16 December 2017

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Economic

Thursday December 7, 2017

Kabul (BNA) If we have a glance on Silk Road and refer to different scientific and historical books, it has a 5500 years historical background.
The road lengths 8000km in which its 122km were once passing from some provinces of Afghanistan.
The Silk Road or Silk Route was an ancient network of trade routes that were for centuries central to cultural interaction originally through regions of Eurasia connecting the East and West and stretching from the Korean peninsula and Japan to the Mediterranean Sea.
The Silk Road concept refers to both the terrestrial and the maritime routes connecting Asia with Africa, the Middle East and southern Europe. The overland Steppe route stretching through the Eurasian steppe is considered the ancestor to the Silk Road(s).
The road has kept its geo-economic and geostrategic position since long, an action which was in the benefit of exchanging culture and protection of heritages.
Trade on the Silk Road played a significant role in the development of the civilizations of China, the Goguryeo kingdom (Korea), Japan, the Indian subcontinent, Persia, Europe, the  Horn of Africa and Arabia, opening long-distance political and economic relations between the civilizations.
Though silk was certainly the major trade item exported from China, many other goods were traded, as well as religions, syncretic philosophies, and various technologies.
Diseases, most notably plague, also spread along the Silk Routes. In addition to economic trade, the Silk Road was a route for cultural trade among the civilizations along its network.
The main traders during antiquity included the Chinese, Arabs, Indian, Somalis, Syrians, Jews, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Georgians, Armenians, Bactrians, Turkmens, and (from the 5th to the 8th century) the Sogdians.
Since 2006, regional believes and countries’ leadership have decided to name the road as ‘New Silk Road Economic Belt.’
Likewise, ‘One Belt One Road ‘initiative was first introduced by Chinese government in 2013, which is a development strategy and framework that focuses on connectivity and cooperation among countries primarily in Eurasia.
It consists of two main components, the land-based “Silk Road Economic Belt” (SREB) and ocean-going “Maritime Silk Road” (MSR) and Afghanistan is not only part of silk route but a hub of ancient silk route.
Thus, if the road is reconstructed, there is no doubt it would positively affect Afghanistan’s security.
Abdul Hadi Quraishi
 

Wednesday December 6, 2017

Kabul (BNA) National Procurement Commission has signed 10 contracts costing up to 3.6 billion Afghanis in a meeting held at the country’s presidential palace, a statement said Tuesday.
The contracts covered projects for the Kabul municipality, construction of bridge in northern Takhar province, providing facilities for the Afghan Brishna Shirkat (Kabul main power Supply Company) and providing functioning facilities for the Hodkhil pylon building factory’s electricity and so on, said the statement. The commission, in addition, conditionally approved some fuel contracts of the ministry of interior and rejected a contract relating to the Asan Khedmat’s first center’s administrative building, due to some reasons. Speaking on the issue, the country’s president emphasized on support to domestic products and urged for strengthening domestic companies to invest in the country.
 

Wednesday December 6, 2017

Kabul (BNA) President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani participated in wreath-laying ceremony at Uzbekistan Independence Minaret yesterday.
At the ceremony, the country’s President was escorted by Uzbek Prime Minister Abdullah Aripov, foreign minister Abdul Aziz Kamilov and governor of Tashkent Rahmonbeck Usmanov. While receiving the special guard of honor, President Ghani laid wreath at Independence and Humanitarian Minaret of Uzbekistan. Afterwards, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and his accompanying delegation, accompanied by Uzbek special envoy for Afghanistan, Prime Minister and foreign affairs minister of Uzbekistan and governor of Tashkent, paid a visit to Khazrati Imam Architectural Complex which contains the Great Mosque as well as the place where a historical manuscript of the Holy Quran is preserved. The manuscript was written on deer skin during the term of Hazrat Uthman (R.A). The country’s President thanked relevant officials for offering historic information regarding the complex and wrote a memorial note in the historic book of the complex.
 

