Reuters, June 13, 2008

It's not how much, it's how its spent, say Afghans

"I haven't been paid for several months. I have children to feed, salaries are very low there is no control on prices, no good security, no water no protection.

Sayed Salahuddin

Fed up that billions of dollars of aid spent so far hadn't transformed their lives, Afghans worn down by the Taliban insurgency found it hard to be optimistic over promises of more from a donors meeting in Paris.

"If we do not have a proper way of accounting for how much has been spent, where and on what, the aid will not have much impact even if Afghanistan gets $500 billion," said Mohammad Akram, a government worker who has to provide for his wife and three children on a salary of $60 a month.

Of the $25 billion in aid to Afghanistan from 2001 until now, only some $15 billion has been spent, aid agencies say. But for every $100 spent, sometimes only $20 actually reaches Afghan recipients, said the Kabul-based internationally funded Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA).
Reuters, June 9, 2008

After U.S.-led forces drove the Taliban militia out of power in 2001, donor nations poured $15 billion into the impoverished central Asian country, struggling to emerge from three decades of conflict, yet still on the frontline of a war against terrorism.

President Hamid Karzai's government has asked donors for $50 billion over the next five years, but is unlikely to get so much.

Early pledges showed more than $15 billion had been committed in Paris, but donors called for the Karzai government to fight corruption and coordinate aid programmes more effectively.

When he was elected in 2004, Karzai was seen as someone whose presence would ensure the international community kept sending money to resurrect a nation of 31 million people.

But Afghans have become increasingly jaundiced, and believe there is an almost limitless propensity to waste money, because of inept administration.

"We know that millions of dollars have been donated to Afghanistan during Karzai's government, but it hasn't directly affected normal people's life," said Karima Sediqi, a teacher on her way to work in the West of Kabul.

"I haven't been paid for several months. I have children to feed, salaries are very low there is no control on prices, no good security, no water no protection.

"Young Afghans join the insurgency and Taliban because they don't have jobs and income."

Some Afghans say the way forward is to engage the Taliban insurgents in dialogue, otherwise the cycle of destruction will be unending.


"Unless there is a political solution, unfortunately whatever is built will be ruined," Ahmad Zia, a Kabul school student, said.

Many believe officials are corrupt and some are involved in the drugs trade, Afghanistan's biggest and most profitable business.

But they also think the big Western agencies overseeing aid programmes fritter money away on ill-conceived projects or by paying foreign employees or contractors fat salaries.

The government should have more control over the purse strings, according to some.

Proud by nature, Afghans yearn to recover national self-respect and self sufficiency.

"If our destroyed factories are rebuilt, there will be jobs for people and we won't rely on imports from other countries," Mohammad Ali, one of millions of refugees who returned from Pakistan and Iran in the last few years, said as he stood at roundabout with other labourers seeking work.

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