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Malaysia, Canada, and Japan Stand with Afghanistan

Recent announcements by Malaysia, Canada and Japan will have significant positive consequences as Afghanistan continues on its road to reconstruction. Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi announced this month that his country is willing to share its experience to assist the future transformation of Afghanistan into an enabling environment for effective private sector contribution to its development process. Speaking via a live video conferencing linking Putrajaya and Kabul at the "Enabling Environment Conference - Effective Private Sector Contribution to Development of Afghanistan," the Prime Minister said that Malaysia would expand its cooperation with Afghanistan and provide places for trainees from the country under the Malaysian Technical Cooperation Program. Following in Malaysia’s footsteps, Afghanistan could shift from an agriculture-based economy to labor-intensive manufacturing with the long-term goal of growing a capital-intensive manufacturing sector. "It should be possible for Afghanistan to find for itself a niche in the international market place, especially for niche products such as hand-woven carpets," said Prime Minister Badawi.

Canadian authorities are seriously looking at helping pay to refurbish the neglected 50-year-old Dhala irrigation dam in Kandahar. Should Canada begin construction, the dam would be one of Canada's single-biggest aid projects in Afghanistan. Dhala is the country's second-largest dam. If fixed, it has the potential to transform Kandahar’s agricultural sector and boosting the province’s economy. Dhala was built in the 1950s by the United States. It is designed to trap water in years of good rainfall, providing irrigation during times of drought. Between 1952 and 1970, the earthen dam tripled the amount of land that could be used for agriculture along Kandahar's Arghandab river valley.

During a recent visit to Japan, Education Minister Mohamed H. Atmar attended a symposium on education in Afghanistan with Mrs. Sadako Ogata, the President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The minister said Afghanistan had made major educational strides since the Taliban was overthrown in late 2001. The number of students rose from 900,000 to six million—including to million girls—while the number of teachers increased from 21,000 to 143,000. The establishment of more than 5,000 new schools has brought the national total to nearly 8,400. Mrs. Ogata expressed her country’s desire to make education is a major priority in their own aid commitments to Afghanistan.

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