The NATO summit was held in Chicago from May 20 -21 this year. At his meeting with US President Barack Obama during the event, President Hamid Karzai said, "Afghanistan does not want to become a burden on the shoulder of our friends." That is true. Afghanistan does not want to be a burden but the truth is that Afghanistan, at current, is a burden for the international community, as it majorly dependents on foreign aids to meet its operational and development expenditures.
For the last SY 1390 donor grants formed $1,036.3 millionof the total $1,401 million development budget of Afghanistan. At the same time, of the total $3,192 million operational budget, $114.4 million was funded through international community's donation. After 2014 when the US-led NATO withdrawal processis completed, Afghanistan would require $4.1 billion yearly to meet its military expenditures alone. The international community is expected not to only contribute to Afghanistan's military expenditure but also to continue funding this country on development, social and economic spheres.
Since Afghanistan has been receiving constant international funds, now this fact cannot be denied that expectation of Afghans have gone extremely high from the international community. Afghan government has gotten a kind of 'addicted' to Western money. This has resulted in its recklessness towards counter issues such as corruption which has been curtailing efficient utilization of foreign funds for development and reconstruction of Afghanistan.
Afghanistan falls in the list of countries trapped in the vicious circle of poverty. It is estimated that around 3/4 of people in Afghanistan live below or slightly above the line of poverty. This makes them deprived of proper education, health facilities, good food and other basic necessities of life. Serious social, economic, security and political threats are terrifying the life of the Afghan people. With such challenges facing Afghanistan, it is not clear when Afghanistan will no more be a burden for the international community.
With the ouster of Taliban from Afghanistan in 2001, hopes for reconstruction of national infrastructures of Afghanistan including economy went high. But today, after almost a decade of international effort, this country is highly dependent on international aids. There have been improvements, no doubt, in all sectors but those are not significant enough and the Afghan economy has not undergone any important positive change. Corruption, criminal activities, insecurity and many other constraints are conceived key causes of little economic development of Afghanistan. Until and unless serious measures are in place for addressing the mentioned issues, Afghans are anticipated to remain extremely poor and dependent.
Almost all development projects in Afghanistan are executed by funds donated by foreign countries. Afghan government does not possess financial capability to fund the development works of the country and hardly covers about 60 percent of its operational costs. The international funds have poured in Afghanistan since the end of Taliban government.
This still continues but how long? Afghanistan should not remain an economic burden on the shoulders of the world and fundamental steps should have been taken to make Afghan economy start standing on its own feet. It has been anticipated that Afghanistan will need foreign financial assistance at least until 2024. But until and unless security condition improves, more employment opportunities are created and more foreign and domestic investment is made, Afghanistan will face uncertain future even beyond that period.
At the same time, Afghanistan has turned into a highly consuming country. A little number of items is produced in Afghanistan that hardly fulfills the local needs of Afghanistan and cannot be considered for exports; while, almost everything – basic necessities to luxuries goods – is imported from neighboring and other countries of the world. Domestic production, which was once significant and sufficient to fulfill much of county's needs, is now negligible.
Fresh and dry fruits on agricultural part and hand woven carpets on industry side are among the major exports of Afghanistan. Despite having an agro-based economy, the agriculture sector has shown no prominent progress due to lack of proper planning in the last ten years. The Afghanistan industrial sector too, has remained under developed. It is quite appropriate to say that without having developed the agriculture and industrial sectors of Afghanistan, economic prosperity in short term would persist as a dream and we would remain dependent on imports from other countries. Such factors put our nation at high stakes, especially famine.
Lowest level of security is prevailing in Afghanistan, in spite of military efforts by US led NATO and Afghan forces. Intensification of bomb blasts, targeted killings, abductions and instability cause severe losses to the feeble Afghan economy and businessmen. Insecurity is not only the greatest hurdle for reconstruction and development works but also has kept local and foreign investments away from Afghan markets. Afghanistan is a country where every sector requires investment – mining, construction, energy, telecommunication, agriculture, transport and education are only a few. But again insecurity is the biggest problem which has made Afghanistan a hard place for doing business.
Another great hindrance for economic development has been the deep-rooted corruption. Afghanistan has been put on the list of the most corruption countries of the world. The Karzai administration and Western countries have been accusing each other for the existence of immense corruption in Afghanistan while the real issue gets worsened as both parties have not been giving any noteworthy attention aimed at resolving it.
Illegal business can be deemed another important obstacle for our economy not to improve.
More than 90 percent of opium is produced in Afghanistan which is beneficial for some people and detrimental for many others. The Afghan opium is believed to be used by Taliban as a major source to fund their operations. Drug trafficking forms the largest portion of illegal trade in Afghanistan. The whole benefit goes to Taliban and drug traffickers and not the Afghan farmers who actually cultivate poppy.
The mineral resources of Afghanistan serve as the biggest hope for this country to sustain its economy. Afghanistan is rich in mineral resources. These sources have remained underutilized for centuries. The worth of mineral resources of Afghanistan has been estimated between one to three trillion dollars. The mineral resources are the only hope for Afghans to come out of poverty. Provided that the security improves, the mining sector is anticipated to create job opportunities beyond the needs of Afghanistan and would have positive impacts on the region.
Afghanistan possesses high potentials for becoming economically self-reliant. The only need is to address the constraints and that is not possible without having a sincere and patriotic administration installed in Afghanistan.