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Ministry of Finance Press Review Feb 25-3 Mar

By Margaret Gordon,2014-11-11 22:55
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Ministry of Finance Press Review Feb 25-3 Mar

     BearingPoint AEGP Public Relations and Media Office

    Weekly Press Review - February 25 3 March

Headlines

    Industrial parks first step towards industrialization

Afghanistan pins its hopes on pistachios

ADB has researched for a year on gas pipeline

Third Afghanistan Development Forum to be held

    Kabul Mustofiat has collected 600 million Afs revenue in a year

Women are being trained on business management

Role of women in Afghanistan’s economic development

Imbalance in Afghan-Pak trade relations

Afghan-Pakistan economical relations increasing

The new business receipt tax is implemented

Delhi puts a dent in Karzai's dreams

In aid of friendship

    World Bank says drugs now Afghanistan's economic lynchpin

Price of fuel in remote Badakhshan province has quadrupled because of adverse weather conditions

Dollarisation sweeps Kabul's Shahr-e-Nou streets

Uzbekistan seeks greater Afghan rebuilding role

    Turkmen, Afghan presidents to meet to discuss trans-Afghan gas pipeline

Cart-vendors in Kabul streets say municipality order has reduced bribe taking among police

    Pakistan exports to Afghanistan touch US$670 million in Jul-Jan

    Common bazaars established along border with Tajikistan

Afghan amputees to get tiling plant

Solar power supply to be produced

    India to grant 100 USD million for power supply in Afghanistan

Pakistan welcomes Afghanistan's interest in SAARC

    Indian space research organization plans Telemedicine link with Afghanistan

Afghan government takes steps to curb gas prices

Unemployment brings people on the roads in Herat

    Citizens of northern Mazar demand speedy road reconstruction in their city

The main reason for corruption and weakness of judicial organs is bank inefficiency in collecting debts

DCCI calls to set up Afghan business Council in Dubai

Cooperation Agreement Signed

Sri Lanka to welcome Afghanistan, but not Iran, to SAARC

USA to donate 20 tons of soybean oil to Afghanistan

USA to grant 15 million USD to Afghanistan

France contributes $16 million

Afghanistan wants transit route through Pakistan

India to set up telemedicine centers across Afghanistan

    Afghanistan mobile phone company Roshan Telecom wins global GSM award for best marketing campaign

India warms up to Afghanistan

Afghanistan and future of the region

Karzai lauds India's assistance to Afghanistan

Afghanistan seeks role in enlarged Saarc

A Kabul-Bangkok highway, via India

    Priorities coincide in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan/Darfur, Palestinian Territories

Turning the Lights On in Kabul

Businessmen Targeted by Kidnappers

India, Afghanistan sign civil aviation pact

India renews pledge to rebuild war-ravaged Afghanistan

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will host the 3rd Annual Afghanistan Development Forum

Karzai's India Visit Could Increase Regional Trade Links

India to upgrade airline, TV satellite links in Afghanistan

    India, Afghanistan decide to resume direct flights

    Afghanistan energy ministry calls on Shri PM Sayeed

    Afghanistan’s Independent Radio Heading towards Self-Sufficiency

Karzai seeks Indian doctors

    President Karzai’s Statement on the Launching of Afghanistan’s First National Human Development Report

Afghan Living Standards among the Lowest, U.N. Finds

Press Clippings

Delhi puts a dent in Karzai's dreams

    Asia Times

    03/02/2005

    By: Sudha Ramachandran

    BANGALORE - Afghan President Hamid Karzai's three-day visit to India last week saw the two sides firming up several deals boosting bilateral cooperation. However, Karzai's enthusiasm for Indian involvement in an oil pipeline project seems to have not been reciprocated in equal measure by India.

