The Afghan parliament on Monday approved the current fiscal year’s budget with the majority of votes after weeks of tensions between the two-state branches over the document.
Following the national fiscal year budget approval the Presidential Palace issued a statement saying that President Ghani thanked members of the House of Representatives for approving the budget for the 1400 solar fiscal year.
“The President praised the decision, approving the national budget for the solar year 1400 in the national interest, and called it important for the timely implementation of the basic plans and programs of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, especially development projects throughout the country,” read the statement.
“Increasing the salaries of employees, accommodating development projects, the relative balance of money in special codes, reducing unnecessary spending, preventing the loss of people’s money are important chapters of this success,” said Mir Rahman Rahmani, speaker of the house.
The fiscal year began on December 21, 2020, and the parliament rejected the budget draft twice.
On Sunday, lawmakers and the Finance Ministry officials agreed on almost all 19 disputed points, but they still have yet to agree on the allocation of the budget for the High Council for National Reconciliation as well as over the reduction in the number of development projects, MPs said.
Both sides also disagreed on a 15 million AFN allocation for the Afghanistan Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority, but the issue was solved when the fund was removed from the third budget draft, according to lawmakers.
In the third and latest draft, 105 million AFN ($1.3 million) have been shifted to the regular budget from the development budget.
Meanwhile, MPs did not approve the budget for a number of departments that did not receive a vote by the parliament, such as the High Council for National Reconciliation, and placed the budget of the Council under the budget of the Presidential administration office.
Some MPs still believe that no changes have been brought in the budget and that “everything (recent disputes) was just a show and was for personal interests.”
The estimated budget for the fiscal year 1400 is over 473 billion AFN (nearly $6 billion), including 311 billion AFN ($4 billion) for the regular budget and 162 billion AFN ($2 billion) for the development budget.
Efforts underway to safeguard Afghan women’s property rights
Through the Afghanistan Land Administration Project (ALASP) the government of Afghanistan has started distributing property Occupancy Certificates for land owners with priority for women.
World Bank reported that while Afghanistan’s laws give women equal rights to own land and property, ignorance, weak law enforcement, and social norms have combined to deprive Afghan women of their property rights.
According to the article, experts estimate that less than five percent of land ownership documents in Afghanistan include the name of a female owner.
Given the social, economic, and cultural importance of property ownership, equitable access to land is key to empowering Afghan women.
In the article it stated that excluding women from owning land or property has led to their marginalization in political and economic spheres and limited their decision-making roles at home and in communities.
As such, equal access to land ownership is key to empowering Afghan women, the article stated.
The Ministry of Urban Development and Land (MUDL) however has reportedly been improving land administration and promoting better access to registration services, especially for women.
Supported by a number of agencies, and financed by the World Bank, this project has so far resulted in MUDL having issued 34,370 Occupancy Certificates (OC) and more than half include a woman’s name.
These initiatives have helped many Afghan women acquire certificates that prove their rightful ownership and protect them from eviction, encroachment, or dispute. The legal documents also guarantee they can pass on their property to their children and shield them from homelessness, the World Bank article stated.
The article also stated that consistent with the new legal framework, co-titling for occupants of state land is mandatory, and husbands are now required to include their wives’ names on the certificates.
In addition, there is also now dedicated help desks in eight provinces to support women seeking an Occupation Certificate, encourage female enrollment, and facilitate co-registration.
SIGAR finds over $2 billion in capital assets wasted in Afghanistan
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has found that of the nearly $7.8 billion in capital assets in Afghanistan, paid for by the US, about $2.4 billion in assets is unused, abandoned, or destroyed.
The report to Congress released on Monday morning summarizes all capital assets in Afghanistan paid for by US agencies that SIGAR found in its prior work to be “unused, not used for their intended purposes, deteriorated or destroyed.”
The capital assets reviewed were funded by the US Department of Defense, USAID, OPIC, and the State Department to build schools, prisons, a hotel, hospitals, roads, bridges, and Afghan military facilities.
The report stated that of the nearly $7.8 billion in capital assets reviewed in its prior reports, SIGAR identified about $2.4 billion in assets that were unused or abandoned, had not been used for their intended purposes, had deteriorated, or were destroyed.
SIGAR also found that more than $1.2 billion out of the $7.8 billion in assets were being used as intended, and only $343.2 million out of the $7.8 billion in assets were maintained in good condition.
Most of the capital assets not used properly or in disrepair or abandoned are directly related to US agencies not considering whether the Afghans wanted or needed the facilities, or whether the Afghan government had the financial ability and technical means to sustain them, the report read.
It also stated that this waste of taxpayer dollars occurred despite multiple laws stating that US agencies should not construct or procure capital assets until they can show that the benefiting country has the financial and technical resources, and capability to use and maintain those assets effectively.
According to Special Inspector General John F. Sopko, “SIGAR’s work reveals a pattern of US agencies pouring too much money, too quickly, into a country too small to absorb it.”
“The fact that so many capital assets wound up not used, deteriorated, or abandoned should have been a major cause of concern for the agencies financing these projects.
“The lesson of all of this is two-fold. If the United States is going to pay for reconstruction or development in Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world, first make certain the recipient wants it, needs it, and can sustain it. Secondly, make certain before you spend the money there is proper oversight to prevent this type of waste,” Sopko said.
28 production and trade companies participate in Gulfood 2021 Exhibition
The Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) says that 28 production, processing, and trade companies from Afghanistan have participated in the Gulfood 2021 International Exhibition.
The 2021 edition of Gulfood is being held between the 21st and 25th of February at Dubai International Exhibition Center.
Habibullah Habibi, director of private sector development at the Ministry says that the expo is an exceptional and very important opportunity for Afghan traders to introduce Afghan agricultural and livestock products to the world.
Afghan traders participated in the exhibition with the assistance of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and in coordination with the Ministry of Agriculture; these products included saffron, dried fruits, herbs, honey and processed fruits, and dozens of other products.
Gulfood International exhibition is one of the largest food exhibitions in the world, with traders from more than 85 countries participating.
This year, as in previous years, tens of thousands of visitors and businessmen are expected to visit the exhibition.
According to ministry officials, Afghan products were welcomed at the exhibition and more than $ 100 million worth of contracts were awarded for the sale of Afghan agricultural and livestock products.
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