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World Bank provides $200 million for Afghanistan to protect people, support businesses amid COVID-19

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(Last Updated On: July 10, 2020)

The World Bank Board of Executive Directors on Thursday approved a $200 million grant to help Afghanistan mitigate COVID-19 impacts and provide relief to vulnerable people and businesses.

In a statement released on Thursday, the World Bank said that the Afghanistan COVID-19 Response Development Policy Grant comprises $100 million from the International Development Association (IDA), the World Bank Group’s fund for the poorest countries, and $100 million from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), managed by the World Bank on behalf of 34 donors.

The Afghanistan COVID-19 Response Development Policy Grant will support the government of Afghanistan to strengthen policies that promote faster recovery and keep basic infrastructure such as water, electricity, and telecommunications afloat and running, the statement said.

“The program will provide vital fiscal resources to manage the impacts of the pandemic in the context of rapidly slowing economic growth and declining government revenues,” said Henry Kerali, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan.

“Policy actions supported by the program will both help mitigate the impacts of the current crisis on the poor and vulnerable and also lay critical foundations for longer-term recovery. The World Bank will continue to stand with the people of Afghanistan through this crisis,” Kerali added.

The World Bank said that the COVID-19 pandemic has had significant adverse health, social, and economic impacts in Afghanistan, shrinking the economy and driving down public revenue.

“The grant will support changes in regulations to increase access to finance for small and medium-sized enterprises, protect healthcare workers, and raise awareness on gender-based violence in schools,” it stated.

The organization added that it will also support plans to encourage students to return to school when educational institutions are to reopen after the COVID-19 crisis.

It comes as the number of COVID-19 cases has risen to 33,908 with 957 and 20,847 recoveries in Afghanistan.

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MTN to quit Afghanistan, along with other Middle Eastern countries

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(Last Updated On: August 6, 2020)

MTN Group will exit its operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan to become an Africa-only-focused telecommunications operator.

The group said in a statement on Thursday that “MTN has resolved to simplify its portfolio and focus on its pan-African strategy and will, therefore, be exiting its Middle Eastern assets in an orderly manner over the medium term.” 

The group is already in “advanced discussions” to sell its 75 percent stake in its Syrian subsidiary, CEO Rob Shuter said in a call with journalists. It is negotiating with TeleInvest, the 25% owner of the Syrian business, about the sale.

Shuter said the initial focus will be on exiting its operations in Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan. However, it also plans to divest of its 49 percent of its stake in MTN Irancell in time.

News of the Middle East and Afghanistan exit comes after a lawsuit was filed in the US in April this year that claimed MTN and several other Western businesses aided terrorist organizations in activities carried out against the United States in the region.

Filed on behalf of American service members, civilians, and their families, who were killed or wounded in Afghanistan, the complaint alleged that MTN paid over $100 million to al-Qaeda and the Taliban so its towers would not be destroyed.

The lawsuit also claimed that MTN would switch off these towers at night, and in doing so, hampered US intelligence operations.

Mybroadband.co.za reported that MTN previously filed a motion to dismiss the original lawsuit, because it said the court lacks jurisdiction over MTN, which does not operate in the United States, and because the complaint does not allege any conduct by MTN that would have violated the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Following an amendment of the complaint by the plaintiffs in June this year, the operator now anticipates filing another motion to dismiss on largely the same grounds.

“MTN remains of the view that it conducts its business in a responsible and compliant manner in all its territories and will defend its position where necessary,” the operator said.

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Air Arabia Abu Dhabi launches new service to Kabul and Dhaka

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(Last Updated On: August 4, 2020)

Air Arabia Abu Dhabi has announced the introduction of two new destinations — Kabul in Afghanistan and Dhaka in Bangladesh – with direct flights from Abu Dhabi commencing on August 7.

Initially there will be three flights a week from Abu Dhabi to Kabul, on a Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

 

Air Arabia Abu Dhabi was formed following an agreement by Etihad Airways and Air Arabia to establish Abu Dhabi’s first low-cost carrier that follows the business model of Air Arabia and complements the services of Etihad Airways from Abu Dhabi thereby catering to the growing low-cost travel market segment in the region.

Air Arabia Abu Dhabi started its operations in July 2020 with flights to Alexandria and Sohag in Egypt from Abu Dhabi International Airport.

 

 

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Gov’t collects more than 2.2 billion AFN from 10% telecom tax in past seven months

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(Last Updated On: August 2, 2020)

The government has logged more than 2.2 billion AFN in tax collection via the 10 percent telecom tax on mobile phone subscribers since the beginning of the current fiscal year. 

The Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MCIT) said Saturday that through the Real-Time Data Management System – a system used for monitoring the collection of the 10 percent taxes from telecom services – it managed to collect the revenue.

“We managed to collect more than 2.2 billion AFN since the beginning of 2020 and handed it over to the government treasury,” said Abdul Samad Hamid Poya, a spokesman for the MCIT.

Experts, however, claimed the Ministry has yet to ensure transparency in the collection process of the 10 percent revenue tax from mobile phone users.

According to them, the ministry failed to provide details about the exact number of active SIM Cards. But Samad Hamid Poya blamed some telecom companies for not providing them information on the issue.

“We acknowledge that the Ministry of Communications has done some of its work, but if the 10 percent tax would be collected transparently the ministry could generate more revenue than what they have shared,” Salim Tufan an economist told Ariana News.

Last year the MCIT installed “Real-Time Data Management” for the collection of tax across the country. The system was aimed at collecting genuine information through connecting with the telecommunication network system to ensure and gain public confidence in the transparency of the collection process of 10 percent telecom tax and other telecommunication revenues.

Since then, the system remained one of the most controversial issues in the Ministry. Critics believe that the system cannot ensure transparency in the mobile tax collection.

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