Afghanistan to ask donors for US$50 billion to fund 5-year aid plan
By FISNIK ABRASHI,Associated Press Writer
Thursday, May 15, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan – Afghanistan will ask international donors next month for US$50 billion (�32.3 billion) to fund a five-year development plan, a presidential aide said, despite growing criticism that aid money is being wasted.
About US$14 billion (�9 billion) is to go toward improving deteriorating security, but the key target is reviving the decrepit agricultural sector, Ishaq Nadiri, senior economic adviser to President Hamid Karzai, told reporters late Tuesday.
The plan will be presented to international donors June 12 in Paris.
“We expect a strong political commitment to Afghanistan,” Nadiri said.
Afghanistan is struggling to recover from a quarter century of war. More than six years after the ouster of the hard-line Taliban regime, the country is mired in poverty and insurgent attacks are increasing. It also produces about 93 percent of the world’s opium, the raw material of heroin.
The slow pace of development is hobbling public support for Karzai’s Western-backed government as Afghans grapple with food shortages and the sharply rising cost of living. Official corruption is endemic.
“We are building a state, and that is a costly exercise,” Nadiri said. “The country had lost its human, physical and social capital … the collapse of Afghanistan was total.”
An estimated 34 percent to 42 percent of Afghans still live below the poverty line. Despite significant improvements in health care, Afghanistan has the world’s second-highest maternal mortality rate.
It is also highly dependent on aid. The United Nations, NATO and other international institutions are trying to better coordinate military and civilian reconstruction, widely regarded as fragmented and ineffectual. There is growing concern over how the aid money is spent.
Since 2001, the international community has pledged US$25 billion (�16 billion) in help but has delivered only US$15 billion (�10 billion), according to a report by the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief, an alliance of 94 international aid agencies.
Some 40 percent of it _ or US$6 billion (�4 billion) _ goes back to donor countries in corporate profits and consultant salaries, the report found.
The new five-year development plan is part of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy, a 5,000-page document drafted after a two-year consultative process across Afghanistan and abroad. It will be presented in Paris.
Nadiri acknowledged the government lacks the capacity to administer its aid money alone, but insisted it remains more effective than the myriad of international organizations.
Currently, one-third of foreign aid money is managed by the Afghan government and the rest by donors themselves.
On the Net:
Afghanistan’s National Development Strategy: http://www.ands.gov.af/