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Price hike adds to humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: June 10, 2022)

Grain prices in Afghanistan have kept soaring due to the sanctions imposed by the United States and the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, adding to the aggravated humanitarian crisis suffered by the Afghan people, CCTV reported.

Abdul Shukoor is a vegetable vendor who has been living at a hillside settlement named Demazang north of downtown Kabul for 20 years with his family.

Resulting from the poor living conditions on the hill, the local residents are suffering severe water shortage and therefore are forced to carry drinking water uphill with donkeys each day, read the report.

Frequent power outage is another issue upsetting the locals.

A China Central Television (CCTV) reporting crew has recently paid a visit to Abdul Shukoor’s home — a room measuring less than 10 square meters which houses 10 family members.

“I have two sons and six daughters. One of my sons died from illness. I can only make 5,000 to 6,000 Afghanis (around 56 to 67 U.S. dollars) each month, which is far from being enough to support the livelihood and subsistence of my family and to taking good care of my kids,” said Shukoor.

His late son passed away one month ago from cancer as a result of lacking money.

“My son who died was 18 years old this year. He was diagnosed with cancer a year ago and I don’t have enough money to take him to Pakistan or India for treatment. I lost my son because I don’t have money,” said Shukoor.

He said he borrowed a total of 300,000 Afghani (around 3,375 U.S. dollars) to take his son to doctors and now he has not paid the house rent for months. And the food price hike has added to the family’s hardship.

Some 19.7 million people, almost half of Afghanistan’s population, are facing acute hunger, according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis conducted in January and February 2022 by Food Security and Agriculture Cluster partners, including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and many NGOs.

The analysis also pointed out that the Russia-Ukraine conflict continues to put pressure on Afghanistan’s wheat supply, food commodities, agricultural inputs, and fuel prices.

According to a grain ship owner named Shafi, the prices of rice and flour have more than doubled compared with six months ago.

“The rice price was some 70 to 100 Afghanis (around 0.8 to 1.1 U.S. dollars) per kg and it has now surged to about 150 to 200 Afghanis (around 1.7 to 2.2 U.S. dollars) per kg. The best quality rice is now sold at 180 to 200 Afghanis (about two to 2.2 U.S. dollars) per kg,” Shafi told the CCTV.

Following the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan in August last year, the U.S seized seven billion U.S. dollars worth of frozen assets of the Afghan central bank, which has aggravated the humanitarian crisis in the country.

“The money frozen by the U.S. government belongs to the Afghan people. They should not have done that because the money is property of our people. What the U.S. cares about is only to maximize interests for itself, and it has done nothing conducive to the Afghan people. If they were here to help us, then why have we still been living in shabby houses like this and seeing nothing improved in our lives. The U.S. came here to pursue their own interests instead of helping the poor here,” said Shukoor.

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IEA’s supreme leader meets traders and manufacturers in Kandahar

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(Last Updated On: June 21, 2022)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) supreme leader, Haibatullah Akhundzada, met with dozens of traders and manufacturers in southern Kandahar province on Monday.

During the meeting, Akhundzada called on the private sector to take effective steps for development and independence of Afghanistan’s economy, state-run news agency Bakhtar reported.

He said that the IEA is committed to resolving problems that traders and manufacturers are facing.

“We welcome the Amir-ul-Mominin’s move. The private sector representatives are now fully assured that IEA supports them and they can invest freely in Afghanistan,” said Abdul Nasir Reshtya, a member of the Chamber of Industries and Mines.

Economic experts believe the smaller the gap between the private sector and the government, the more chance the private sector will have to develop and there will be greater interest in investing in Afghanistan.

“We welcome such meetings. It could encourage the private sector to invest in the country with full security assurance,” said Shabir Ahmad Bashiri, an economic expert.

IEA has held several meetings with members of the private sector in the past 10 months.

Recently, the IEA, under the guidance of acting deputy Prime Minister Mullah Baradar, who also heads the economic commission, established the new state-run investment company called Afghan Invest.

Officials said Afghan Invest, a limited liability company, with a capital of $250 million, was recently inaugurated as a result of Baradar’s efforts.

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IEA calls on Afghans at home and abroad to invest in new state-run initiative

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(Last Updated On: June 19, 2022)

First Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar said Sunday the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) is working on an economic policy that will help restore the economy and lift the country out of poverty. 

Speaking at an event to launch a new state-run limited liability company, Afghan Invest, Baradar called on Afghans to bring their foreign-based capital back into the country and invest in the new initiative.

