AFP, October 28, 2008

Afghans increasingly pessimistic: survey

The drop was from 54 percent in 2006 -- five years after the ouster of the hardline Taliban government -- to 36 percent this year, the US-based foundation said.

KABUL — Afghans are increasingly pessimistic about their country, with security, unemployment and high prices dominating concerns, according to an annual mood survey released Tuesday.

Poverty in Afghanistan hits 20 millions out of the 26 millions population
BBC Persian, October 17, 2008: Official statistics show that Afghanistan has the highest level of poverty among the South-Asian countries. On the basis of the official statistics, around 20 million people are living under the line of poverty in this country. The government of Afghanistan, despite the support of the International Community, has not been able to do something considerable for decreasing poverty.

The proportion of people who said they were more prosperous today than under the 1996-2001 Taliban government had also "decreased significantly", said The Asia Foundation poll.

The drop was from 54 percent in 2006 -- five years after the ouster of the hardline Taliban government -- to 36 percent this year, the US-based foundation said.

"There is a clear trend towards greater pessimism over the last two years," the survey summary said.

Thirty-eight percent of respondents this year said Afghanistan was moving in the right direction, compared with 42 percent in 2007 and 44 percent in 2006.

The number saying it was moving in the wrong direction was up to 32 percent, from 24 percent in 2007 and 21 percent in 2006.

Satisfaction with government at all levels has fallen since 2007 with the administration seen as doing best in the provision of education and health care and worst in the economic arena and in combating corruption, the Foundation said.

Respondents also continued to express concern about not having basic services, notably electricity.

Afghanistan's infrastructure was destroyed during three decades of war that started with the Soviet invasion of 1979. Millions of dollars in aid has seen some development but many Afghans complain there has been little improvement.

Adding to pressures on the country -- one of the poorest in the world -- has been the worldwide economic upheaval.

"In 2008, economic issues have gained prominence as major national problems compared to 2007, particularly the issue of high prices related to the global crisis in food prices, unemployment, and poor economy," the survey said.

It noted that public confidence in the capacity of the Afghan army and police -- being trained and equipped by their international counterparts -- appeared to be improving.

But the percentage of respondents who said there was freedom of expression in their area had decreased from 46 percent in 2006 to 40 percent this year, with fear for personal safety cited as the main reason.

The country had been through increasingly difficult times over the past year, The Asia Foundation said.

While there had been some gains in improving basic amenities and services and in reconstruction, conflict linked to a Taliban-led insurgency had resulted in significantly higher civilian and military casualties, it said.

"Food shortages in many regions became severe, with several million Afghans facing near-starvation this coming winter; and inflation and unemployment continued to rise," the report's authors said.

The biggest problems identified this year by the survey's 6,593 respondents were security (36 percent compared with 46 percent in 2007) and economic issues including unemployment (31 percent versus 27 percent previously).

High prices (22 percent: two percent in 2007), poor economy (17 percent against 19 percent) and corruption (14 percent: 16 percent last year) were other top concerns.

The Asia Foundation is a nongovernmental organisation with 17 offices in Asia and its headquarters in the United States. Its declared aims are to help improve governance, law, development and other issues.

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