Western Union, MoneyGram resume services to Afghanistan
Western Union Co and MoneyGram International Inc resumed money-transfer services to Afghanistan on Thursday, moves in line with a U.S. push to allow humanitarian activity to continue after the Taliban’s takeover, Reuters reported.
According to the report pair suspended services in Afghanistan more than two weeks ago after the Islamist militia captured Kabul at lightning speed.
But an easing of security concerns following the completion of the Taliban’s conquest of the country opened the way for the reopening this week of banks, which the money-transfer firms rely on to dispense and collect funds.
Jean Claude Farah, Western Union’s president in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, told Reuters the reopening of banks, plus a push by the United States to facilitate humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people, had given the American company confidence to resume services on Thursday.
“Much of our business involving Afghanistan is low-value family and support remittances that support basic needs of the people there, so that’s the grounding that we have and why we want to reopen our business,” Farah said.
“We’ve engaged with the U.S. government, which has conveyed that allowing humanitarian activities, including remittances, to continue are consistent with U.S. policy.”
The flow of funds from migrant workers overseas is a key lifeline for many Afghans and has helped the economy of one of the world’s poorest nations weather years of violence and instability. The United Nations says about half of the population requires aid amid the second drought in four years, Reuters reported.
In a statement, MoneyGram said following guidance from the U.S. government, it was resuming its services in coordination with its partners in the country and the Afghanistan Banks Association.
“We recognize that remittances play a pivotal role in the livelihood and daily needs of the Afghan people,” MoneyGram said.
According to Reuters yet U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has said it is committed to allowing humanitarian work to continue in Afghanistan.
“We are continuing to engage with the U.S. government and others to understand their policies and what type of longer term regulatory framework will be put in place as it relates to the Taliban,” Western Union’s Farah said.
Remittances to Afghanistan reached $789 million in 2020, around 4% of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), the World Bank estimated, down from $829 million in 2019.
Such flows have historically played an important role in supporting financial stability. Along with international grants and resilient exports, remittances helped Afghanistan’s current account surplus reach 14.2% of GDP in 2020, the International Monetary Fund said in June.
In recent days, Afghanistan’s central bank has provided funds of hundreds of thousands of dollars to each bank that requested liquidity, a senior banker told Reuters. But the financial system and economy could be in peril unless the Taliban can access the central bank’s roughly $10 billion in assets, which are mostly outside of the country.
Farah said Western Union had been assured by the banks it partners with in Afghanistan that they had sufficient cash to pay receivers of remittances.
“Some of them have indicated at some locations that they have good liquidity in afghani and at least some liquidity in U.S. dollars as well, we allow payouts in both, to resume remittances,” he added.
Before it shut down services on Aug. 16, around 45% of each transaction sent via Western Union to Afghanistan was $200 or less, he said.
Western Union said on Thursday that payouts of any funds sent to Afghanistan were available in select locations. Outbound services, money sent from there to other countries, remained suspended, it added.
Pakistan, Turkmenistan sign accord to implement TAPI project
Pakistan and Turkmenistan signed a joint implementation plan on Thursday to execute the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project.
The ceremony was attended by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and a delegation of Turkmenistan led by Minister of Energy and Water Resources in Islamabad, Dawn newspaper reported.
Pakistan’s State Minister for Petroleum Musadik Malik and Turkmenistan’s State Minister and Chairman of TurkmenGas, Maskat Babayev inked the accord.
The 1,800-kilometre pipeline is expected to carry 33 billion cubic metres of natural gas every year from Turkmenistan’s Galkynysh — the world’s second-largest gas field — to the Indian city of Fazilka. It will pass through Herat and Kandahar, in Afghanistan, and Quetta and Multan in Pakistan.
Speaking on the occasion, Pakistan PM Shehbaz termed TAPI a very important project for the progress of the entire region, adding that it would help the region secure natural gas with concrete assurances and mutually agreed terms and conditions.
Highlighting the significance of energy for developing countries, he said: “We have to negotiate with this challenge through speedy action.”
