OSC: Kabul Yet to be Rebuilt, Lack of Electricity, Potable Water Hinder Development

The USG Open Source Center translates or paraphrases articles in the Afghan press during June on that country’s economy. I take away the impression that very little has been done to improve Kabul, that 45 percent of the capital’s residents lack electricity, and that 99 percent of people in Nuristan are below the poverty line.

Highlights: Afghan Reconstruction Issues June 2009
Afghanistan — OSC Summary
Friday, July 10, 2009

Highlights: Afghan Reconstruction Issues June 2009

. . . Paper Criticizes ‘Ineffective’ Aid Spending

– A 10 June editorial in Rah-e Nejat said there had been little reconstruction progress and the country was still in a “primary phase” of development. The editorial laid the blame on a “lack of competent officials” and ineffective aid spending by the international community. The editorial said only $6 billion of the total $22 billion aid pledge had been spent by the Afghan government. The editorial concluded: “We cannot be optimistic on development unless the international community pays attention to building the government (capacity) and spends its
contributions in accordance with Afghan’s interests” (Kabul Rah-e Nejat in Dari). . .
Oxfam Report Oxfam Report Slams International Aid Effort

– An AFP report on 4 June said UK charity Oxfam had claimed that “large amounts of aid” were being “squandered” in Afghanistan. Head of Oxfam’s policy for Afghanistan, Matt Waldman, said too much aid is being “wasted on foreign contractors who make hefty profits and employ expatriate consultants who can earn salaries of over $1 million a year.” Waldman added: “Many companies, mainly American, make large profits out of the conflict in Afghanistan without delivering the expected level of results. Of course they can make a profit but we have to ask how much is appropriate.” He said that between one-third and 40% of all foreign aid to Afghanistan is returned to the donor countries because much of it is given on the condition that it must be used to buy goods or services from the donor nation. The report concluded: “Oxfam recommends that efforts be made to increase the amount of aid that goes directly to the Afghan government, ideally through international trust funds which offer a means of protecting against corruption and waste (Paris AFP in English). . .

Minister Says Only 42% of Reconstruction Projects Implemented –

A summary of the Afghan cabinet session on 8 June said the minister of economy had presented a report on all the reconstruction projects that were scheduled to be implemented last year (21 March 2008-20 March 2009). According to the report, only 42% of the projects scheduled for last year have been implemented (Kabul Bakhtar News Agency in Dari). . .

. . . – A 14 June National TV Afghanistan report said First Vice-President Ahmad Zia Masud met officials from the Ministry of Housing and Town Planning to discuss Kabul’s lack of urban infrastructure. Masud said Kabul had not seen any “fundamental changes” over the past seven years and the city still lacked sewerage and drainage systems. Minister of Housing and Town Planning, Mohammad Yusof Pashtun, noted that a development master plan had been agreed and that 700 residential apartments would be made available to ministry employees in the coming year. The report also said Kabul would have potable water within two years (Kabul National TV Afghanistan in Dari – state-run television). . .

Head of Kabul Electricity Department Says Supply Improving

– Anis published an extensive interview with Mohammad Sarwar Sediqi, head of Kabul Electricity Department, on 11 June. Sediqi said his department was trying to be less reliant on imported electricity from Uzbekistan and that around 1,000 residents in the city were being connected to the grid on a weekly basis – but 45% of residents still lacked electricity. He said his department required $272 million in order to provide electricity to the whole of Kabul . . . (Kabul Anis in Dari – state-run daily). . .

Cont’d (click below or on “comments”)

Paper Investigates Kabul Street-Lighting Problems

– An editorial in Mandegar on 1 June questioned why the capital’s streets were dark at night when some residents now had access to 24-hour electricity. The editorial claimed that the water and energy minister had said the matter was out of his jurisdiction and that the municipality was responsible for extending electricity to the streets of Kabul. The editorial said the problem would have been resolved by now if the ministry was responsible for street-lighting, and accused the municipality of being more interested in “collecting taxes” from residents for street cleaning purposes (Kabul Mandegar in Dari – independent daily). . .

