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ADB Approves $100 Million Grant to Support Afghanistan’s COVID-19 Response



(Last Updated On: December 3, 2020)

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Wednesday approved a $100 million grant to help the Government of Afghanistan respond to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the statement said.

“ADB reaffirms its full commitment to supporting Afghanistan in its fight against COVID-19 and reducing the adverse impact of the pandemic on the lives of Afghans and the economy,” said ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa. “The assistance will help strengthen the health system, expand social protection for the poor and vulnerable population while ensuring gender mainstreaming, and support macroeconomic stabilization and job creation in Afghanistan.”

Afghanistan’s economic outlook has deteriorated during the COVID-19 pandemic because of business lockdowns, a sharp drop in household incomes, and a downturn in regional trade and remittances. ADB forecasts Afghanistan’s gross domestic product (GDP) to contract by 5.0% this year. Nearly 250,000 micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), accounting for over 80% of nonagricultural employment, have been hit hard. The unemployment rate is projected to rise to 37.9% in 2020 from 23.9% in 2019. The budget deficit including grants has nearly tripled, reaching 3% of GDP in 2020, compared to 2019. Spikes in food prices due to disruptions in the food supply have increased the food insecurity risks.

According to the statement the national poverty rate is projected to reach up to 72% this year from 55% in 2017, with an additional 6 million people falling into poverty. A health emergency of such magnitude has aggravated the pressure on the country’s inadequate health care system, compounded by increasing transmission risks from internally displaced persons, returning migrants, and refugees.

To mitigate the adverse impacts of the pandemic, the government rolled out its comprehensive countercyclical pandemic response package of $633.9 million, comprising health, social protection, and macroeconomic stabilization measures. ADB’s COVID-19 Active Response and Expenditure Support (CARES) Program grant will support the delivery of the government’s response package, read the statement.

The program has several components. It will support the government in conducting a nationwide gender-sensitive public awareness campaign for COVID-19, scaling up the capacity of medical facilities, including gender-sensitive treatment facilities and the availability of medical supplies and equipment.

It will help the government extend its targeted social safety nets, including daily bread assistance to at least 310,000 poor households; water and electricity bill coverage for at least 350,000 households in Kabul, with priority given to women-headed households; coverage of over 130,000 old-age pensioners and their female heirs, including biometric registration; one-time cash transfers of 6,000 afghanis ($78) to at least 41,500 internally displaced persons and refugees; and remuneration packages for at least 32,570 disabled persons and the families of people killed in conflicts.

The program will also support the implementation of stabilization measures covering state-owned enterprises, job creation in the agriculture sector, and MSMEs. The MSME support will comprise tax exemptions, subsidized lending, vocational training, and market access.

The grant also features measures to promote good governance and anticorruption, including having a monitoring and evaluation specialist at the Ministry of Finance (MOF) to support program implementation and reporting, electronic tracking of fund flows at the MOF, and auditing of pandemic-related spending by the Supreme Audit Office, which are built into the assistance. ADB had earlier provided technical assistance to strengthen debt management and monitoring of fiscal risks, as well as project management capacity, procurement systems, and safeguards compliance.

The CARES Program is funded through the COVID-19 pandemic response option (CPRO) under ADB’s Countercyclical Support Facility. CPRO was established as part of ADB’s $20 billion expanded assistance for developing member countries’ COVID-19 response announced in April. Visit ADB’s website to learn more about its ongoing response.

This comes after in May, ADB approved a $40 million emergency assistance grant for Afghanistan. It supports the construction of 15 and rehabilitation of 5 hospitals and medical facilities, adding more than 1,100 new hospital beds; procurement of urgent medicines, medical supplies, and equipment; and training of at least 3,000 health workers, including 900 women, in COVID-19 surveillance, prevention, and treatment.


Fuel prices spike again in Afghanistan



(Last Updated On: September 22, 2023)

Kabul residents have expressed their concern over the increase in fuel and gas prices, saying that a liter of gasoline has jumped to 80 afghanis and that a liter of gas to 60.

