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Pay cuts for Ghani and ministers, but pay rises for govt workers

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(Last Updated On: February 15, 2021)

The Ministry of Finance has finally agreed to increase the salaries of government employees, while the president and ministers will all take a pay cut.  

The increased budget spends for government employees has been requested repeatedly by the Wolesi Jirga’s Finance and Budget Commission, which has twice rejected the draft budget on the grounds of salaries and the allocation of emergency funding.

The finance ministry announced on Monday it has allocated an additional 12 billion Afghanis (AFN) to salaries, of which half will be added to the salary fund at the start of the fiscal year (in April) and the balance will be added to the mid-year budget cycle.

Khalid Painda, the acting finance minister, also said the president and ministers will take pay cuts. 

Members of the Wolesi Jirga commission felt however that the full amount should be rolled out immediately but the finance ministry said this was not possible. 

“The salary increase must be accepted as 12 billion Afghanis, and this money for salaries must be paid at the beginning of the fiscal year; in most of the codes (funds) there is extra money, which needs to be reduced and the salaries increased,” said the committee chair Mir Afghan Safi.

The decision to increase the amount allocated to salaries comes after negotiations between the finance and budget committee of parliament and the finance ministry. 

“On the issue of salaries, I promise to get six billion to finance the salaries, and we will implement it in the middle of the year and allocate twelve billion for next year,” said Painda.

In addition to this, members of the commission stated that government must respect the legislative authorities of the House.

“All those institutions that have not gotten a vote of confidence from the parliament are not authorized to sign financial letters, and if they do, they are accountable to the law in financial documents,” said Mohammad Azim Mohssini, a member of the Finance and Budget Commission.

However, Wolesi Jirga members who attended the commission’s meeting said part of the dispute over the draft budget has been resolved but that government needs to agree to other recommendations so that the budget can be tabled in parliament for approval.

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Efforts underway to safeguard Afghan women’s property rights

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(Last Updated On: March 2, 2021)

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.

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SIGAR finds over $2 billion in capital assets wasted in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: February 28, 2021)

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.

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28 production and trade companies participate in Gulfood 2021 Exhibition

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(Last Updated On: February 24, 2021)

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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