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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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Carpet industry takes major knock as client base dries up

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(Last Updated On: September 25, 2021)

Afghans working in the country’s renowned carpet industry say they fear for their future and that business has taken a hit following the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) takeover.

“Carpet weavers should be supported and the carpet weaving industry should grow as well,” said weaver Najaf Ali Mejrayi, while pausing from his work on an intricate rug in the capital, Kabul.

Carpets are one of Afghanistan’s most well-known exports, having been exported around the world for centuries.

Manager of the Sadaat Weaving Company, Mohammad Qasim Ahmady, said his primary market used to be European countries and the U.S., with carpets making their way overseas through Pakistan. But now, he said the customer base has evaporated, while prices for materials such as wool are rising.

He used to have as many as 50 employees before the IEA takeover but now has only about half a dozen.

“This business is down and there is not much production,” he said.

Ghulam Wali Mirzaei, who does dyeing for the carpets, said his family’s wellbeing is at stake.

“If this company falls, all of the employees working here will be unemployed. We take care of our family needs only through this job,” he said.

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Pakistan’s customs agent says exports to Afghanistan dwindle

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(Last Updated On: September 24, 2021)

Hundreds of trucks lined the winding, mountainous road leading to Torkhum, the Pakistan-Afghan border crossing on Thursday.

Pakistani officials say that is because exports to Afghanistan have dwindled in the days after the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) take over.

But some truck drivers were upbeat because they said the vegetable and fruit season in Afghanistan had helped increase exports of these items from the war-ravaged country.

Another Pakistani official at another Pakistan-Afghan border Chaman said trade had picked up because the IEA government had reduced taxes, and also put an end to bribes that traders and truck drivers had to pay to cross the border.

Afghan new government bolstered its economic team last week, naming a commerce minister and two deputies as the group tries to revive a financial system in shock from the abrupt end to billions of dollars in foreign aid.

Underlining the economic pressures building on Afghanistan’s new government, prices for staples like flour, fuel, and rice have risen and long queues are still forming outside banks as they strictly ration withdrawals.

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Motorists concerned about rising fuel prices in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: September 20, 2021)

Afghans have raised concerns over the increase in fuel prices on the local market, despite the resumption of fuel imports from neighboring countries.

Officials from Balkh’s Chamber of Commerce and Investment said last week that imports of fuel and gas through Hairatan and Aqina ports have resumed.

Motorists have however called on the Islamic Emirate to monitor and control market prices.

According to them, petrol currently costs 65 AFN per liter; diesel is 56 AFN; and gas costs between 72 and 80 AFN per kilogram in Kabul.

The Council of Fuel Merchants, however, says that limited access to cash and banking transactions, along with a monopoly of the industry by a few companies, are the key reasons for rising fuel prices.

Mohammad Asif, a member of the organization, stated: “If the Islamic Emirate wants to control the issue, they should control it at the [border] customs. Although [import] tariffs have been cut by 50%, prices are still high due to a monopoly of imports by some companies. They (merchants) set prices as they wish.”

Khan Jan Alokozay, Deputy Head of the Chamber of Commerce and Investment, stated: “The problem is that wholesalers have not set the market price, and when retailers distribute the goods to other areas that causes an increase in rates.”

People also called on property owners to reduce rental rates of houses in Kabul city, amid a looming economic crisis in Afghanistan.

Landlords, however, stated that the average rental has dropped by 50% compared to last year.

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