Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, December 13th, 2018

Poor: Because of Being Rich

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Poor:  Because of Being Rich

Afghanistan is one of richest countries in terms of having strategic business location, huge mineral resources and young workforce, but ranked as one of the poorest countries in the world. More than one-third of the Afghan population live below the national poverty line and an estimated 9.3 million Afghans are in need of humanitarian assistance. The situation has been exacerbated by staggering levels of insecurity and unprecedented levels of unemployment. Despite some indications for improving unbalanced fiscal growth in the country, poverty levels remain the same and in some cases have continued to rise.
Subsequently, poverty has caused many social and cultural crises in the country which include the spread of armed violence, rise of addictions, upsurge of brain drain, dramatic increase in acute malnutrition, over crowdedness in large cities and the vacancy of the countryside. The numbers of poverty criminals have terribly increased while the government  has not been able to take  sufficient preventive measures to show that imprisonment of poverty criminals is not a real solution to address the problem of rising crime in the country  It is a cruel and useless substitute for the elimination of those conditions--poverty, unemployment, homelessness, desperation, racism, greed--which are at the root of most punished crime, while the crimes of tycoons and professional criminals go mostly unpunished.
Furthermore, wide spread corruption has paralyzed the government system and most of the revenues go to the pockets of the civil servants due to weak control systems and corrupt practices in collecting taxes from small business, property owners, and manufacturers. Based on a last year’s report released by Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA), an estimate of $3b bribes paid during a single year in this country. This indicates that nepotism, bribery, embezzlement, and racial discrimination are among the bureaucratic ills that severely affect the ability of the state to provide basic social and economic services to the public, and particularly to the poor.
Nonetheless, Afghanistan has not witnessed any successful poverty reduction strategy to create genuine hopes for the future. Poverty in Afghanistan is concentrated in rural areas as four out of five poor people live in rural areas. The East, Northeast, and West-Central regions—where almost half of the inhabitants are poor—have the lowest per capita consumption and highest likelihood of poverty. Hence, any poverty reduction initiatives would not successful unless it ensures a balanced economic growth and really follow the human rights perspective and national constitutions to help meet the objective of assisting those who are most marginalized and lying at the core of a bad life while unable to enjoy the essentials for a dignified life, such as the right to food, health, access to justice, shelter and education.
It should be notified that international aid, somewhat, helped to grow the economy, but it has not equally benefited all sectors or the poorer groups. International aids created jobs in the public health sector and education services sectors and benefited high-conflict areas the most. It did not bring any sustainable changes in productivities especially in the agriculture sector, which employs most of Afghanistan’s poor people. In short, international aid often supported short terms projects which helped to improve human development outcomes but it did not bring any maintainable changes in economic infrastructures in Afghanistan.
Although Afghan National Unity Government (NUG) has paid some more attention in developing national economic infrastructure comparing to Karzai’s government, it does not have enough resources to fund  all its necessary development projects. Therefore, NUG needs to peruse a strategic funding diplomacy to satisfy the international community to fund poverty reduction policies of Afghanistan while considering mutual legitimate interests for maintaining longer term of friendships.
Finally, we must focus on strengthening the agriculture sector, water infrastructures, mines, investing in human development and managing and mitigating risks that increase poor people’s vulnerability. For example, women and children – the “unseen victims” of the Afghan conflict – bear a huge burden when a family loses its chief breadwinner leaving their children orphans and their wives widows.
Meanwhile, we need to take several steps in order to make a comprehensive and balanced poverty reduction strategy; firstly, the government should pay higher wages to its employees, while taking more disciplinary actions against those who do not abide by the law. Secondly, the government has to make policies and strategies focused on stabilization of the macroeconomic conditions and structural reforms, both in civil and security sectors. Thirdly, we must strengthen the institutional framework conducive to investment and elimination of barriers to development of the private sector; Fourthly, there is need to invest in development of infrastructures while accelerating the optimal use of the Afghan human resources and urban rural development and finally  improve political, economic, finance and local governance, in order to enhance the government’s planning and management capacities, and to modernize its systems to ensure provision of good quality services to all the Afghan citizens.

Mohammad Zahir Akbari is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammadzahirakbari@gmail.com

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