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COVID-19 wreaks havoc on livelihoods of Afghans: World Bank report

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Photo credit: World Bank
(Last Updated On: July 16, 2020)

COVID-19 will have a profound effect on Afghanistan’s economy which is likely to contract by between 5.5 percent and 7.4 percent this year, said the World Bank in its latest biannual Afghanistan Development Update. 

According to the World Bank, this will exacerbate poverty and lead to a sharp decline in government revenue.

“The COVID-19 crisis is having a devastating impact on the livelihoods of Afghans while undermining the government’s revenue collection and its capacity to finance comprehensive programs to save lives, protect the poor, and jumpstart the economy,” said Henry Kerali, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan.

The report titled Surviving the Storm was released on Wednesday and examines the coronavirus impacts on Afghanistan’s economic development.

As stated in the report, COVID-19 has hit Afghanistan in the midst of a difficult political transition, an intensifying conflict, and significant uncertainty regarding future grant support.

“While a peace agreement has been signed between the US and the Taliban, laying the foundations for negotiation of a comprehensive political settlement, Taliban attacks on Afghan security forces have intensified,” the report states.

It also points out the future of international assistance remains in question, while the US has substantially reduced troop numbers this year, with further reductions likely.

Current grant pledges expire at the end of 2020, and international partners are due to consider future aid commitments at an international conference in November.

“Without progress towards a sustainable peace and commitments to continued grant support from international partners, medium-term prospects appear increasingly grim,” read the report.

The report warns that the proportion of Afghans living in poverty may increase from 55 percent in 2017 to between 61 percent and 72 percent in 2020 because of declining incomes and the rising cost of food. The report finds that economic activity plummeted in the first half of 2020 as lockdowns and social distancing measures to curb COVID-19 negatively impacted the industry and service sectors.

To address the impacts of the crisis, the report recommends that tightly constrained public expenditures be carefully prioritized to protect the most vulnerable and limit long-term economic damage.

The report highlights the need for continued financial support from development partners.

“Short-term measures are needed to support households through the current crisis, while improvements in the business regulatory environment and maintaining the core functions of government will pave the way for longer-term recovery,” said Kerali.

“Ongoing support from development partners will help finance critical government operations and restore private sector confidence. The World Bank is working closely with the Government of Afghanistan both to implement the short-term response and lay the foundations for longer-term recovery,” Kerali added.

For full report CLICK HERE

https://documents.worldbank.org/en/publication/documents-reports/documentdetail/132851594655294015/afghanistan-development-update-surviving-the-storm

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MTN to quit Afghanistan, along with other Middle Eastern countries

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(Last Updated On: August 6, 2020)

MTN Group will exit its operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan to become an Africa-only-focused telecommunications operator.

The group said in a statement on Thursday that “MTN has resolved to simplify its portfolio and focus on its pan-African strategy and will, therefore, be exiting its Middle Eastern assets in an orderly manner over the medium term.” 

The group is already in “advanced discussions” to sell its 75 percent stake in its Syrian subsidiary, CEO Rob Shuter said in a call with journalists. It is negotiating with TeleInvest, the 25% owner of the Syrian business, about the sale.

Shuter said the initial focus will be on exiting its operations in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan. However, it also plans to divest of its 49 percent of its stake in MTN Irancell in time.

News of the Middle East and Afghanistan exit comes after a lawsuit was filed in the US in April this year that claimed MTN and several other Western businesses aided terrorist organizations in activities carried out against the United States in the region.

Filed on behalf of American service members, civilians, and their families, who were killed or wounded in Afghanistan, the complaint alleged that MTN paid over $100 million to al-Qaeda and the Taliban so its towers would not be destroyed.

The lawsuit also claimed that MTN would switch off these towers at night, and in doing so, hampered US intelligence operations.

Mybroadband.co.za reported that MTN previously filed a motion to dismiss the original lawsuit, because it said the court lacks jurisdiction over MTN, which does not operate in the United States, and because the complaint does not allege any conduct by MTN that would have violated the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Following an amendment of the complaint by the plaintiffs in June this year, the operator now anticipates filing another motion to dismiss on largely the same grounds.

“MTN remains of the view that it conducts its business in a responsible and compliant manner in all its territories and will defend its position where necessary,” the operator said.

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Air Arabia Abu Dhabi launches new service to Kabul and Dhaka

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(Last Updated On: August 4, 2020)

Air Arabia Abu Dhabi has announced the introduction of two new destinations — Kabul in Afghanistan and Dhaka in Bangladesh – with direct flights from Abu Dhabi commencing on August 7.

Initially there will be three flights a week from Abu Dhabi to Kabul, on a Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

 

Air Arabia Abu Dhabi was formed following an agreement by Etihad Airways and Air Arabia to establish Abu Dhabi’s first low-cost carrier that follows the business model of Air Arabia and complements the services of Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi thereby catering to the growing low-cost travel market segment in the region.

Air Arabia Abu Dhabi started its operations in July 2020 with flights to Alexandria and Sohag in Egypt from Abu Dhabi International Airport.

 

 

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Gov’t collects more than 2.2 billion AFN from 10% telecom tax in past seven months

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(Last Updated On: August 2, 2020)

The government has logged more than 2.2 billion AFN in tax collection via the 10 percent telecom tax on mobile phone subscribers since the beginning of the current fiscal year. 

The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT) said Saturday that through the Real-Time Data Management System – a system used for monitoring the collection of the 10 percent taxes from telecom services – it managed to collect the revenue.

“We managed to collect more than 2.2 billion AFN since the beginning of 2020 and handed it over to the government treasury,” said Abdul Samad Hamid Poya, a spokesman for the MCIT.

Experts, however, claimed the Ministry has yet to ensure transparency in the collection process of the 10 percent revenue tax from mobile phone users.

According to them, the ministry failed to provide details about the exact number of active SIM Cards. But Samad Hamid Poya blamed some telecom companies for not providing them information on the issue.

“We acknowledge that the Ministry of Communications has done some of its work, but if the 10 percent tax would be collected transparently the ministry could generate more revenue than what they have shared,” Salim Tufan an economist told Ariana News.

Last year the MCIT installed “Real-Time Data Management” for the collection of tax across the country. The system was aimed at collecting genuine information through connecting with the telecommunication network system to ensure and gain public confidence in the transparency of the collection process of 10 percent telecom tax and other telecommunication revenues.

Since then, the system remained one of the most controversial issues in the Ministry. Critics believe that the system cannot ensure transparency in the mobile tax collection.

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