahar, Islam Qala in Herat, Abu Nasr Farahi in Farah and Torghundi in Herat have been captured by Taliban in the past month,“said Rafi Tabi, spokesman for the MoF.

Analysts have said the government should consider other steps to cut back on budget spend.

“In this situation, we can’t blame government, but it (government) should consider other options to prevent confusing the public,” said Sayed Massoud, a university lecturer.

This comes after the projected revenue generation for Afghanistan was expected to be 216 billion AFN ($2.7 billion) for the current solar year.

The total 452.6 billion AFN budget for this year did however carry a 37 billion AFN deficit – which government was to provide 20 billion AFN from internal resources and 17 billion AFN was pledged by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in order to make up the difference.

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Carpet industry takes major knock as client base dries up

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(Last Updated On: September 25, 2021)

Afghans working in the country’s renowned carpet industry say they fear for their future and that business has taken a hit following the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) takeover.

“Carpet weavers should be supported and the carpet weaving industry should grow as well,” said weaver Najaf Ali Mejrayi, while pausing from his work on an intricate rug in the capital, Kabul.

Carpets are one of Afghanistan’s most well-known exports, having been exported around the world for centuries.

Manager of the Sadaat Weaving Company, Mohammad Qasim Ahmady, said his primary market used to be European countries and the U.S., with carpets making their way overseas through Pakistan. But now, he said the customer base has evaporated, while prices for materials such as wool are rising.

He used to have as many as 50 employees before the IEA takeover but now has only about half a dozen.

“This business is down and there is not much production,” he said.

Ghulam Wali Mirzaei, who does dyeing for the carpets, said his family’s wellbeing is at stake.

“If this company falls, all of the employees working here will be unemployed. We take care of our family needs only through this job,” he said.

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Pakistan’s customs agent says exports to Afghanistan dwindle

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(Last Updated On: September 24, 2021)

Hundreds of trucks lined the winding, mountainous road leading to Torkhum, the Pakistan-Afghan border crossing on Thursday.

Pakistani officials say that is because exports to Afghanistan have dwindled in the days after the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) take over.

But some truck drivers were upbeat because they said the vegetable and fruit season in Afghanistan had helped increase exports of these items from the war-ravaged country.

Another Pakistani official at another Pakistan-Afghan border Chaman said trade had picked up because the IEA government had reduced taxes, and also put an end to bribes that traders and truck drivers had to pay to cross the border.

Afghan new government bolstered its economic team last week, naming a commerce minister and two deputies as the group tries to revive a financial system in shock from the abrupt end to billions of dollars in foreign aid.

Underlining the economic pressures building on Afghanistan’s new government, prices for staples like flour, fuel, and rice have risen and long queues are still forming outside banks as they strictly ration withdrawals.

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Motorists concerned about rising fuel prices in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: September 20, 2021)

Afghans have raised concerns over the increase in fuel prices on the local market, despite the resumption of fuel imports from neighboring countries.

Officials from Balkh’s Chamber of Commerce and Investment said last week that imports of fuel and gas through Hairatan and Aqina ports have resumed.

Motorists have however called on the Islamic Emirate to monitor and control market prices.

According to them, petrol currently costs 65 AFN per liter; diesel is 56 AFN; and gas costs between 72 and 80 AFN per kilogram in Kabul.

The Council of Fuel Merchants, however, says that limited access to cash and banking transactions, along with a monopoly of the industry by a few companies, are the key reasons for rising fuel prices.

Mohammad Asif, a member of the organization, stated: “If the Islamic Emirate wants to control the issue, they should control it at the [border] customs. Although [import] tariffs have been cut by 50%, prices are still high due to a monopoly of imports by some companies. They (merchants) set prices as they wish.”

Khan Jan Alokozay, Deputy Head of the Chamber of Commerce and Investment, stated: “The problem is that wholesalers have not set the market price, and when retailers distribute the goods to other areas that causes an increase in rates.”

People also called on property owners to reduce rental rates of houses in Kabul city, amid a looming economic crisis in Afghanistan.

Landlords, however, stated that the average rental has dropped by 50% compared to last year.

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