Afghanistan’s “Staggering” Economic Growth Doesn’t Stem Poverty

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Recently, Alastair McKechnie, the World Bank director for Afghanistan, called the changes in Afghanistan “staggering.” According to McKechnie, the Afghan economy has grown at a 10% rate, and though he concedes that there is no available data on unemployment, “people even in rural areas look more prosperous,” and are “generally much better off.”

Now the Bush administration has requested an additional $11.8 billion from Congress “to accelerate Afghan reconstruction projects and security forces training in 2007-2008,” and to “help President Karzai defeat our common enemies.” This, they claim, is to demonstrate a “commitment to the Afghan people.”

Hopefully, the average Afghan, including the Afghan government, will reap some benefits, but so far it’s not looking good. IRIN reports that since the 2001, about 60 donors have spent $13 billion in reconstruction and development activities; yet “out of every US dollar spent by donors in Afghanistan’s reconstruction 80 cents finds its way out of the country.” The “rest has been spent by donors themselves,” with some Afghan officials stating that the money has been allocated through foreign subcontractors, leaving little accountability of where all the aid money is going.

In February, 64 countries and 11 international organizations met in London, pledging $10.5 billion to Afghanistan by 2010 for “security, governance and economic development.” Not for the basic needs of the citizens, 6.5 million of whom are starving, most having no access to potable water, sanitation, and heath and social services, and more than half of Afghans living below the poverty line.

Further, the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out that perhaps 40% of promised aid is actually delivered, and,

“70% of U.S. aid is contingent upon the recipient spending it on American stuff, including especially American-made armaments. The upshot is that 86 cents of every dollar of U.S. aid is phantom aid.”

Why has pouring billions of dollars into Afghanistan been important? It’s for “reconstruction,” but reconstructing Afghanistan for the purposes of the “Great Game“– a game that’s about energy exports and ensuring US hegemony in South Asia.

—Neha Inamdar

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