|June 22, 2002||atimes.com|
Afghanistan ends up short-changed
By Sanjay Suri
LONDON - Afghanistan is getting only a small fraction of the billions of dollars of aid announced for its reconstruction, Hafiz Pasha, assistant secretary general of the United Nations Development Program, said on Thursday.
More than US$5 billion of aid for Afghanistan was pledged over a five-year period at a meeting of donors in Tokyo in January. Of this, $1.7 billion was pledged for this year. But Afghanistan will receive only about $150 million in aid for reconstruction this year.
Pasha explained how this aid is getting whittled down: the $1.7 billion pledged for this year was followed up by firm commitments of only $1.1 billion. A total of $900 million has come in by way of actual disbursements, of which about 70 percent has gone into humanitarian relief, such as providing food and facilitating the return of refugees. That leaves about $250 million for actual reconstruction aid this year.
Of this relatively small amount, a substantial portion goes towards paying salaries for government staff. Another large component of the sum provides security services around the country. That leaves only about $150 million for educational and vocational development, health and nutrition, and for social programs.
This is nowhere near what Afghanistan needs. For its reconstruction the UNDP believes Afghanistan needs a minimum of $1 billion a year. Pasha declined to comment on the circumstances that cut the $1.7 billion of aid pledged this year nearly in half. Pasha said that aid efforts have had limited reach because of security concerns. "Without security outside Kabul, it is difficult to provide significant reconstruction activity," he said.
A major new program will be the creation of a police force in Afghanistan, Pasha said. Funds for training and for equipment for this project have been offered by Germany. There is also a need for an Afghan military force for which demobilization of armed groups will be needed. The creation of the police force will come under the Law and Order Trust Fund agreed earlier in Geneva. "A lot of the pledges [were] related to the five-year period," Pasha said. "A lot of donors are still working on projects."
One difficulty with the low rate of disbursements so far has been that "the institutional framework is not there for absorbing aid," Pasha said. With a new government in place and progress being made on the development front, aid programs for reconstruction can now pick up, according to him.
The setting up of the Afghanistan Assistance Coordination Authority has helped speed up disbursements, and reconstruction will also be speeded up by the setting up of such new bodies as the Recovery and Employment Afghanistan Program (RAP). Reconstruction will also speed up now following adoption of the National Development Framework in Afghanistan. "Now the likelihood of more commitments being made is higher, and the conversion into disbursements would be higher," Pasha said.
But even the relatively small amount of aid going in for reconstruction is more than what some critics have thought. "The bottom line is that aid flow for reconstruction is not as bad as perceived, but it is slower than originally anticipated," Pasha commented. Most importantly, the humanitarian aid component has shown significant results. Since March, more than a million Afghan refugees have returned to their homeland; much of this migration came from Pakistan.
Now, the UNDP is taking on a larger role in coordinating aid efforts under way. With assistance from the governments of Italy, the US and the Netherlands, the UNDP is setting up a donor assistance database to track aid flow into Afghanistan. The database will help to assess how much assistance is being provided to various development programs. The database will be posted on its Internet site. The UNDP says the database will help ensure an "Afghan-led" vision for development and reconstruction. The UNDP was also looking down the line at development of business opportunities for the private sector in Afghanistan, Pasha said.
(Inter Press Service)
Front |China | Southeast Asia | Japan | Koreas | India/Pakistan | Central Asia/Russia | Oceania
Business Briefs | Global Economy | Asian Crisis | Media/IT |Editorials | Letters | Search/Archive
back to the top
©2001 Asia Times Online Co., Ltd.
Room 6301, The Center, 99 Queen's Road, Central, Hong Kong