As West cuts aid lifelines, real Afghanistan crisis looms
On September 13, nearly a month after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called a conference in Geneva to raise at least $ 600 million in aid to the country. . Donors have gone above and beyond, pledging more than $ 1 billion, and Guterres hailed the generosity as a sign of international solidarity with the Afghan people. The money, he said, would allow the UN to help the Afghans ”in their time of great need”.
It’s true. Afghanistan’s needs are great even though the country relies on a wealth of natural resources. This great need drove the World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus visits Kabul September 20.
The billion dollars agreed to by donors is only a short-term solution. Substantial chunks will go to the World Food Program and WHO to provide the food we desperately need and to keep essential health facilities open.
But emergency aid cannot – and will not solve – the bigger problem: how Afghanistan will continue to function when neither the government nor the people have a lot of hard cash. , nor any prospect of obtaining it? The growing desperation is evident in the call made on September 14 by the Taliban’s acting foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi, for the United States to release Afghanistan’s foreign reserves. “America is a big country, they must have a big heart,” Muttaqi said.
Afghanistan, one of the least developed countries in the world by UN criteria, has been heavily dependent on foreign aid for the past 20 years.
In March, five months before the Taliban took control, the World Bank noted that aid represented 42.9% of Afghanistan’s GDP. It was better than in 2009, when aid represented 100% of GDP. But it still meant that Afghanistan’s service sector, as well as jobs and incomes were firmly linked to what the World Bank described as “declining foreign subsidies” in the second decade of the longest. United States war.
After the Taliban returned to power in Kabul, even those foreign subsidies are gone and the billion dollars will not pay to run the government. Western donors, reluctant to appear to support the Taliban, have cut development aid, with dire and very visible implications for Afghanistan. The local currency, the afghani, has started to drop sharply and the price of basic necessities such as wheat, rice, sugar and cooking oil is rising. Khaama Press, an Afghan news agency, reports long queues outside banks, where weekly withdrawals are limited to 20,000 Afghans, or about $ 200.
Suspended funding streams
As of yet, there is no indication if, when or how the new Afghan leadership will replace the sources that provided three-quarters of government spending. Donors, including the United States and groups such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, indefinitely suspended the flow of funding that paid the salaries of civil servants, teachers and health workers and allowed construction and construction. maintenance of public services such as schools and clinics.
The United States has frozen most of the foreign assets of the Afghan central bank for $ 9.4 billion, most of which is in accounts with the New York Federal Reserve and US-based financial institutions. United. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) blocked the Taliban government’s access to emergency reserves of $ 460 million. The World Bank has suspended all of its projects in the country. And the European Union has halted the 1.2 billion euros ($ 1.4 billion) in development assistance planned for Afghanistan over the next decade.