Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, February 16th, 2019

Afghanistan: Emerging as a Regional Transit Hub

Afghanistan enjoys a unique geo-strategic, geo economic and geo political location in the region; its position in the ancient Silk Route, South Asia, having strategy and long borders with important countries like China, Iran, Pakistan and south Asian countries are the vital factors which can both serve as an advantage for the country.  Realizing this potential requires the Afghan Government to develop an Afghan regional strategic economic engagement strategy. Such a strategy shall encompass specific measures to link the Afghanistan to the markets of South Asia, Middle East, Central Asia and China as a transit and transport hub. This strategy also shall have specific objectives to create synergy between Afghan strategic economic objectives with the relevant neighboring countries to change Afghanistan to an economic vital player that its economic security becomes an economic critical concern for its neighboring countries and beyond.  Such an  approach requires a vibrant and strong private sector in Afghanistan to act as an engine to lead the country and engage the region toward a strategic economic partnership. The Afghan government shall create an enabling environment for private sector development and support it strategically.  One of the other vital perquisites to enable Afghanistan to realize its economic goal is developing its transit and transport infrastructures. This initiative ensures that the country will have the required soft and hard infrastructures. To ensure successful implementation of this initiative, Afghanistan shall study the public private partnership strategies in Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and India and may other countries with successful lessons in this sector.
How to ensure Private Public Partnerships

Establish a clear, predictable and legitimate institutional framework supported by competent and well-resourced authorities.
A realistic institutional framework is the backbone of public-private partnerships; because it identifies the institutions and their roles and responsibilities. To ensure the overall cooperation among the various bodies, in is necessary to consult actively and engage with stakeholders as well as involving end-users in defining the project and subsequently in monitoring service quality. Active engagement and stakeholder’s involvement face various barriers in our country and especially among the government institutions; these institutions usually create dis-synergy instead of creating synergy. In other words, they do not develop a mechanism to identify their common goals and build up partnerships around them. This negative approach stems out of poor cultural organizations that has deep roots in our social culture. To overcome this, it requires to change our organizational culture and address the root cause; the Afghan social culture.
Ensure that all regulations affecting the operation of Public-Private Partnerships are clear, transparent and enforced.
In the public sector, we face three main challenges in terms of the regulations. First, most of the regulations are either out of the dated; Second, they are not well tailored. In other words, they are either very poor or are very ambitious. The third, issue is that the Afghan government has not been able to enforce these regulations either due to lack of decisive political will or due to the lack of strong authority. As a result, we face lack of transparency and accountability in nearly all sectors, including transportation sector operations and its Public-Private Partnerships.
Strategic leadership
Transportation sector both in institutional framework and regulations implementation require a strategic leadership with a strategic vision. In addition, such a vision is mainly focused on long term achievements that calls for developing and implementing a realistic transportation strategy based on a long term vision; a vision that ensures the national interests of Afghanistan and acceptable for the current government and even the successor government; an complicated issue in Afghanistan that does not much realistic in the current political culture of the country.  Afghanistan has a unique geo-political position in Asia. This not only can change Afghanistan to an active player in the region and beyond but also can change it to a regional transit hall. However, this has some prerequisites that shall be met by the Afghan Government. They include developing a realistic institutional framework, ensuring development and implementation of realistic regulations and a strategic leadership with a long term transit strategic goal ensuring the interests of all the Afghan citizens. Combining these three factors will ensure that Afghanistan will emerge not only as an active regional actor but also as the transit hub of the region as well.