04 June 2020

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Economic

Tuesday, January 21, 2020
Jalalabad (BNA) Three water reservoirs were put into exploitation in Nangarhar.
By building these reservoirs, twenty acres of agricultural land were irrigated in Nangarhar, Dara-e-Nor District.
Hejrat Gardewal governor for Dara-e-Nor District told BNA, it cost six million Afghanis to build the reservoirs.
The peasants of Dara-e-Nor District welcomed the construction of the reservoirs and called it a boom in their business.
T. Yarzada

Tuesday, January 21, 2020
Jalalabad (BNA) The construction work of an irrigation canal kick off in Goshta District, Nangarhar.
The canal, 250 meters long and 90 meters wide, will be able to irrigate hundreds acres of farmland.
Abdul Baser Gulab Goshta District governor told BNA, building of the canal will cost 22,000 Euros, paid by a charity foundation.
Farmers in Goshta District are happy to have enough water to irrigate their crops by next three months.
Goshta District is one of the remote districts of Nangarhar located in Durand area.
T. Yarzada

Monday, January 20, 2020
Kabul (BNA) A statement from the Ministry of Finance has said that the Steering Committee of the multi-donor Afghanistan Infrastructure Trust Fund (AITF) has held its annual meeting on Sunday to review overall progress and provide strategic direction for efforts to support the government’s infrastructure priorities.
The meeting was co-chaired by Acting Minister of Finance and Chief Adviser on Infrastructure to the President of Afghanistan Mohammad Humayon Qayoumi and ADB Director General for Central and West Asia Werner Liepach. Ambassadors and representatives of 24 donor countries and organizations attended the meeting and discussed infrastructure to help foster the country’s economic growth and improve the livelihoods of the Afghan people, the statement said. “On behalf of the Government of Afghanistan, I express my gratitude to the International Community for their hard works and continues support to development efforts in Afghanistan. The Infrastructure Development needs remain robust and a priority to the Government of Afghanistan and AITF remains a key mechanism for financing of the priority projects for infrastructure development,” said Qayoumi. AITF was established in 2010 to address the government’s need for a dedicated financing mechanism to support infrastructure development. It is a multi-donor fund for bilateral, multilateral, and individual contributors to invest in large infrastructure projects. Development partners have committed a total of $744 million to AITF to date, almost $600 million of which has been allocated. “ADB is strongly committed to AITF and has invested significant staff and financial resources to enhance its role in the development of large infrastructure projects in Afghanistan” said Liepach. “AITF’s investments in the transport, energy, and agriculture and natural resources sectors, as well as regional cooperation initiatives, have generated important outcomes for the country, with positive impacts on economic growth, job creation, access to services, and poverty reduction.” During the Meeting, ADB Country Director for Afghanistan Narendra Singru presented the overall achievements of AITF, current challenges, and the significant improvements that the Government of Afghanistan and ADB have implemented in the recent years. The Steering Committee provided guidance and feedback on the overall progress and strategic directions of the AITF. The participants also provided guidance on plans to enhance AITF to better support investments in large projects that are financially viable, such as toll roads, power transmission and distribution. AITF investments are closely aligned with Afghanistan’s development priorities, including the National Peace and Development Framework, the National Infrastructure Plan, the Self-Reliance Agenda, and other national programs. The use of AITF resources ensures development effectiveness and provides a focus on projects that Afghanistan needs the most. Current AITF partners are the Afghan National Army Trust Fund, the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom, KfW Development Bank of Germany, Government of Japan, and the United States Agency for International Development. At the end of the meeting, ADB signed a $12 million grant agreement for a project readiness financing to finance preparatory activities for the Road Rehabilitation and Maintenance Program. The grant will help the government in preparing feasibility studies, detailed engineering design and associated documents, and provide procurement and capacity building support. The project will help improve regional accessibility and enhance the road network, promoting government's vision of achieving sustainable development, peace and stability. ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region.

