Afghans fear economic meltdown

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May 21, 2012

KABUL: As NATO discusses its exit from Afghanistan at a summit in Chicago, Afghans fear that a meltdown in their corruption-plagued economy could follow the consequent drop in foreign funding.

May 21, 2012

KABUL: As NATO discusses its exit from Afghanistan at a summit in Chicago, Afghans fear that a meltdown in their corruption-plagued economy could follow the consequent drop in foreign funding.

Cash that is desperately needed in one of the world's poorest economies is already making its own way out – $4.6 billion left through Kabul airport in 2011, almost double the amount in the previous year, the finance ministry says.

The central bank has moved to restrict people from leaving the country with more than $20,000 in cash in their luggage – but the prohibition can easily be circumvented with a bribe to an official.

Corruption has been fuelled by the billions of dollars that have poured into the country in the decade since a US-led invasion toppled the Taliban regime after the 9/11 attacks by Al-Qaeda.

The United States, which has nearly 100,000 troops in Afghanistan out of NATO's total of some 130,000, spends about $10 billion a month on its military mission alone.

Afghanistan also gets roughly $15.7 billion in international aid annually, according to a recent World Bank report.

While the Afghan government admits corruption is rife within its ranks, it also points a finger at "the contract systems of the international community".

There is no doubt that many ordinary Afghans have also benefited from the cash inflow – according to a report by the Congressional Research Center, a US Congress body, 46,000 Afghans were employed by foreign contractors last year.

But with NATO combat troops due to withdraw by the end of 2014, fears of the consequences are growing.

Although Kabul has signed strategic partnership deals with several allies including the United States – who have pledged aid including subsidies for Afghan security forces beyond 2014 – most Afghans are skeptical. (AFP)