According to the IEA, 13 investors have already collectively invested $250 million. 

Baradar said at the launch that Afghanistan is potentially an extremely wealthy country given the enormous, largely untapped, mineral reserves.

“Our country is very rich in terms of mines. Afghan investors if they have capital abroad, must relocate it to their home country, we support you. Trade is vital for a country,” said Baradar. 

He also stressed that the government’s doors are open to all businessmen and that the IEA will support them. He said he hoped that businessmen across all ethnic lines in the country would invest in the new company. 

Acting Minister of Commerce and Industry Nooruddin Azizi, who also attended the launch, said the only way to save Afghanistan from its current crisis was for Afghans to work together. 

“The only solution to our country’s economic problems is for Afghans to work together and make sincere efforts,” said Azizi.

Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the deputy minister of foreign affairs, said that it was because of the sacrifices of the people’s jihad that neighboring countries like Pakistan and Iran live in peace. He said the world should respect this.

“Not only did we liberate our country, but we also freed the countries in the region from aggressors,” said Stanikzai, at the event.

“We have a proud, and free Afghanistan, which we must protect and safeguard,” he added.

Afghan Invest officials said the aim of the company is to establish economic stability and encourage investment in the country. This includes investment across a broad range of sectors such as agriculture, mining, energy production and infrastructure development. 

Cabinet members meanwhile said that with the return to power of the IEA, national sovereignty, national security and national integrity have been restored and that the new authorities will support investors. 

Economic experts believe that the establishment of such ventures can have a positive impact on the country’s economy, and that foreign investors could be encouraged to invest in the country.

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Ministry of energy pushes ahead with plans to increase power output

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(Last Updated On: June 19, 2022)

Officials from Afghanistan’s Ministry of Energy and Water have identified 16 electricity-generating projects that once established will increase power output and help make the country less reliant on its neighbors for this critical commodity.

The ministry’s spokesman Mawlavi Akhtar Mohammad Nasrat said of these 16, there are 12 thermal and solar power projects that have been identified and proposals have been shared with domestic and foreign investors in the hope of attracting financial backing.

Nasrat told Ariana News they have spoken to possible investors from Russia, Iran, the US, China and Turkey but as yet no agreements have yet been finalized.

“Companies and donors came here to Afghanistan from Russia, US, China, Iran, and Turkey and said they are interested in investing in this area to increase electricity generation across the country,” he said.

Economists also believe that if investors can be found to support this sector, and more electricity is generated, industry will grow.

One economist, Taj Mohammad Talash, said he thinks the agricultural sector would also grow if more power was generated. He said: “The Islamic Emirate can prioritize energy in three categories, through water, wind, and solar.”

Currently, Afghanistan pays its neighboring countries about $250 million a year for electricity as it generates only about 600 megawatts (MW) from several hydroelectric, fossil fuel and solar plants.

However, an additional 670 MW is imported from neighboring Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

Power projects ‘prioritized’

In April, the IEA’s Economic Commission, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, gave orders for various ministries to prioritize projects to generate electricity.

At the time, the commission said after “extensive discussions on all issues that the private sector is prepared to invest in” it was decided that the generation of electricity should be a priority.

According to the statement, the commission instructed the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum; the Ministry of Trade and Industry; the Chamber of Industry and Mines; as well as the Chamber of Commerce and Investment, under the leadership of the Ministry of Energy and Water, to also generate electricity from coal.

A shortage of power has plagued Afghanistan for decades despite it having ample hydropower, coal and fossil fuel resources.

Over the past few years however, one successful private partnership has emerged – between the Afghan government and Bayat Power, Afghanistan’s largest, Afghan-owned and operated power production company which has the region’s most technologically advanced gas fired electric power plant.

Launched in 2019, this commercial operation provides reliable and affordable electric power to thousands of people in Afghanistan.

Located in Sherberghan, in the north of the country, the epicenter of the nation’s gas-rich region, Bayat Power has steadfastly aimed to provide essential power for Afghanistan’s economic growth.

Powered by a Siemens SGT-A45 ‘Fast Power’ turbine, the world’s most advanced mobile gas to energy power solution, phase one of Bayat Power-1’s operations generates up to 41 megawatts of power for Afghan homes and businesses.

To date, Bayat Power has delivered over 600 million kilowatts of domestic power to the Afghan grid. However, Bayat Power hopes to eventually roll out three phases in total, that will generate more than 200 megawatts of electricity – enough to serve millions of Afghan residential and commercial clients.

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