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Steps on to address Afghan traders' concerns: Minister
by Zainab Muhammadi

Pajhwok Afghan News

06.25.2007

KABUL: Minister for Commerce and Industries Mir Muhammad Amin Farhang Saturday said strenuous efforts were being made to further strengthen the countrys war-hit economy.

Although the infrastructure sector had seen significant development over the last five years, the minister admitted traders faced several problems and a number of hurdles remained to fast-paced economic growth.

Addressing a news conference at Afghanistan's Central Bank here, Farhang cited an inadequate network of roads, a deficient power supply system, the absence of small business loans, high income tax rates, administrative corruption and insecurity as the main challenges facing Afghan traders.

In an attempt to deal with the challenges, he said, more than 3000-kilometer roads had been asphalted during the last five years back. Routes linking Afghanistan with neighbouring countries would be completed soon, he assured.

Simultaneously, the commerce minister continued, work was also underway on several electricity projects and industrial parks to address the concerns of entrepreneurs.

Farhang pointed out that import duties on goods also produced in the country had been raised while income tax on import of equipment and raw material - not domestically available - had been lowered.

They were in talks with the Finance Ministry on further reform in the Customs Department to resolve genuine problems of businessmen, who often complain of bribes extorted from them on transit roads. He revealed a committee headed by Vice President Karim Khalili had been set up to sort out such problems.

Farhang said the Afghan government was holding negotiations with international finance institutions (IFIs) and lenders on providing loans to traders.

Afghanistan's exports reached $500 million last year, registering a five-fold increase, said the minister, who acknowledged the trade deficit was still very high. In 2006, the countrys imports stood at $3.5 billion, he said while stressing improved quality of local products.

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