Where does Afghanistan go from here? Does it have the capacity to utilise the funds? There are too many players, too many interests and too much confusion
$4.5 billion question
We are not starting from scratch. Our institutions have been substantially weakened. But they still exist," says Hedayat Amin-Arsala, minister of finance of Afghanistan Interim Authority. Hidayat's statement has more meaning now when the interim government is struggling hard to convene the Loya Jirga and to chart out his country's reconstruction through a new constitution. And as of now, the process is dictated by the us consortium dangling the carrot worth us $4.5 billion. Afghanistan now faces the proverbial million-dollar question: which way to go from here. As the past suggests any move to impose a us-backed central government may backfire, while on the other hand, the enormous money pledged will not come as it is conditioned to this. The Loya Jirga is going to decide this, and the future.
Hedayat's statement is a reminder to what the future is in store. For the desperate people of Afghanistan, it is another round of 'great game' played by usa. usa is just repeating what it has done elsewhere like in Kosovo or in Somalia and in Afghanistan in the 1980s, when it was fighting a proxy battle with the ussr. After bombing the country, it is getting the un to arrange the 'reconstruction' of the failed state. As elsewhere, it also installed a provisional government of its supporters, like the Karzai government in Afghanistan, and mobilised the un through allies to enforce its own interest.
Two crucial issues now haunt the interim government and for that matter the people of Afghanistan: the form of governance and the nature of development. As far as the form of governance is concerned, it has polarised the country over the traditional and the modern form of government as pushed by usa. There is a growing protest now on the imposition of the new government and new constitution. Syed Ishaq Gailani and Pir Gailani, two prominent Afghan leaders in exile and supporters of the Bonn agreement, feel that Afghanistan should be left to decide on its own form of government, independent of the us and other countries.
Will the us allow that to happen? Or will it become another ordinary under-developed American-prone country? "No," says the 65-year-old Mohammed Noor, a tribal elder of Jalalabad, "Remember from Alexander the Great to the British to the Russians...the invaders are enemies. We will do it with the Westerners, if we understand they want to impose us their will." That is the dilemma that the interim government has to sort out before convening the Loya Jirga and finalising the new constitution.
But the much publicised pledge of us $4.5 billion is nowhere in sight. Even the interim prime minister has appealed twice to the world community to give the pledged money within one month. At a meeting held in Tokyo on January 21-22, 2002, the International Conference on Reconstruction pledged us $1.8 billion for the first year and us $4.5 billion for the first 30 months. Development experts who met in Paris on May 4 called for the speedy release of funds. "The budget is not completely financed and it is essential that the funds be made available more quickly," said Jean-Claude Faure, head of the Development Assistance Committee for Afghanistan at the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (oecd). "The (Afghan) budget is short of us $ 100 million," said oecd development specialist Michael Roeskau.
But problems abound. There are already talks of usa not channeling its aid through the proposed Central Trust Fund by the World Bank and many other countries have also hinted about it. And the fear of usa washing its hands from the ruins of Afghanistan is gradually gaining ground.
On the other hand, experts feel that the huge money pledged will be spent on building an army and a centralised government structure, leaving very less for the crucial sector like agriculture and water. In 2000, before the us-British bombing, all appeals for help to Afghanistan fell on deaf ears; only 12 per cent of all appeals were pledged. And this is considered as one of the reasons for not controlling the spread of opium cultivation as no alternative could be offered. Funding for agriculture and forestry amounted to 10 per cent of the requested funds.
|WHO WANTS WHAT
USA AND ALLIES: A friendly government to be established through Loya Jirga
UNDP: Wants to implement all UN activities and a nodal position in the
THE INTERIM ADMINISTRATION, AFGHANISTAN: Will oblige USA if ensured power through Loya Jirga
World Bank/IMF: Want all development pledges to be channelised through them and focus on construction activities
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.