Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, May 27th, 2018

Afghans’ Economic Woes Dampens Progress towards Peace and Stability

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Afghans’ Economic Woes Dampens  Progress towards Peace and Stability

First of May is marked as ‘International Labor Day’ around the globe. Afghan government celebrated this day on Tuesday to honor country’s laborers and shed light on government’s plans and programs to reduce poverty and increase employment. But the message was not received well among the people due to economic woes they face since last four years. Skepticism is rampant across the country about government’s economic programs and achievements.  A sizeable population in the country is grappling with poverty, and this phenomenon has widened distance between government and the people. For a country like Afghanistan where government has been embroiled in a devastating war against an entrenched insurgency and violent international terrorism since last seventeen years, it is unfortunate to see explicit lack of a viable economic strategy, which is a must in times of a prolonged, guerrilla war. Terrorists’ war strategy has many moving parts and one of their most important aims is to destabilize economic progress and disrupt markets so that people become fed up with government to make it easy to exploit the resulting situation in their favor. Deteriorating economic situation of the people since last four years clearly exhibits inability of government strategists and policy makers to take heed of this point despite visible signs in the form of group migration of educated, young people to Europe and other countries, desertion of Army ranks by members of security personnel due to economic issues in their families and escalating cynicism on the part of general public concerning their government’s ability to handle ongoing situation.
In order to address this critical situation, government leadership in partnership with its international allies should immediately lay out Special Economic Plans (SEP) in the form of awarding small and medium projects, lending out money to existing businesses, embark on employment of large number of people for projects, which should be newly designed and implemented under this SEP, and to secure major cities’ centers and trading areas are secured and safe for these economic activities to ensure sustainability. In order for this to happen and effectively run SEP program, the government should put in place a dedicated, Special Economic Management Unite (SEMU), which should be formed by putting in place a blend of educated and experienced men and women in the field, and a blend of local and international background. The excuses that ‘the country is at war’ and that ‘government first priority is security’ do not work anymore. Government of Afghanistan has the means and space to unleash such a program. In fact, such economic program should be parts and parcels of any and all war strategies of government in the country. The ongoing war is fought against an invisible enemy, and there is no clear frontline. Terrorists’ targets are soft corners of the government i.e. to sow sorrow and grief among the populous against failure of the government, to destabilize economic development, to disrupt market, to deteriorate security situation by attacking civilian areas in order to create grudges against government among the people etc. In order to deny the enemy access these targets, government should focus on expanding economic activities, secure a stable market, provide security and protection for these economic activities at all cost and to repeat these SEP to other densely populated areas in the country. By showing accomplishment and exhibiting commitment to sustain and expand such programs, government can garner huge support from its people, and this is the first step towards defeating insurgency and terrorists in the country.
Life is not normal for a nation at war. Therefore, it is imperative for both the people and government of Afghanistan to take extraordinary steps to counter enemy tactics. I have said it times and again, that opportunity is at our doorstep in the form of international support and allies standing beside and in support of Afghanistan in the ongoing war against international terrorism and insurgents. People sitting at the helm of affairs, at senior positions in the government of Afghanistan should bear the brunt of the hard work to contribute to this strategy. It is a shame to see rampant corruption in government departments at these critical times! Government should exhibit no leniency to those government officials who have no sense of urgency, are incapable to produce a plan, or at least a chunk of the plan that fits national agenda for development, and cannot control corruption in their departments. Concessions given based on political alliances, campaign contributions and other factors – including compromises based on relationships and nepotism – should end immediately. In order to bring coordination and unity of purpose among various government departments, it is important to disseminate government ‘national agenda’ among all government officials and departments. National agenda should be revised and a comprehensive war and economic strategy should be included in it. The points suggested in this piece are few that can complement a wide-spanned national agenda, and it is important that government undertake rigorous campaign to disseminate and propagate details of the plans in the national agenda to all Ministries, departments and officials of government at all levels in order to bring unity of purpose, and to coordinate, measure and manage activities.
International partners of the people and government of Afghanistan can play a crucial role in bringing relative economic stability and political harmony by synchronizing their economic and military interventions with and in support of the wider and larger, revised strategy of the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Time has never been better before to utilize this powerful tool of larger monetary and financial contributions to support economic growth and buttress market activities in Afghanistan. As I said before, such intervention is parts and parcel of war strategy that counter terrorists’ tactics and methods of warfare. Countries allied with Afghanistan in the ongoing conflict should rally behind a unified, coordinated and inclusive Afghan government national agenda and grand strategy, and avoid conditioning their intervention with the strategies and agendas of their own government so that unity of action, purpose and greater impact and outcome is ensured. The war in Afghanistan has domestic root causes that foreign variables helps keep it enflamed, and it is unlikely to end anywhere in the near future unless a stronger, central government emerges in the country with stronger economic growth, stronger military and with stronger international alliances.

The author is the emerging writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mg.sahibbzada.ceo@kainaatgroup.af

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