    Karzai's visit to New Delhi was his third since the fall of the Taliban and the first since his election in October last year as Afghanistan's president. Relations between India and Afghanistan plunged to an all-time low during the years of Taliban rule, when Delhi was a key supporter of the Northern Alliance. Over the past three years, Delhi has built a strong presence in Afghanistan and bilateral relations have improved dramatically.

    India has participated in a big way in Afghanistan's reconstruction, having committed to a total of US$400 million as assistance to the war-ravaged country over the 2002-2008 period. This puts India among the top six contributors to Afghanistan's reconstruction.

    Of this assistance, India has committed $84 million for the up gradation and reconstruction of the 213 kilometer Zaranj-Delaram road. The road is the result of an Afghanistan-India-Iran project that envisages development of trade with Central Asia. The route will take goods from the Iranian port of Chabahar to Afghanistan and other Central Asian countries.

    Another $80 million has been set aside for the construction of the Salma Dam power project in Herat province. India is also funding the construction of a new parliament building in Afghanistan. Among the projects that India has taken up are the reconstruction of the Habibia School in Kabul - the alma mater of the ruling elite and the influential in this country, a major power transmission project to alleviate Kabul's severe power problems, supply of airplanes for civil aviation and buses for public transport and the repair of a famous mosque in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.

    India is involved in training Afghanistan's bureaucrats, judges and lawyers, and police personnel. It has sent scores of doctors and engineers to work in Afghanistan, to train and rebuild this country. An information technology specialist has been deputed to the Afghan government.

    India's policy in Afghanistan is aimed at not only winning the hearts and minds of the Afghan people but also ensuring that anti-India elements (the Taliban and Pakistan) are kept out of Afghanistan's power structure. An official in the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) says

    that "India sees Afghanistan as a springboard to the realization of its long-term economic, energy and security interests in the Central Asian region".

    During Karzai's trip to India, more steps were taken to consolidate bilateral ties. Two accords on enhancing cooperation in civil aviation and media and information were signed. The memorandum of understanding (MoU) on cooperation in the field of civil aviation is aimed at building capacity and strengthening the institutional structure of Afghanistan's civil aviation sector. It includes training in areas of airport management, air traffic control, navigational aids etc, including safety and maintenance of aircraft. The MoU on cooperation in the field of media and information calls for greater interaction between the media and radio and television organizations of the two countries.

    But despite the small but significant steps that were taken during Karzai's trip, the Afghan president might have gone home a slightly disappointed man. He was hoping to convince Delhi to look favorably at a $3.3 billion pipeline project that envisages piping gas across roughly 900 miles from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan and on to India.

    Delhi's involvement in the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) pipeline project is essential for its economic viability. The pipeline project could contribute significantly to Afghanistan's economy.

    While India has been keen to push ahead with the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project - provided Islamabad will ensure security of the pipeline - it has not shown similar enthusiasm for the TAP pipeline, as it believes that this might not make economic sense for India. There are sections in India who are warning that problems with regard to the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project are likely to surface soon. "The growing tensions between America and Iran in the second Bush administration would suggest inevitable US opposition to the project," points out C Raja Mohan, a professor at the Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi.

    However, India's MEA has more misgivings about the feasibility of the TAP pipeline. It has serious doubts over whether Turkmenistan has sufficient gas reserves to dedicate to this pipeline. Estimates of the potential of the Turkmen gas fields vary considerably. While some believe it could perhaps possess the world's fourth largest supply of gas, others peg the production potential much lower.

    A report in the Indian Express, a national English daily, points out that "Turkmenistan's gas production last year was 58 billion cubic meters [bcm], of which 35 bcm was exported to Ukraine and smaller volumes to Iran and Russia. About 11 bcm was used for domestic consumption." The report goes on to argue that while Turkmenistan would increase its production to about 120 bcm by 2007, it has committed to supply Russia with large amounts of gas. "In fact, nearly 70 bcm of the projected 120 bcm is believed to be contractually committed to Gaz prom," the report said.

