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Integrity Watch urges govt to engage with locals to develop mining sector

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(Last Updated On: July 30, 2020)

Integrity Watch Afghanistan said in a new study of community engagement in the mining sector that the role of local communities in mining areas is very weak and the government has not institutionalized public engagement through any long-term strategy.

Integrity Watch said the report provides a working basis for civil society organizations willing to develop a community monitoring project in the mining sector and states that there is vast potential in engaging communities in the mining sector including prevention of illegal mining, increasing government revenues and contributing to stability and security at the local level.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Sayed Ikram Afzali, Executive Director of Integrity Watch, said: “The government has taken some steps to engage the public in the extractive sector. However, these efforts have been sporadic, have not been informed by Afghan and global experiences and have therefore not been effective during the past ten years.” 

He said that early this month the cabinet decided governors need to collect information from local communities about mining sites. 

Afzali said this was a welcome step by the government but the process of collecting information needs to be systematic and well planned. 

“Our experiences of Community-Based Monitoring (CBM) in other sectors prove that public engagement can improve accountability and build trust between the government and the citizens. 

“The Afghan government can build trust and provide people with a constant channel of communication by engaging communities in the monitoring of mining operations throughout the mining cycle from exploration to extraction.”

Meanwhile, Charlotte Boyer, the author of the report, said: “This report outlines the dos and do-nots of engaging people in the extractive sector and this could be used by civil society, government and the private sector to understand people’s views and design their engagement mechanisms with the communities around the mining sites.” 

The report notes a number of recommendations that could be taken into consideration when engaging people in the mining sector. 

The report also suggests a methodology developed by Integrity Watch be used whereby communities are mobilized and trained, and a literate and honest member of the community is elected to monitor the mining site. Information can then be shared on progress and challenges and issues can be identified and addressed with the mining company and local government.  

But torn by four decades of war, Afghanistan is believed to be sitting on one of the richest troves of minerals in the world. The value of these resources has been roughly estimated between $1 trillion and $3 trillion.

Afghanistan has vast reserves of gold, platinum, silver, copper, iron, chromite, lithium, uranium, and aluminum as well as high-quality emeralds, rubies, sapphires, turquoise, and lapis lazuli as well as natural gas and petroleum.

Earlier this year, the Diplomat reported that the one thing that could possibly shift Afghanistan from being a foreign aid-dependent country to an economically stable one is the proper exploitation of its mineral wealth. 

The Diplomat reported that if robust policies coupled with a comprehensive, realistic and long-term strategic approach is adopted and if exploited effectively, mining could prove to be the best substitute for foreign aid and decrease the country’s dependence on donor countries and foreign support. 

These resources, if properly managed, provide an opportunity for Afghanistan to write its own story of economic success, the article stated.

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Imran Khan says peace in Afghanistan would boost regional trade

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(Last Updated On: October 29, 2020)

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan says that peace and stability in Afghanistan would be beneficial for the entire region as it would enhance economic opportunities.

In a meeting with Nisar Ahmed Faizi Ghoryani, Afghanistan’s Acting Minister of Industry and Commerce, on Thursday Khan stated: “Peace in Afghanistan would be beneficial for the entire region by enhancing regional connectivity and providing new opportunities for economic cooperation.”

The Pakistani prime minister noted that Pakistan and Afghanistan have untapped economic synergy and opportunities, which he said could only be realized through cooperation in the economic and trade sphere.

Khan also reiterated Pakistan’s consistent support to peace and stability in Afghanistan and emphasized the need for a negotiated political settlement.

Meanwhile, Ghoryani thanked Pakistan for its role in facilitating the Afghan peace process and its “desire for enhanced economic and trade ties between the two countries.”

Ghoryani, who traveled to Islamabad to attend the Pakistan-Afghanistan 2020 Trade and Investment Forum, has met with the country’s high-ranking officials and discussed transit issues and expansion of trade between the two countries this week.

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No relief yet for Pakistan as FATF keeps it on global grey list

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(Last Updated On: October 24, 2020)

The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) on Friday announced it would keep Pakistan on the grey list until at least February next year.

Speaking at a virtual press conference in Paris on Friday the anti-money laundering/terror financing watchdog’s president Marcus Pleyer said there were still conditions Pakistan needs to comply with before they can be removed from the grey list. 

“Pakistan must comply with the remaining six items, then the FATF will send its onsite team to verify progress on the ground. After completion of this process, the FATF will consider Pakistan to be excluded from the list of jurisdictions with increased risk of terror financing that is called the grey list.”

Pleyer said although Pakistan has made progress in terms of carrying out reforms and implemented measures such as imposing sanctions against those financing terrorism, more still needed to be done. 

The FATF plenary removed Iceland and Magnolia from the grey list. North Korea and Iran will remain on the blacklist.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar said on Twitter: “FATF acknowledges that any blacklisting is off the table now. Pak has achieved impressive progress on its FATF action plan. 21 out of 27 action items now stand cleared. Remaining 6 rated as partially complete. Within a year, we progressed from 5/27 to 21/27 completed items.”

According to a statement issued by FATF Pakistan’s continued political commitment has led to progress in a number of areas including taking action to identify and sanction illegal MVTS, implementing cross-border currency and controls, improving international cooperation in terrorist financing cases and applying sanctions where necessary, among others.

The statement noted that Pakistan should continue to work on implementing its action plan to address its strategic deficiencies.

One area FATF said Pakistan needs to work on is to demonstrate effective implementation of targeted financial sanctions against all 1,267 and 1,373 designated terrorists and those acting for or on their behalf.

However, the FATF said it “takes note of the significant progress made on a number of action plan items. To date, Pakistan has made progress across all action plan items and has now largely addressed 21 of the 27 action items. As all action plan deadlines have expired, the FATF strongly urges Pakistan to swiftly complete its full action plan by February 2021.”

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Pakistan parliament to host trade and investment forum for Afghans

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(Last Updated On: October 21, 2020)

Pakistan’s National Assembly will host a Pakistan-Afghanistan trade and economic forum next week to enhance bilateral relations and find ways to overcome transit and trade challenges. 

The two-day seminar in Islamabad will include a 17-member Afghan parliamentary delegation led by the Speaker of the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament) and representatives from Afghanistan’s trade and investment community. 

Pakistan’s The News reported delegates attending from Pakistan will include political leaders, academics, investors, and traders.

Prime Minister Imran Khan will address the opening ceremony of the conference on October 26 and a video message from Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will be telecast during the event.

The seminar is being viewed as a positive sign of change and a way to overcome issues faced by traders and investors in both countries and will also open new avenues of political and parliamentary cooperation and coordination between the two countries. 

 

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