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Afghan central bank board member asks Biden, IMF to release funds

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(Last Updated On: September 2, 2021)

A senior board member of Afghanistan’s central bank is urging the US Treasury and the International Monetary Fund to take steps to provide the Taliban-led government limited access to the country’s reserves to avoid economic disaster.

The Taliban took over Afghanistan with astonishing speed, but it appears unlikely that they will get quick access to most of the roughly $10 billion in assets held by Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB), which are mostly outside of the country, Reuters reported.

US President Joe Biden’s administration has said any central bank assets the Afghan government have in the United States will not be made available to the Taliban, and the IMF has said the country will not have access to the lender’s resources.

Shah Mehrabi, an economics professor at Montgomery College in Maryland and a member of the bank’s board since 2002, told Reuters in a telephone interview on Wednesday that Afghanistan faces an “inevitable economic and humanitarian crisis” if its international reserves remain frozen.

Mehrabi stressed he does not speak for the Taliban but is making this push in his capacity as a sitting board member. He said he plans to meet with US lawmakers this week, and hopes to talk to US Treasury officials soon as well.

“If the international community wants to prevent an economic collapse, one way would be to allow Afghanistan to gain limited and monitored access to its reserves,” he told Reuters.

“Having no access will choke off the Afghan economy, and directly hurt the Afghan people, with families pushed further into poverty.”

Mehrabi is proposing that Washington allow the new government in Kabul a limited amount of access each month, perhaps in the range of $100m to $125m to start with, that would be monitored by an independent auditor.

“The Biden administration should negotiate with the Taliban over the money in the same way they negotiated over the evacuation,” he said.

If the assets remain entirely frozen, then inflation will continue to soar, Afghans will not be able to afford basic necessities, and the central bank will lose its main tools for conducting monetary policy, he said.

The Taliban can survive on customs duties, increasing opium production, or selling off captured American military gear, but everyday Afghans will suffer and be solely reliant on international aid if the country does not have access to currency, Mehrabi added.

After nearly 20 years of American intervention, the Afghan economy is heavily dollarised, and depends on imports that largely must be purchased with foreign currency, he said.

With overseas reserves off-limits, Da Afghanistan Bank may be undermined after having cultivated a non-political, technocratic institution that so far has been allowed to continue its work under the Taliban, Mehrabi said.

“Their work there is not based on who is in power,” he said, noting that he has not been personally in touch with Taliban representatives, but is in daily contact with colleagues running operations there now.

Ajmal Ahmady, who led the central bank until the capture of Kabul, has said about $7 billion of DAB’s assets was held as a mixture of cash, gold, bonds and other investments at the US Federal Reserve.

Most of the rest is in other international accounts and at the Bank for International Settlements, a bank for central banks based in Switzerland, and not physically in DAB vaults, he said – leaving about 0.2 percent or less of the total accessible to the Taliban.

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Improved security boosts tourism in Shulgarh district in Balkh

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(Last Updated On: August 7, 2022)

Local officials in Balkh province said this week that domestic tourism has improved substantially and that in the past month, about 30,000 visitors have visited the popular Khwaja Sekandar Springs in Shulgarh district.

Officials said that Balkh tourist attractions are drawing in large numbers of visitors amid improved security, especially visitors to the springs.

Balkh residents have welcomed the growing number of visitors to their province and said this was largely due to improved security.

“The difference is big, in the past there was insecurity, now because of the security of this place, people come a lot,” said Ghulam Yahya, a tourist.

Since the IEA took control of the country, provinces around the country are reporting an increase in domestic tourism due to the improved security situation.

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More than 1,000 infected with severe diarrhea outbreak in Takhar

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(Last Updated On: August 7, 2022)

The Takhar Department of Public Health says that in the past three days, more than 1,000 people have been infected with severe diarrhea in Takhar province.

The public health officials said that most of the people infected live in the remote areas of Bangi and Ishkamish districts.

According to these officials, mobile health teams have been sent to the area to prevent casualties and to curb the spread of this disease.

A number of non-governmental health institutions have also started working to prevent casualties caused by this disease.

However, residents of the province have stated that there are no health centers in many remote areas in the province and asked government to establish mobile health centers in these areas.

Poor hygiene habits, hot weather and also the use of unsafe water are said to be the reasons for the spread of this disease.

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Work starts on new road to ease traffic in Kabul city

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(Last Updated On: August 7, 2022)

Kabul municipality officials said Saturday construction work on the new Wazir Akbar Khan to Sherpur road has started in order to reduce traffic congestion in the city center. 

Water culverts will also be included in the project that is being undertaken by the municipality’s Department of Work Maintenance and Monitoring of Kabul Municipality, Bakhtar reported.

The project, once completed, will cost 15 million Afghanis.

The new road will link Street 15 in Wazir Akbar Khan with Street 2 in Sherpur. Six properties along this section will be demolished to make way for the road.

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