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Buy Afghan Goods, UN Tells Foreigners in Kabul


June 10, 2009

KABUL, June 10 (Reuters) - Foreign governments and aid agencies in Afghanistan should help boost the country's expanding private sector by buying local produce and stop spending their aid budgets on imports, the top U.N. envoy said on Wednesday.

Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world and depends on aid for nearly all of its state spending as it tries to rebuild an economy shattered by 30 years of war. More than 50 percent of the population live below the poverty line. Thousands of international organisations have flocked to the country since U.S.-led and Afghan forces toppled the hardline Islamist Taliban in late 2001.

Despite billions of dollars being pumped into the country by Western countries, many Afghans have seen little change to their lives. Many say Western governments spend too much of their aid budgets on foreign consultants and imported goods.

Speaking at a conference and trade fair in Kabul's only five-star hotel, U.N. Special Envoy Kai Eide said there were Afghan companies waiting to provide goods to the international community and buying from them would boost the economy and create more jobs.

"I urge the international community in Afghanistan to demonstrate its commitment to the economic growth of this country by voting with their budgets and buying local," Eide told the conference attended by the U.S. ambassador and the minister of economy as well as more than a 100 Afghan businessmen.

"We have to get away from old habits. This is not 2002 anymore. We should stop looking outside Afghanistan's borders for all that we need," he said in excerpts from his remarks released by the United Nations.

Businessmen at the fair were able to show off some of their goods in order to encourage delegates from foreign embassies and international organisations to buy Afghan produce.

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