Abdul Raouf Zia (93) 702 80800
Karina Manasseh (202) 473-1729
KABUL, April 6, 2005 – The first Afghanistan Development Forum conducted by the new government concluded today in Kabul. The theme for this years meeting was Accelerating Afghanistan’s Development.
Afghanistan’s economy has performed very strongly in the past three years with non-drug GDP increasing by more than 50 percent. The country’s GDP is US$4.6 billion in 2003/04 (excluding income from opium of US$2.3 billion). This reflects a revival of economic activity after the end of major conflict, the initiation of reconstruction, and the recovery of agricultural sector from a protracted drought in the late 1990s. The recent Human Development Report suggests that social indicators and income per capita of Afghanistan ranks, with approximately US$200 per year, among the lowest in the world.
The report Accelerating Afghanistan's Development - A Call for Dialogue prepared by the Government of Afghanistan provided the basis for an open, frank, and lively discussion between the government and the international community. The report focuses on how the government, with the support from the international community, can accelerate infrastructure development, ensure the implementation of an integrated social policy, create an enabling environment for private sector development, improve fiscal systems, maintain public administration reforms, strengthen regional cooperation, enforce the rule of law, and create alternative livelihoods to the drug trade.
“Over the last three years, Afghanistan has launched a daunting reconstruction and development program and convinced the international community – itself not an easy feat – of its needs going forward,” said Praful Patel, World Bank Vice President for South Asia Region. “The Government’s strategic vision and plan has encouraged the international community to provide what can only be described as an extraordinary level of support. The World Bank remains committed to Afghanistan for the long-haul, and we will continue to support the country’s priorities, outlined in its own National Development Strategy.”
Mr. Patel emphasized that economic growth is essential if Afghanistan is to achieve its reconstruction and development objectives. However, it is important that this growth is widespread and lifts the poorest out of poverty, and addresses the needs of both rural and urban populations. Afghanistan’s economy remains largely agriculture-based, and the international community must pay more attention to this area. Clear advances have already been made through world class rural development programs being implemented in the country, such as the National Solidarity Program and micro-finance programs. Furthermore, it is essential that Afghanistan’s development be seen in the broader regional context – harmonized approaches with mutually beneficial agreements with neighboring countries on issues such as customs, transit trade, energy, water resources, labor migration and security. These are important factors for Afghanistan to achieve its growth potential.
The challenges of capacity building were also discussed. While achievements in this area are crucial, it is a long term and difficult issue which effects both public and private organizations. The World Bank is at present, supporting civil service and public administration reform in Afghanistan, and is keen to assist the government in determininge appropriate roles for ministries and service delivery providers. Valuable lessons have been learnt regarding efficient and cost-effective service provision by NGOs under Government oversight in the health sector. These lessons need to be drawn out more broadly to assist in the development of an accountable and transparent NGO sector so that appropriate regulations and oversight over private sector contractors comes into existence.
During the three-day meeting, the Government of Afghanistan also hosted a review of the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, to which over US$1.18 billion has been pledged to date by 24 donor countries to support the government’s budget and priority investments. The ARTF is administered by the World Bank under the supervision of a Management Committee which also includes the Asian Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, and the United Nations Development Program.
“This multi-donor trust fund has played an important role in providing harmonization among donors and alignment of donor support with government programs,” Mr. Patel told the ADF. “It has also provided a vital mechanism for alignment with government priorities as articulated in its own strategies.”
Mr. Patel reiterated that the World Bank remains committed to Afghanistan for the long haul, as the government remains dedicated to poverty reduction and to the strategic coherence of programs. To date the World Bank has provided over US$780 million in areas that include health, education, rural roads, and community development.