New Airport Terminal Opens in Kabul

– A report on Ariana TV on 15 June said the newly-constructed Kabul International Airport Terminal had been officially opened. The new terminal, which can handle 5,000 passengers a day, cost $35 million and was funded by the Japanese government. The construction work was completed last year but the official opening for the public was delayed due to security concerns. Transport Minister Hamidulah Faruqi also praised the aid given by Germany, United Arab Emirates, and the World Bank. The minister said Japan had also pledged to construct a new runway by 2010 (Kabul Ariana TV in Dari). . .

Afghanistan Receives Fiber-Optic Link to Central Asia

– A report on Ariana TV on 4 June said Afghanistan had been connected to Tajikistan through a fiber-optic network. Communications Minister Amirzai Sangin said the network would soon be connected to Iran, Pakistan and Turkmenistan and that Afghans would see an 80% reduction in internet service charges as a result (Kabul Ariana TV in Dari).

. . .Ministry Says $35 Billion Needed To Build Hydroelectric Plants

– An Ariana TV report on 11 June noted that Energy and Water Minister Mohammad Esmail Khan had appealed for $35 billion over the next 30 years to manage Afghanistan’s water resources properly and to construct hydroelectric dams. According to the minister, Afghanistan has 75 billion cubic meters of water and there is capacity to build 13 major and 113 minor dams across the country. The report also noted that around 65% of Afghan waters flow into neighboring countries without being utilized at all (Kabul Ariana TV in Dari). . .

Afghan Official Comment Nurestan Governor Urges More Development

– An 18 June Ariana TV report carried comments by Nurestan Governor Jamaloddin Badr, who claimed that over 99% of residents were living in poverty and that “international donor organizations have simply forgotten” his province. Badr added: “The international community has been providing aid to Afghanistan for the last seven years, but not even one kilometer of road has been asphalted in Nurestan. Even the road leading to the provincial governor’s office has not been constructed yet” (Kabul Ariana TV in Dari – privately owned television). Vice-President Calls for More Development in Kabul . . .

President Karzai Launches Road Projects

– National TV Afghanistan on 11 June reported on President Karzai’s inauguration of work on the 34-kilometer Andkhoy-Aqena road in Faryab province, which will connect Afghanistan with Turkmenistan and cost $21 million. The project, funded by the Islamic Development Bank and undertaken by two Afghan private road construction companies, will be completed within 18 months. Karzai also launched work on the Sheren Tagab-Pol-e Khumri road, which is being financed by the Asian Development Bank and undertaken by a South Korean road construction company. Karzai said: “Over 90% of construction work on our ring road has been completed. If you want to travel, you can reach any province in one day.” He added: “My elders and dears, we were in a hurry when the reconstruction process started in Afghanistan. We had nothing, neither roads nor schools or clinics. We had very poor living conditions. We have gained a lot of things. Now, we have roads, clinics and schools” (Kabul National TV Afghanistan in Dari).

Afghan Press Comment Daily Says Pointless Spending Millions in Helmand

– An article in Daily Afghanistan on 21 June said the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID) had agreed to contribute an extra $115 million for reconstruction projects in Helmand province. The pledge was made by DfID official Mark Lowcock, who said half of the amount would be spent on renovating the Bost airport, constructing roads, deep wells, developing agriculture and power supplies, and the Greshk-Lashkar Gah district dam, while the other half would be invested in government capacity building. The article also said the UK had signed a four-year development plan with Finance Minister Omar Zakhelwal on 10 June, and that head of DfID Marshall Elliot said this would entail $725 million in aid. However, the article questioned the purpose of spending money in Helmand because of ongoing insecurity and said “experience over the last eight years shows that none of the financial contributions and development activities have proven to be effective in addressing Helmand’s problems” (Kabul Daily Afghanistan in Dari – independent daily). Paper Outlines Reconstruction Progress. . .

Hardline Paper Calls for More Reconstruction

– A 12 June editorial in Shahadat said the international community had spent “hardly a thousandth” of their total aid pledge, while the majority is spent on “salaries of the employees of the puppet government.” The editorial called for “productive projects” across Afghanistan and for more in-depth surveys of the country’s gas, oil, mineral, and water resources. The editorial concluded: “If attention is paid to these principles, then we think Afghanistan can be self-sufficient by the end of the third five-year plan” (Peshawar Shahadat in Pashto -daily paper belonging to rebel leader Golboddin Hekmatyar).