    The MEA has drawn the attention of India's Petroleum Ministry to the fact that if India takes into account Turkmenistan's commitments to Russia, Ukraine and Iran as well as its own domestic needs, "there will be little available for further export". India is therefore concerned that the

    amount of Turkmen gas that it can avail might not be enough to justify its investment in the project.

    An official in the MEA told Asia Times Online, "Pouring money into the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline doesn't make economic sense for India. The returns are not adequate. India investing in it will make the project economically viable but not for India."

    The MEA official said that India is still looking into the matter and that a proper assessment of the project and of an Asian Development Bank report on it will have to be made before India makes its decision. Until then, India's response will be "non-committal and cautious".

    The TAP pipeline project needs India's involvement to be economically viable and India will join in only if it is convinced that the rate of return on it is adequate to justify its investment and that there is more for it in the pipeline than goodwill alone. India's decision on the project hinges on simple economics. Afghanistan's pipeline dreams seem a long way off from being fulfilled.

In Aid Of Friendship

    Wed, 02 Mar 2005 18:18:20 -0000

    India Today

    March 7, 2005

    By Saurabh Shukla

    For Hamid Karzai, the first elected president of Afghanistan, India has been a familiar territory-he studied in Shimla and has continuously engaged with Delhi after taking charge. So as the president journeyed from snow-clad Kabul to the manicured Rajpath in Delhi on February 23, the red carpet was duly rolled out for him. As effusive was the UPA Government's gesture to add another dimension to its strategic ties with the country where India's goodwill diplomacy has helped rekindle age-old ties. Not only has India reiterated its commitment to reconstruct the war ravaged country but also made it clear that Afghanistan is a top priority.

    Acknowledging India's role Karzai had earlier said, "The Indian aid has been the best. We have found each other again." He was talking to Indian External Affairs Minister K. Natwar Singh who had called on him at his presidential palace in Kabul on February 15. After Singh's assessment of the situation in Afghanistan, India renewed its support in infrastructure development and capacity building, providing $100 million (Rs 450 crore) worth of project-based aid besides the $400 million it has already promised.

    The importance of the visit can be gauged from the fact that Karzai has arrived with half his Cabinet. Besides Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, Karzai is accompanied by his ministers of commerce, power, finance, mining, education, transport and culture, and its envoy to the US, reflecting the role that the US is playing in Afghanistan. The trip is aimed at conveying Karzai's gratitude for the Indian help and for working out a blueprint for the future. The two sides have inked two MoUs to enhance cooperation in information broadcasting and civil aviation. India has also promised long-term assistance in developing infrastructure and training manpower.

    During talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Karzai, India agreed to help fight the drug menace and provide vocational training, according to officials. "We will also help Afghanistan improve its financial infrastructure," says Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran. So the Punjab National Bank has opened a branch and 10 experts are there to support it. "We have also taken the first step in security cooperation and will strengthen it further," adds Saran.

    Indo-Afghan ties have come a long way from the time when the Indian mission was forced to pack up after the Taliban took over. After Karzai assumed charge in 2001, the Indian strategy has been to carve a strategic space for itself and to curb the rise of pro-Taliban elements and religious fundamentalists. This has been done through projects aimed at changing the lives of common people. The message has gone down well. "The difference between what others have done and what India is doing is that we have given them what they wanted. We will continue to do so as it is a crucial neighbor," says S.K. Lambah, chairperson of the National Security Advisory Board and India's former special envoy to Afghanistan.

    India has also helped put Afghanistan's faltering healthcare system back on track, and integral to India's diplomatic efforts has been its move to boost the communication system with a project linking 11 provincial capitals with a telecommunication network. During Karzai's trip India has forged links in the water and transportation sectors and has decided to set up down linking stations to provide a TV network across the country. Meanwhile, work has already begun on the reconstruction of the road from Zaranj to Delaram at a cost of $84 million. For India, it will be an important link to Iran's Chahbahar port across the border and will pave the way for a transit route to Central Asia. "We have picked up projects that directly affect the people. The idea is to help the Afghan people and create goodwill for India," says a senior Indian official.

