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Political and security uncertainty slow Afghanistan’s economic recovery

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(Last Updated On: April 5, 2021)

Continued political uncertainty and a possible decline in international aid is slowing down Afghanistan’s economic recovery from COVID-19, the World Bank said Monday in its latest country update.

The World Bank’s report, Setting Course to Recovery, shows that robust agricultural growth has partially buoyed Afghanistan’s economy, which shrunk by around two percent in 2020 – a smaller contraction than previous estimates.

However, lockdowns, weak investment, and trade disruptions have hit services and industries, increasing hardship and unemployment in cities.

Growth is expected to reach one percent in 2021 and top around three percent in 2022 as the COVID-19 crisis fades. Per capita incomes are unlikely to recover to pre-COVID levels until 2025 due to fast population growth, the report noted.

“The current political and security uncertainties have created serious hurdles to Afghanistan’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. A slower pace of recovery means higher unemployment, lower government revenues, and – ultimately – more difficult living conditions for Afghans,” said Henry Kerali, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan.

A full recovery will be challenging as many firms have closed and jobs were lost. Private sector confidence has weakened amid difficult security conditions, uncertainty about the outcome of the ongoing peace talks, the possible withdrawal of international troops, and potential sharp declines in future international aid support.

The report also noted that droughts are expected in 2021 and will likely reduce agricultural activity, further weakening growth prospects.

The report emphasizes that a strong and sustainable partnership between the Afghan government and its international partners is key to driving recovery and restoring private sector confidence.

In that effort, the government needs to accelerate reforms to improve governance, fight corruption, mobilize revenue, and boost business.

The report also noted that simultaneously, donors can support private sector confidence through clearer multi-year aid commitments and by defining measurable priority reforms that condition continued grant support.

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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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