Other Reconstruction News New Power Station Opens in Parwan Province

– A report on Ariana TV on 28 June said Water and Energy Minister Mohammad Esmail Khan had inaugurated an electricity station which will provide power to residents in Charikar, the provincial capital of Parwan province. The report said that prior to the inauguration residents were enjoying only three to four hours of electricity per day (Kabul Ariana TV in Dari). A National TV Afghanistan report said the work involved extending an electricity line from Uzbekistan.

Water-Supply Project Begins in Konduz Province

– A Pajhwok Afghan News report on 27 June said a project to supply clean drinking water to 50,000 residents had started in Konduz province. The $3 million project is being funded by the German Development Bank and will be completed within six months. In addition, work on a 100-year-old mosque in Nejrab district of Kapisa province is also under way after a donation was made by an Afghan citizen based in Saudi Arabia (Kabul Pajhwok Afghan News in Dari – independent news agency).

Islamic Organization Builds 14 Clinics

– A report on Radio Afghanistan Radio on 24 June said the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) had handed over the keys to 14 health centers to the Public Health Ministry. The clinics cost $3 million and are located in Kabul, Parwan, Laghman, Balkh, Bamian, Panjsher and Takhar provinces. Public Health Minister Dr Sayed Mohammad Amin Fatemi said that the OIC had constructed 40 health centers in Afghanistan since 2004. The OIC also said it would sink 750 wells and construct two schools and an academic health center in Afghanistan. The organization will allocate $15 million in aid to Afghanistan over the next two years (Kabul Radio Afghanistan in Dari – state-run radio).

World Bank To Allocate $600 Million in New Strategy

– A 22 June Tolo TV report said the World Bank had agreed to allocate $600 million to Afghanistan as part of a “new strategy” up until 2012. The report said: “Enhancing the Afghan government’s role in benefiting the people through the World Bank contributions is one of the main aims of this strategy. Coordination between donor institutions and government supervision over all projects is included in the strategy.” General Director of the World Bank in Afghanistan, Maryam Sherman, said: “What is important is that the national projects and programs have been implemented in 34 provinces and also consideration is under way on how to implement these projects in unrest areas. It should not be ignored that where there is no security problem, work is going on smoothly.” The report added that since 2002 the World Bank has donated $1.89 billion to Afghanistan (Kabul Tolo TV in Dari).

Danish Defense Minister Notes Helmand Aid

– A report on Afghan Islamic Press on 16 June said the Danish defense minister visited Helmand province and highlighted that his country had spent $70 million on electricity projects across the province. The minister also pledged to build nine new schools and two hostels in the province (Peshawar Afghan Islamic Press in Pashto).

UK To Provide Further Funds To Expand Bost Airport

– A report on Ariana TV on 6 June said the UK Department for International Development (DfID) had agreed to provide $7.3 million in aid to expand the Bost civilian airport in Helmand province. DfID said the money would be spent on building roads around the airport, establishing security checkpoints and building the administrative office of the airport. The project is being carried out in cooperation with USAID (Kabul Ariana TV in Dari).

Helmand Governor Opens Civilian Airfield

– A report on Afghan Islamic Press on 3 June said renovation work on the Bost civilian airfield in Lashkar Gah had been completed. Helmand Governor Mohammad Golab Mangal said USAID had been funding the project and that Hajj pilgrims would now be able fly from the airport to Saudi Arabia (Peshawar Afghan Islamic Press in Pashto).

Helmand Governor Details Reconstruction Progress

– A “Special Report” program on National TV Afghanistan on 5 June carried comments by Helmand Governor Mohammad Golab Mangal, who outlined the major reconstruction projects underway in the province. The governor said the “most important” project is the $180 million reconstruction of the Kajaki hydroelectric power generator, while the “second most important” project is the Bost civil aviation site in Lashkar Gah (Kabul National TV Afghanistan in Dari).

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