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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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Private sector calls for implementation of economic projects

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(Last Updated On: September 17, 2021)

Afghanistan’s private sector on Thursday called on the new government to implement large, regional projects saying this will create job opportunities, which will in turn reduce poverty and increase government revenue.

“There are many opportunities in the country. TAPI, CASA-1000, Railways, Belt and Road, [these] projects should be implemented; it is very important for the country. It is beneficial for Afghanistan. Taliban (Islamic Emirate) should take it seriously,” said Khan Jan Alokozay, a member of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment.

Some members of the country’s craftsmen association said the Islamic Emirate should start with projects that connect Central Asia to South Asia, in order to push Afghanistan’s economy.

“Our country has the capacity to implement large projects between Central Asia and South Asia. We call on Taliban (Islamic Emirate) to address the projects, said Abdul Jabar Safi, head of the association.

The Islamic Emirate meanwhile has stated that they are focusing on projects and that work on these will start soon.

Economic analysts, on the other hand, have stated that work on such projects should be accelerated.

“Attention should be paid to these projects, in order to move to a stable economy. Afghanistan needs such projects now,” said Abdul Wasi, an economic analyst.

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Central bank seizes over $12 million from former govt officials

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(Last Updated On: September 16, 2021)

Afghanistan’s central bank said it had seized nearly $12.4 million in cash and gold from former high-ranking government officials, including former vice president Amrullah Saleh.

In a statement, the central bank said the money and gold had been kept in the houses of officials, although it did not yet know for what purpose.

Saleh’s whereabouts meanwhile are unknown.

In a separate statement, the bank urged Afghans to use the country’s local Afghani currency.

This comes amid growing concerns that the country’s banks and firms are running short of money, especially dollars, which are widely used.

In a sign that the Islamic Emirate are looking to recoup assets belonging to former government officials, the central bank issued a circular to local banks last week asking them to freeze the accounts of politically exposed individuals linked to the previous government.

But on Wednesday, reports emerged that Afghanistan’s banks are running out of dollars, and may have to close their doors to customers unless the government releases funds soon.

Three people with direct knowledge of the matter told Reuters that the cash squeeze threatens to upend the country’s already battered economy, largely dependent on hundreds of millions of dollars shipped by the United States to the central bank in Kabul that make their way to Afghans through banks.

Although the cash crunch has lasted weeks, the country’s banks have in recent days repeatedly underlined their concerns to the new government and central bank, two of the people said.

Banks have already pared back services and imposed weekly $200 payout limits, with long queues outside branches as people try to get hold of dollars.

But in a statement on its website on Wednesday, the central bank’s acting governor said banks were stable.

“The banks are completely secure,” he said, adding that commercial banks usually kept 10% of their capital as cash and that those in Afghanistan, on average, held 50% as cash.

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Efforts underway to reopen Torkham and Spin Boldak border crossings

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(Last Updated On: September 15, 2021)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s Acting Foreign Minister Mawlavi Amir Khan Mottaqi met with Pakistani Ambassador to Kabul Mansoor Ahmad Khan on Tuesday to discuss challenges at the country’s border crossings.

Suhail Shaheen, the spokesman for the Islamic Emirate’s political office in Doha, said the meeting focused on the people’s challenges at the Torkham and Spin Boldak crossings.

According to Shaheen, Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan has assured the Islamic Emirate that the crossings will soon be reopened to Afghans and all challenges will be resolved.

Pakistan closed the Torkham crossing to Afghan travelers, and traffic continued intermittently through Spin Boldak after the Islamic Emirate’s takeover of Afghanistan last month.

Thousands of Afghans are however currently waiting to cross into Pakistan at these crossings.

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