Tuesday December 5, 2017
Kabul (BNA) The Lapis Lazuli Corridor will begin in Afghanistan’s northern Faryab province and Turqundi in the country’s western Herat province, continuing westwards to Turkmenistan’s Caspian Turkmenbashi port, from where cargo will be ferried across the Caspian to Azerbaijan’s capital Baku to Tbilisi and Georgia’s Black Sea ports of Batumi and Poti. It will connect with Kars in eastern Turkey before linking to Istanbul and further into Europe.
Afghanistan’s mountainous terrain, ethnic and tribal divisions, combined with an ongoing insurgency, a weak central government and an underdeveloped economy have up to now all stymied the development of an indigenous transport infrastructure, much less one capable of developing exports. Recent regional developments in improving relations with its northern post-Soviet neighbors, combined with the outreach to Pakistan may soon see the development of a railway network focused on Afghanistan. This will benefit both the country and its neighbors, if the recent agreement signed in Ashgabat can be implemented.
The agreement was finalized after three years of technical consultations, with the first technical meeting being held on November 15, 2014, at the Turkmen Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ashgabat. The agreement was signed by Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani, Deputy Chairman of the Cabinet of Ministers and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Turkmenistan Rashid Meredov, First Deputy of the Azerbaijan Railways Company Alirza Suleymanov, Foreign Minister of Georgia Mikheil Janelidze and Turkey’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmet Yildiz. Afghan Foreign Minister Rabbani said that the signing of the agreement marked a milestone in Afghanistan’s efforts in achieving greater connectivity through improvement and building of infrastructure for increased trade across Eurasia. The “Lapis Lazuli” moniker is derived from the historic export route along which Afghanistan’s lapis lazuli and other semiprecious stones were transported to the Caucasus, Russia, the Balkans, Europe and North Africa over two millennia ago.
Two years after the initial meeting, on November 28, 2016, a 53-mile railway line running from Atamyrat in Turkmenistan to its Ymamnazar border crossing point and 2 miles onward to Afghanistan’s border facilities at Akina was officially opened by Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdimuhammedov who along with Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani ceremonially tightened a golden bolt. As Afghanistan lacked the internal resources for railway construction, Turkmenistan agreed to undertake responsibility for surveying, designing and constructing the entire route, with the Afghan segment donated gratis to the country.
The 1,520 mm gauge line, used in the former Soviet Union (CIS states, the Baltic States and Georgia), Mongolia and Finland forms the Afghan end of the Lapis Lazuli Corridor which is being developed to improve freight links from Central Asia across the Caspian Sea to the Caucasus, Turkey and Europe. The first freight train on the new line consisted of 46 wagons laden with flour, grain, cement, urea and sulfur.
IMPLICATIONS: Significantly, the New Lapis Lazuli corridor will connect with Turkey’s middle corridor project (East-West Trans-Caspian Trade and Transport Corridor) and will complement other existing regional transport corridors such as the Five Nations Railway Corridor. The Lapis Lazuli corridor will be synchronized with other trade routes that transit Eurasia, including the massive North–South Transport Corridor, which extends from India to Finland, also under development.
Afghanistan strongly supports the initiative. On November 14, the day before the signing ceremony in Ashgabat, the Director General for Economic Cooperation of Afghanistan’s MFA, Hassan Soroosh said, “The Lapis Lazuli Corridor agreement is one of the most important agreements in the region. Trade expansion in the region, regional connectivity, resolving transit and trade problems will be the long-term impact of this corridor.” Afghanistan’s Chamber of Commerce and Industries touts the Lapis Lazuli Corridor as the “shortest, cheapest and safest route for Afghanistan’s transit trade” and projects that 80 percent of Afghan exports to Europe will be carried by the new railway.
Not surprisingly, a significant beneficiary of Afghanistan’s improved transportation network will be China, which has assiduously been promoting an improved transport infrastructure across Eurasia under its “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) initiative, unveiled in 2013. OBOR as currently envisaged involves 70 countries, 4.4 billion people and up to 40 percent of the global GDP, with anticipated eventual cumulative investment costs of US$ 4-8 trillion. According to data from the Afghan Central Statistic Organization, bilateral trade between China and Afghanistan has surged from US$ 432 million in 2008-09 to US$ 1.09 billion in 2016-17, an increase of 153 percent.
The Lapis Lazuli Corridor railway project continues to attract regional interest. On November 25 Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced his country’s decision to join the Ashgabat Agreement and the Lapis Lazuli Corridor during his attendance at a two-day Global Sustainable Transport Conference in the Turkmen capital. Pakistan’s interest is essential in making the Lapis Lazuli railway corridor multimodal, as it is already engaged in implementing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a collection of transportation infrastructure projects that are currently under construction throughout Pakistan. The CPEC’s original cost was estimated at US$ 46 billion, but the net cost of the infrastructure conglomeration is now estimated at US$ 62 billion. While the Lapis Lazuli Corridor is intended to provide an east-west link between Afghanistan and Europe, its connection to the CPEC will give Afghanistan the added bonus of its shortest transport corridor to the open ocean, via Pakistan’s Gwadar port on the Arabian Sea.
A significant barometer of the Lapis Lazuli Corridor’s feasibility will be if it can attract significant funding from international financial institutions, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB), and the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) to name but a few, for the corridor’s estimated US$ 2 billion cost.
Bolstering the feasibility of the Lapis Lazuli Corridor is the fact that it could develop a “southern component.” On October 30 the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars-BTK (BTK) railway, a key component in the modern Silk Road connecting East and West, officially opened at the Baku International Sea Port, allowing post-Soviet Central Asian states to export their goods westwards via trans-Caspian ferry traffic from Ashgabat to Baku, connecting with the BTK via Azerbaijan’s capital. The three governments involved have great expectations of the new railway; the BTK, constructed on the basis of a Georgian-Azerbaijani-Turkish intergovernmental agreement, is envisaged within the next several years to reach a capacity of 17 million tons of cargo annually.
CONCLUSIONS: While the Lapis Lazuli Corridor is a visionary proposal for ending the geographical isolation of Afghanistan and many post-Soviet nations, significant problems remain, ranging from financing to Afghanistan’s ongoing insurrectionist turmoil.
For Afghanistan, connecting the Lapis Lazuli Corridor with both OBOR and CPEC would be a win-win solution, as it would have simultaneously both overland access to European markets and maritime access to the world. Clouding this vision however, are the ongoing tensions between Afghanistan’s neighbors, in particular Pakistan and India. India has so far boycotted the OBOR due to sovereignty concerns over the US$ 62 billion CPEC passing through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, a region India claims its own.
Technical issues also remain to be resolved. Turkey, Iran, China and Europe use 1,435 mm “standard gauge,” while railways in India and Pakistan use Indian 1,676 mm “broad gauge,” unlike the 1,520 mm gauge standard used in the former USSR. In earlier trans-Eurasian Chinese trains dispatched to Europe, these problems have been resolved. The Afghan government remains optimistic that above and beyond such technical bottlenecks, the regional political climate is altering to such an extent that, should sufficient financing be found, it can finally join the global community of nations operating railways, nearly two centuries after the first trains ran in Britain.
Dr. John C. K. Daly

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