    In Herat province, India has begun work on the Salma Dam power project, and has embarked on a power-transmission project from Pul-e-Khumri near the Uzbek border to Kabul to tackle the capital's power outages.

    Besides winning hearts, the Indian strategy also involves creating visible symbols of Indian help. To celebrate democracy in the country, it is helping construct the Afghan Parliament building in Kabul. The two sides have also used the visit to strengthen their defense cooperation. In the second phase, India may help raise the country's air force and formulate a training program for the officers of the Afghan Army. It is already helping create its national police force.

    For Delhi it is a diplomatic success as it has achieved this despite Pakistan's resistance, which feels that India has dented its strategic space. Afghanistan has also become a potent ground for Indo-US cooperation, where the two countries have discovered a shared interest in fighting the Taliban and drug trafficking, and ensuring that Afghanistan does not slip into the hands of religious fundamentalists.

    During the trip, Karzai reached out to the captains of the Indian industry, asking them to consider Afghanistan as an economic opportunity and inviting them to invest in it. India is also looking at Afghanistan as a gateway to Central Asia. While India does have some differences on the long-

    term deployment of nato troops stationed in its extended neighborhood, its priority for now is to en sure stability of the Karzai regime and to put its bilateral relations in top gear.

LENDING A HAND

    Crisscrossing Afghanistan, India's goodwill diplomacy has put the country back on track Indian medical teams are in Mazar-e-Sharif. The shrine of Hazrat Ali has been repaired.

    A computer centre and an up linking facility with five relay transmitters have been set up. Salma dam power project is being built. Indian doctors have been here

    since 2003.

    Construction of the Zaranj-Delaram road is on. India is also helping set up a telecom link. Afghan Parliament being built. Power transmission line is also being provided to Kabul. English teachers have been sent to the former Taliban hub. A cold storage is also being built.

World Bank says drugs now Afghanistan's economic lynchpin

    Wed Mar 2,10:37 AM ET

KABUL (AFP) - Drugs are now the staple of Afghanistan (news - web sites)'s economy, locking

    the country in a cycle of poverty and violence and leaving a minority of the population with the bulk of the wealth, the World Bank (news - web sites) said.

    Opium "has become Afghanistan's leading economic activity. By 2004 the opium spread to all of Afghanistan's provinces," a report by the Washington-based bank said.

    The drugs trade had left the country with a "vicious cycle associated with the opium economy warlords", it added.

    The World Bank's comments came hours after the International Narcotics Control Board released a report saying opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan soared to near-record levels in 2004.

    At a press conference in Kabul, World Bank director for Afghanistan Jean Mazurelle also said that a widening wealth gap was a growing problem for the government. "For that, redistribution actions which would be targeted and authoritative are needed. Even if the cake gets bigger, everybody doesn't get a share of it," he said.

    "At present, 15 percent of the population receives 80 percent of the benefits of growth." In February Afghanistan was ranked 173 out 178 countries by the United Nations (news - web sites)

    Development (UNDP) Index, with one of the world's highest levels of infant and maternal mortality.

    "The need to protect the vulnerable groups is one of the main points of the UNDP report," Mazurelle said.

    Price of fuel in remote Badakhshan province has quadrupled because of adverse weather conditions

    By Amin Salarzai

    BADAKHSHAN, Mar. 02

    (Pajhwok Afghan News)

    Prices of fuel has quadrupled and food-stuff doubled in the northern province of Badakshan because of the heavy snow-fall, which has cut-off, the main routes leading to and from this remote province.

    Many people from the districts of Kuran-o-Manjan, Sheghnan, Zibak, Darwaz, Ashkashem and Wakhan are particularly worried because the prices have sky rocketed in these regions.

    Skandar Sheghni, chief of Kuran-o-Manjan district told Pajhwok Afghan News, roads connecting to these districts are only open for a few months in the year, and the rest of the time they are snow-bound.

