Afghanistan Stability Trends: Can the Taliban Revive Afghan Economy?
The economic costs of the sudden rupture of governance in Afghanistan due to lack of smooth transition from the Republic to De Facto Administration in Kabul that is Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan or the Taliban in the last eight months is evident from half-yearly regional update released by the World Bank on April 13. Afghanistan's per capita income has fallen by around one-third in the last months of 2021 and Gross Domestic Product per capita is expected to decline by around 30 percent between end-2020 and end-2022.
The World Bank also underlined that the government should respect human rights for delivery of aid and assistance, especially for women and girls.
The Taliban have accepted that economy must be the focus for stability, given that they are unwilling to make any compromises on forming an inclusive government or universal human rights.
Baradar Leads Economic Revival
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Acting Deputy Prime Minister of the IEA government, is leading revival of the Afghan economy and gaining greater legitimacy for the regime within and outside the country.
Baradar was appointed as the head of the Economic Affairs Council of the Taliban during the cabinet meeting held in the month of March led by the Supreme Authority Mullah Haibutallah Akhund.
Inamullah Samangani spokesperson in Kabul claimed that amongst the many topics discussed was economy. "Attracting national and foreign investment, appointing the Mujahideen (Islamic Emirate members) to government departments, preventing the drug business and reforming the administration, were discussed," he said.
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Baradar, who led the Taliban talks in Doha, was the Deputy of Taliban's founder Mullah Omar and led the delegation for negotiations with the United States in Doha which led to the agreement on February 29, 2020. Thus he has the political clout to sustain the move for indigenous economic development.
This comes as possibly there is a realization that in case external assistance is sought, this is likely to come with a number of demands, particularly on the human rights and women's issues are concerned. Recently several countries and agencies have stopped aid to the Taliban after education to girls beyond Class 6 was restricted.
Baradar has said that the aid provided by international donors will alleviate urgent needs for a short period of time, but ministries must work toward self-sufficiency.
Thus the option of improving the indigenous economy has received priority.
Taliban is working on several large projects that are expected to generate employment and overcome some of the challenges faced by the public.
Apart from Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI), other projects are railways, canals, mining, and oil exploration.
The trans-Afghan rail project which links Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan is also in the offing. A trilateral meeting recently concluded in the Uzbek city of Termez as per Pajhwok Afghan News.
This railway is planned from from Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan via Kabul to Peshawar, Pakistan. This will also connect with existing Termez, Uzbekistan - Mazar-e-Sharif cross-border line, which opened in January 2012, offering a direct rail link between Pakistan and the Uzbek capital of Tashkent.
Afghanistan Railway Authority (ARA) said that construction work on the Khaf-Herat railway, partially damaged in the Rawzanak area, will begin soon. The Khaf-Herat railway is a project which would link Iran via Afghanistan to China.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is visiting several provinces in the North and the West. According to Bakhtar News Agency, which is affiliated to the Taliban, he was in Farah where he met with the leading scholars of the province and some local government officials. The residents reportedly asked him to accelerate the implementation of many national, infrastructure, and vital projects, including the Bakhshabad Dam.
Tourism and Poppy
Taliban is also opening tourism in Bamyan, the caves which they destroyed some years back when they were in power last time around it is not surprising as they require revenue and that's where the ready cash is going come from
Taliban has banned the cultivation of poppy and ironically the cost of poppy in the market in Afghanistan has suddenly spiked up the prices as it is expected that this will restrict availability.
While the focus on big projects may lead to a "feel good," factor the long gestation period of many of these which require funding from multilateral agencies denotes that relief to the economy and employment generation is not likely shortly.
Aid will continue to drive short-term economic upliftment, but the Taliban will have to soften their ideological agenda for a sustained stream.
More over-focusing on small businesses should be the way ahead as this will generate employment as well as have a trickle down impact of delivery of economic goods to the grassroots.
Finally the standards of economic governance continue to remain weak due to corruption as well as lack of adequate number of experts in government. The situation can improve only after more number of former government employees join the Taliban administration.