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Finance Minister Ahady Predicts Double-Digit Growth at World Bank–IMF Annual Meetings in Washington, DC

Afghanistan’s Minister of Finance Anwar ul-Haq Ahady traveled to the United States to attend the World Bank—IMF Annual Meetings held from October 19-23. Throughout these meetings a series of bilateral and multilateral discussions took place on finance and debt related matters between Afghanistan and the international community. Additionally, Minister Ahady participated in a conference on Central Asian Integration at the Brookings Institution, spoke at the United Stated Institute of Peace (USIP) and interviewed with Al Jazeera International. Minister Ahady also met with US Deputy Secretary of Treasury Robert Kimmitt and U.S. Congressional representatives Frank Wolf, Nita Lowey, Joe Wilson, and Steve Rothman. Minister Ahady was accompanied by Deputy Minister Wahidullah Shahrani and Governor of Da Afghanistan (Central) Bank, Noorullah Delawari.

In his discussions, Minister Ahady forecasted growth in 2007 to reach 13 percent and stated that Afghanistan would need $30-35 billion over the coming years to truly begin implementing the Afghanistan National Development Strategy. In his meetings at the World Bank, IMF, and the U.S. Congress, as well as with senior U.S. government officials, Minister Ahady called for continued support and sustained assistance for Afghanistan’s reconstruction.

At the United States Institute of Peace, Minister Ahady focused on Afghanistan’s evolution into a market-based economy. “Services are better now. Services are being provided by the private sector; for example, over three million Afghans own cellular phones. The government collected almost $40 million in tax revenues from this service last year. Both the people and the government have benefited from this approach,” said Minister Ahady.

The Minister explained that, since Afghanistan’s market is so new, there often is not enough competition, which translates to lower value in the services that are provided. He spoke about the Government’s progress in strengthening the public sector, separating the private and public by initiating a program to privatize over 65 state-owned industries over the next two years and liberalizing investment laws to the point where current foreign investors in Afghanistan can own 100% of enterprises. “No distinctions are made between Afghans and non-Afghans,” said the Minister.

The Minister highlighted the growth of banks (2 state-owned and 15 private) and the high rate of return that investors have experienced in the telecommunications sector. He called for increased international attention to building Afghan capacity and enabling the Afghan government to raise salaries for its workers, and expressed hope that Afghanistan would continue to attract investment as it develops its fiscal and monetary policies. “We have the foundation and we have the laws, but we need to strengthen the super-structure, meaning the bylaws and the regulations.

The Minister also discussed the connection between development and security, and called on the international community to ensure that a greater proportion of their assistance is channeled to economic development. “There is an interactive relationship between development and security, and Afghanistan needs both. Greater economic activity promotes stability, and greater stability promotes economic activity,” he said. 

 

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