Friday January 17, 2020
Kabul (BNA) Growing Chinese commitment to Afghanistan’s pine-nut industry is a small but illuminating example of Beijing’s interest in the region bordering Xinjiang, says Barbara Kelemen.
A burgeoning pine-nut trade between Afghanistan and China shines a light on Beijing’s growing interest in the region on its western border. Last year, the two countries boosted Afghanistan’s pine-nut industry when they opened an air-freight corridor, and this November, Chinese companies contracted to buy 2.2 billion dollars of Afghan pine nuts over the next five years. Given Afghanistan’s exports to China were 28 million dollars in 2018 and overall exports reached roughly 884 million dollars, China’s importance looks set to rise.
The air-corridor to Shanghai was hailed as a great improvement and expected to raise revenues from pine nut exports to 1 million dollars – and it seems to be living up to expectations. The Afghan government in October said the pine nut harvest would rise 10 percent to around 24,000 tons in 2019. With the dried fruit selling at around 36 dollars per kilo, farmers can expect additional revenues of around 800,000 dollars, mainly thanks to Chinese demand.
Before the opening of the air corridor, Afghanistan struggled with rampant smuggling – and some legal exports ¬– to Pakistan. Across the border the pine nuts were packaged and re-exported, often to China. As Afghanistan still lacks facilities and certification needed for processing pine nuts, the refining stages have merely shifted from Pakistan to China. The profits from value added processes now go to China – and Afghan traders still export only raw product.
China-Afghan economic cooperation still faces challenges
So there is light and dark when it comes to this instance of economic cooperation – it clearly still faces challenges. Yousef Dawran, a local pine-nut trader and entrepreneur, worries that “air corridors are too expensive and mainly a short-term solution” and calls the project “mainly a great PR story”. According to Yousef, real economic change requires longer term and more sustainable solutions. Perhaps Afghanistan needs to focus more on pine-nut processing capacity.
Yousef’s disappointment is fed by the feeling that the cooperation has not delivered “as much as expected” – that China could and should be doing more. Alice Wells, the US Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia, has on a number of occasions criticized China for its lack of economic assistance to Afghanistan. She has described Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Afghanistan as a “slogan” rather than reality, pointing to stalled projects such as the Kabul-Jalalabad Road. 
China sees economic cooperation as a way to stabilize Afghanistan
China’s government has sharply rejected such complaints, in turn pointing to projects like the 2016 cargo train between Nantong and Hairatan, the 2018 air corridor and a number of infrastructure projects as proof of its genuine commitment. Yao Jing, the Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, has said that the main challenge for larger Chinese projects – such as the Mes Aynak copper mine – remains Afghanistan’s ongoing lack of domestic security and stability.
But that is also exactly why China has to continue with economic cooperation projects, however small or fraught. Beijing sees economic cooperation as a way to stabilize a country that is in turn vital for stability of China’s western provinces, especially Xinjiang. Beijing worries that the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) or its successor organization, the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP), consider Afghanistan a conduit into China to radicalize Uighurs in Xinjiang.
Afghanistan’s regional significance for China’s security is one reason for China’s greater military presence on its western periphery. The People’s Armed Police force has for some time operated from bases in Tajikistan only 10 miles from the Afghan border. There have also been reports of Chinese activities in Afghanistan’s Wakhan corridor in Badakhshan province. And Chinese officials have maintained a pragmatic relationship with the Taliban since the late 90s.
Beijing has emerged as a new facilitator of talks between Afghan conflict parties
Given all this, Beijing has emerged as a new facilitator of talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Without the historical legacy of Russia or the US, with economic clout in Kabul and considerable influence in Islamabad, it could become a more trusted go-between for Afghanistan’s long warring factions than other parties. Pakistan’s support has been crucial to the Taliban and has complicated Islamabad’s bilateral relations with the United States.
A clear sign of China’s increasing influence is its push to start an Afghan peace process. A meeting between the Taliban and the Afghan government is now set to take place in Beijing. Although it is hard to say how much of it is the Taliban showing the US that it has alternatives, China is now seen as one of the potential brokers and facilitators of the intra-Afghan dialogue. It has relations with Kabul, contacts with the Taliban, and potentially holds sway over Pakistan.
US President Donald Trump has pledged to reduce the US military presence in Afghanistan and about half of the US soldiers in the country are expected to start going home soon. As complete US-withdrawal from Afghanistan has become possible, the question is whether China would step up to fill the void as a stabilizing power. Its commitment to the Afghan pine-nut industry suggests that there are ways for China to do so although its intentions in that regard remain unclear. For all his criticism, pine-nut trader Yousef firmly believes economics and stability come hand in hand.
Merics

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