    He said this has contributed to the vast inflation of prices in the region. A school teacher from Sheghnan district, Mohammad Sarwar, said: "Prices in the remote areas of Badakhshan have skyrocketed."

    Sarwar said that seven kilograms of wheat costs 180 Afghanis, a liter of diesel costs 100 Afghanis and one kilogram of salt cost 200 Afghanis, and it is difficult to find firewood, which usually costs 70 Afghanis for seven kgs.

When the roads were easily accessible before, seven kgs of wheat costs 70 80 Afs, a liter of

    diesel costs 40 Afs and seven kgs of salt costs 70 Afs in the same area, Sarwar said.

    In comparison to prices in other cities, for instance neighboring Kunduz, he said a liter of diesel is sold for 25 Afghanis, seven kgs of firewood for 45 Afs and seven kgs of salt for 30 Afs.

    The indigenous Sheghnan district chief, Abdul Musawar Sarwari, asked for relief aid for the locals facing hunger and shortages of food. "In Sheghnan, there is only calamity, poverty and hunger is cheap and everything else is expensive," he said.

    Panjshanbeh, an official in the district, told Pajhwok: "I don‘t know where to begin about the problems that the Sheghan people are facing, but as long as the roads are blocked by the snow, the prices will keep going up."

    Ziaullah, from Kuran-o-Manjan district, Ziaullah, said that even with the high prices, many people cannot find the necessary goods and materials for the cold winter.

Dollarisation sweeps Kabul's Shahr-e-Nou streets

    March 01, 2005

    By: Ibrahim Khan

    The News International, Pakistan

    KARACHI: In Shahr-e-Nou, Kabul's most prosperous throbbing financial district, an Afghan easily understands the language of the dollar and wants to open an account in the greenback, says Zakir Mahmood,President of the Habib Bank Limited. Dollar speaks loudly at hotels, cafes, offices, book stores, carpet shops, shopping malls, taxi stands

    "We have very good business in Kabul," says the future-looking banking wizard, who, encouraged by enormous banking potential in the district's most expensive Haji Yaqoob Square, now plans to open two more branches in other cities of fast-changing Afghanistan before entering vast markets of Central Asia, China and Iran.

    Psychologically, the charismatic brand name "Habib Bank" plays an inspiring symbol in the expensive district and attracts Afghans, who now repose great confidence on the bank, Mahmood, who recently visited Kabul, told The News at HBL's 22nd floor office. With the roaring business, the HBL's branch in Kabul became profitable within four months and emboldened by its profitability, the bank now plans to open two more branches in Afghanistan this year. Mahmood, who has vast banking experience previously with Bank of America, where he served as Regional Manager, Gulf Region (1986-1991) based in Bahrain and London, was responsible for business activities in Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq and Yemen. He completed his BE from the NED Engineering in 1973, MBA (Finance) University of California in1976 and Masters Engineering UCLA in 1974. He has a great command over French in addition to English and Urdu.

    During his 25 years career in international banking, he has also served in the Bank of America in Dublin, Karachi and London.

    In Kabul virtually all the business activities including purchases of books, hotel bills, carpets, lands, payments of house and hotel rents, taxi fare and monthly salaries are conducted with a smile and the dollar with the current dollarisation wave, said soft-spoken Mahmood, adding: "This has now spilled over to other big cities of Afghanistan, where a lot of reconstruction orders are in the streamline."

    Habib Bank's role in banking is more conspicuous in Afghanistan, where the State Bank of Pakistan has offered to train the staff of the Central Bank of Afghanistan and other banks in normal banking and Islamic banking, said Mahmood, who has also worked in the Paris-based Credit Agricole Indosuez, one of the largest banks in France and amongst the five largest banks globally.

    "The HBL is exploiting the emerging markets in Central Asia with an aim to expand Pakistan's trade," said Mahmood.

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