Shehbaz expressed confidence that the TAPI project would lead to an era of regional cooperation, development, and prosperity. He asked the Pakistani team to expedite its planning and subsequently its execution.
He mentioned that in view of the global situation, energy had become a real challenge. “For a developing country like Pakistan, there is a need for speedy actions to explore the options for energy.”
Later, in a tweet, PM Shehbaz termed the TAPI Joint Implementation Plan “a step forward for the execution of the project”. He said the project was vital to meeting the country’s energy needs.
“Pakistan wants the project to be implemented at fastest speed. In view of costlier fuel prices and gas shortages globally, we are exploring all options to procure all forms of energy on a sustainable basis as part of a comprehensive national energy security plan,” the prime minister said.
He added that the completion of the TAPI project “will be a game-changer for the region in terms of enhanced economic cooperation.”
Minister of mines meets Chinese ambassador in Kabul
Afghanistan’s Minister of Mines and Petroleum Shahabuddin Delawar met with Chinese Ambassador Wang Yu in Kabul to discuss investment opportunities and Chinese projects.
A press release from the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum said that during the meeting, the officials discussed investment opportunities, progress in the extraction in Kashkari oil field, and starting work on Mes Aynak copper mine.
Delawar called these projects important for the two countries and spoke about the social services that are included in the contract of the projects.
On the other hand, the Chinese ambassador expressed his satisfaction with his trip to the northern provinces including a visit to the Kashqari oil field, and provided information about the financial, administrative and technical plans of this project.
The Minister of Mines and Petroleum called for speeding up the implementation of the projects.
Islamic Development Bank pledges $8.1 million to help Afghanistan
The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) has signed cooperation agreements worth $8.1 million with six international humanitarian agencies to help the people of Afghanistan in various sectors.
The contracts are in the areas of food security, drinking water supply, health and in agriculture in different provinces of the country.
The Ministry of Finance in a statement welcomed the move.
“The Ministry of Finance welcomes this good action of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Islamic Development Bank, the King Salman charity, the Saudi Fund and the member countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and expresses its gratitude and appreciation for their humanitarian and generous assistance to the people of Afghanistan,” the statement said.
The Ministry of Finance called on all humanitarian aid organizations to design projects, taking into account the realities and priorities of the society and with the coordination of the ministry, so that the existing problems of the people are “completely solved.”
Three women accused of stealing jewelry arrested in Balkh
Russia has received hundreds of Iranian drones to attack Ukraine: White House
UNICEF concerned over report of aid group ban from Afghan education
US Senate panel approves measure to strip China of ‘developing’ status
Haqqani in Jawzjan: We are building trust, inclusivity will come automatically
Turkey votes in pivotal elections that could end Erdogan’s 20-year rule
Pakistan top court orders Imran Khan’s release
Pakistan cracks down on Imran Khan’s supporters after violence
Imran Khan calls for nationwide ‘freedom’ protests
South Africa rejects US accusations of arms shipment to Russia
Tahawol: Decline in narcotics cultivation in Afghanistan discussed
Saar: 250 Afghan refugees arrested in Pakistan discussed
Tahawol: World Bank’s new report on Afghanistan’s economy discussed
Saar: Secret documents on US withdrawal from Afghanistan discussed
Tahawol: Confidential documents of US exit from Afghanistan discussed
Regional4 days ago
Trains cross site of Indian rail disaster as services resume
Sport3 days ago
Reports emerge that India vs Afghanistan ODI series ‘to be postponed’
World3 days ago
Dam destroyed in Ukraine, flooding war zone
Business4 days ago
IEA calls for reduction in production and use of plastic
Regional3 days ago
Pakistan’s embattled Imran Khan faces blackout on local media
Sport5 days ago
Sri Lanka beats Afghanistan to level ODI series
Health4 days ago
Kandahar officials inaugurate $50 million pharmaceutical company
Regional2 days ago
China, Russia launch joint air patrol, alarms South Korea