If industry and commerce ministry does not control the prices, people will face many problems, they said.

The residents meanwhile say these days the price of fuel increases day by day, calling on the Islamic Emirate to take measures to prevent the private sector from raising the prices.

The drivers also complain about the high price of fuel and gas in Kabul city.

“The price of petrol has reached 80 afghanis, and the price of diesel has almost reached to 80 afghanis, and with these prices we cannot even meet our expenses, and we ask the Islamic Emirate to control the prices as soon as possible and prevent the traders because they raised the prices by 20 afghanis per liter and this is an injustice to the people,” said Azizullah, a taxi driver in Kabul.

“The dollar has dropped a lot, but the price of fuel, on the contrary, has increased. The price of fuel should also drop because those who drive taxis cannot cover their expenses with these fuel prices,” said Siraj Ahmad, another taxi driver.

A number of fuel stations authorities in Kabul, however, say the closure of Salang pass has caused the price of fuel to increase.

“The price of fuel has gone up in the world because of the war between Russia and Ukraine, and the second reason is the closure of the Salang pass, which is under construction,” said Zamarai, fuel seller in Kabul.

In the meantime, Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment (ACCI) Deputy Khairuddin Mayel also say the reason for the high price of fuel in the country is due to the increase in prices in the global markets.

“The rise in global oil prices has caused the price of fuel to rise in the country, and this has a direct effect on the Afghan markets as well. Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment requests all traders who import fuel to pay serious attention to the prices so that our compatriots can afford it,” said Mayel.

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Russian PM says Moscow ready to expand transport routes to Afghanistan, South Asia



(Last Updated On: September 19, 2023)

Russia is ready to intensify the expansion of Eurasian transport routes, including those to Afghanistan and South Asia, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said.

“Further steps towards the development of the North-South international corridor are a priority. As we have said before, this project can compete with the Suez Canal in terms of cargo transportation, and its implementation will boost trade and economic cooperation between all project participants,” Mishustin said at a meeting with Uzbek Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov, Interfax news agency reported on Monday.

“In this area, we are ready to focus on the expansion of all transport routes on the common Eurasian space, including those to Afghanistan and South Asia,” he said.

Drafting a comprehensive cooperation program to develop rail transport in Uzbekistan was a key objective, Mishustin said while speaking of greater transport connection between Russia and Uzbekistan, as well as the Eurasian space in general. “Russian investors are ready to help upgrade airport infrastructure,” he said.

Uzbekistan’s Aripov said, in turn, that the development of new international transport corridors would allow access to promising markets.

“We support the development of a key transport corridor on the Eurasian continent, the North-South international corridor. We are interested in the joint launch of a new multimodal transport corridor between Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. An important aspect of this initiative is the construction of a railroad in the trans-Afghan corridor,” he said.

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Rawnaq launches business development program for 40 small companies



(Last Updated On: September 18, 2023)

Cordaid International Organization has launched a trade development training program for 40 small businesses through a project, Rawnaq, to support the private sector and create jobs for internally displaced people (IDPs).

Zalmay Isaar, manager of Rawnaq in Herat, said that the participants have learned basic business skills over a week’s training session.

“The main goal of Rawnaq project is to create jobs and work opportunities for internally displaced people, and in the second step, we are trying to get private companies to help us to achieve this goal,” said Isaar.

This project gives valid documents to the participants so that they can promote their businesses, he added.

A number of businessmen and industrialists meanwhile believe that this project will be effective for the growth of domestic production.

“It has been really effective and useful for the companies whose managers are women because it is the need of every company that they should have the capacity and build capacity,” said Behnaz Seljuqi, deputy director of Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industries in the western zone.

On the sidelines of this program, an exhibition of handicrafts and domestic products has also been held.

It is said that many men and women who have received the necessary training in business have started small businesses for themselves.

“Inshallah, we will implement these equations and programs that we learned during the program in our work and business,” said Nazir Ahmad Noori, a businessman.

Rawnaq project started its activity in 2020 and its aim is to grow businesses so that they can provide employment for IDPs through investment.

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