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Politics & Policy

Reconstruction of Afghanistan

$10 to 15 billion fund may be created for Afghanistan

From SHAMIM AHMED RIZVI
Islamabad
Dec 03 - 09 , 2001

The 3-day international conference on "Preparing for Afghanistan's Reconstruction" jointly sponsored and hosted by the World bank, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) commenced in Islamabad on Tuesday. Over 330 delegates comprising Afghans, donors representative, regional stakeholders attending, the conference, called for an early setting up of a broad based interim government in Afghanistan so that the development and reconstruction work in that war-ravaged country could be undertaken.

The donor agencies are expecting that an international fund of $10 to 15 billion may be created to immediately start the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Multilateral donors have shown willingness to contribute generously to the programme which may be started once a coalition government is installed and peace returned to Afghanistan.

Pakistan is expecting to play a major role in this gigantic development programme. Only last week Gen. Pervez Musharraf directed that all relevant ministries and government departments along with Pakistani businessmen should be ready with detailed plans and expertise to claim maximum share for Pakistan companies in this world effort. The holding of the Afghanistan reconstruction moot in Pakistan is a significant indication that Pakistan is going to play a major role.

In her opening speech the vice President of the World Bank South Asia, Ms Mieko Nishimizu said "we all share a dream of Afghanistan in peace and free of poverty and with international cooperation that dream can be converted into a reality". The sole purpose of this conference was to listen to Afghan and set priorities right for development and reconstruction along side a political settlement efforts taking place in Bonn, Germany.

Continuing she said that we need consultation, cooperation and guidance of Afghan people in this gigantic effort. "How dare we think about rebuilding Afghanistan without listening to the sovereign people. How dare we continue the very exclusion that has blighted the lives of the Afghan people so long". She observed that if the assistance community were to drive the rebuilding of Afghanistan, it would merely become part of the problem, instead of part of the solution that it could be. She said that the reconstruction of Afghanistan would be inseparable from its long-term development. "And, I think of development as a process of economic, social and political transformation, of a society, by the society for the society", she suggested an outsiders role as of honest brokers' be they governments, NGOs or international agencies like the World Bank.

Regarding Bonn process, she said the bank had a deep respect for such efforts, in which Afghanistan finds its leadership to steer the nation's reconstruction and development. The quality of leadership, in governments and throughout civil society, is one such factor that is of enormous importance for poverty reduction, she added.

"Reducing poverty is about sharing tangible and intangible fruits of economic growth equitably. Strategy, policies and actions to achieve it are about changes with winners and losers". She maintained that citizens need to feel that they are truly consulted and that they have participated actively in the process of change. They need to feel convinced that they can honour a consensus, and share deeply in a common vision, strategy and actions, she said, adding that such a participatory process of change is the only way to secure a sustainable development path. She concluded her remarks reciting translation of verses from the Holy Quran. "Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves, with their own souls."

David Lockwood, the UNDP Deputy Director for Asia and the Pacific, said the next three days would be a first step towards an Afghan-driven needs assessment. "The Afghans are a proud nation who resent and resist attempts by outsiders to plan their lives. If we are going to help break the cycle of increasing desperate dependency on external assistance, we have to act quickly, and with a clear plan of action which can be readily supported by all parties and factions, and can, therefore, be adopted easily by the interim authority and supported financially by donor countries".

A number of speakers shared the experience of the international community in dealing with post-conflict reconstruction else where. Dr. Iwasaki reviewed the ADB's experiences with post-conflict rehabilitation in Cambodia, Tajikistan and East Timor.

In rehabilitating the agriculture, education, transport and poor sectors, the ADB had undertaken detailed appraisals and implementation had proven very successful. However, lead times had been long and extended institutional support had been required. In Tajikistan, a quick-disbursing policy and institutional support programme was implemented for the transport and power sectors. This programme was vital for putting modern systems in place, providing incentives for efficiency and achieving cost recovery. In East Timor, the ADB is assisting the transport, power, telecommunications, water and sanitation, and micro-finance sectors. Physical implementation is proceeding well, but failure to establish a policy framework for cost recovery has unnecessarily burdened the budget.

The representative of the International Monetary Fund said the IMF role would be aimed at three areas namely the establishment of a functional financial and payments system; a reactivation of governmental institutions to ensure delivery of essential government economic services, and, the improvement of capacity to implement macro-economic policies to ensure that reconstruction takes place in a non-inflationary environment.

Speaking in the session on lessons from international experiences, Dr. Paul Oquist of the UNDP warned against "quick fixes" and donor fatigue arguing that there should be a "post-war" concept of special institutions and resources over a considerable period of time. He said post-war Japan and Germany were good examples of countries which had been able to transform destroyed industrial infrastructure into an opportunity to construct modern competitive economic and industrial infrastructure.

Afghanistan does not have a government apparatus, he said, but that can be transformed into an opportunity to create a modern, participatory and responsive state for the 21st. Century.