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EU helps Afghanistan with debt relief amid ongoing pandemic

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(Last Updated On: April 6, 2021)

The EU announced Tuesday it will provide Afghanistan with 2.9 million Euros in grant funding to be used towards debt relief in a bid to help the country maintain its commitment and path towards reaching its Sustainable Development Goals.

The EU said in a statement the ongoing pandemic has carried severe health, social and economic consequences around the world, including in Afghanistan. In many developing countries, debt levels were already high before the crisis and are now at risk of becoming unsustainable.

“Afghanistan has to cope with sharply declining revenue as a consequence of the crisis, driven by restrictions on economic activity and trade. Tax revenue dropped by 40 percent in April–May 2020 while the expenditure burden for health and other social services increased,” the statement read.

“The Afghan government successfully managed to borrow considerable amounts in highly concessional loans from the IMF to cover its fiscal deficit during the crisis. Although Afghanistan’s debt level still remains low, the current revenue position increased vulnerability,” read the statement.

EU Chargé d’ Affaires Arnout Pauwels meanwhile said: “Today’s announcement is good news for Afghanistan, as this additional funding will free space to increase the social, health and economic spending in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

“This comes in addition to the substantial support the EU has already provided to Afghanistan to tackle the pandemic, both bilaterally and through the COVAX facility,” he said.

The support announced Tuesday will also contribute to Afghanistan’s macro-economic stability. This comes at an important moment, as the EU’s assessment of the government’s performance on the 2020 State and Resilience Budget Support begins. For years, economic stability and sound public finance management have been at the heart of the EU’s dialogue with countries receiving EU budget support.

Since the start of the pandemic, the EU has mobilised almost 147 million euros to Afghanistan to address the immediate health crisis and provide humanitarian assistance to the people in need. As the largest donor to the COVAX facility, the EU and its member states have also enabled the delivery of almost 500,000 doses of vaccine to Afghanistan.

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Illegal Iranian saffron in the country raises concerns

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(Last Updated On: April 13, 2021)

Saffron producers in Herat province have voiced concerns over the practise of importing saffron from Iran, which they say lowers the price of the spice on local markets.

Abdul Shakoor, head of a saffron producing company, said they have over the years exported hundreds of kilograms of saffron annually but that there is a growing trend among traders to import the spice illegally from Iran.

“It is a betrayal to the nation,” said Abdul Shakoor.

This comes after producers recorded a 30 percent increase in saffron exports last year.

Herat saffron exporters union said they have not been able to prove that saffron is being smuggled from Iran into Afghanistan but said controls in this regard were lacking.

“Some amount of saffron might be imported from Iran and will be exported from Afghanistan, but it is very rare. Afghanistan produces saffron by itself and there is no need for Iranian saffron,” said Mohamad Uthman Ansari, head of Herat saffron exporters union.

“We are not able to prove [reports] who imports the saffron… one thing that we notice is poor management,” said Bashir Ahmad Rashidi, head of Afghanistan saffron producers union.

The Afghan Ministry of Commerce and Industry said bringing saffron into Afghanistan is illegal.

Spokesman for the ministry, Ahmad Fawad Ahmadi said this week that action would be taken against anyone who brings saffron into the country illegally adding that Afghanistan’s saffron is the best in the world.

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Peshawar cardiology institute opens new unit for Afghan patients

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(Last Updated On: April 13, 2021)

Afghan Counsellor General to Pakistan, Najibullah Ahmadzai on Monday inaugurated a Separate Counter at Peshawar Institute of Cardiology which will help Afghan patients get better and quicker treatment.

Speaking at the event, Ahmadzai welcomed the initiative and thanked the Khyber Pakhtun Khwa government for its role in the initiative. He also said he hoped the institute would continue to provide maximum facilities to Afghan patients.

Ahmadzai also said that countless Afghans visit Peshawar hospitals and clinics annually for medical treatment at established hospitals.

Professor Shahkar Ahmad Shah, CEO & Medical Director of the cardiology institute also addressed guests and said the hospital was also ready to help improve the skills of Afghan nurses and doctors.

He also said Afghan patients are treated at the hospital as equals.

According to him, already about 114 Afghan patients have been treated at the hospital in the past four months – including 11 who underwent open heart surgery.

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Ghani slams firms for shoddy work on development projects

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(Last Updated On: April 13, 2021)

President Ashraf Ghani on Monday criticized companies for substandard work on a number of development projects around the country and said this was “not satisfactory”.

Speaking at a development project event, Ghani said that proper attention was not being paid to the detail, resulting in shoddy work.

“Implementation of development projects affect the economy of the country; the relevant organizations must be careful about quality. Corruption must end, and transparency should be part of contracts,” said Ghani.
He also warned private companies that unless they deliver work of a high standard, the contracts will be withdrawn and handed over to government departments.

“The private companies should be careful about transparency in their contracts, otherwise all contracts will be given to government companies,” added Ghani.

In addition to this, Ghani, urged members of the public to monitor projects in order to avoid corruption.

Meanwhile, officials of the Ministry of Public Works, recently inaugurated 28 development projects worth more than 7.4 billion AFN.
The projects are:
1- Kandahar- Spin Boldak road
2- Danesh- Pol-e – Maghan road in Kapisa
3- A bridge in Company area of Kabul city
4- Road in Kama district of Nangarhar province
5- Kabul –Logar highway
6- Kabul Ring Road
The minister of public works, Najibullah Yamin meanwhile said on Monday that work on the key Kabul to Kandahar highway will start in the near future.
“Twenty two projects are currently underway in Kandahar. Survey of Kabul-Kandahar highway started this year and construction on it will start soon,” said Yamin.

Kabul’s mayor, Mohammad Daoud Sultanzoy also noted progress on Monday and said: “Bridge of Shina and Bridge of Pacha were inaugurated today (Monday). The project was funded from municipality development budget. Three million square meters of land has been taken back from warlords,” he said.

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