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Afghan Ambassador Talks Business
by Philipp Lueckgen

The Daily Colonial (George Washington University)

Said T. Jawad, Afghanistan's ambassador to the United States, listed the successes his country has seen in the last three years and lobbied for "continued support," from the United States during an event on Friday at the Harry Harding Auditorium at GW's Elliott School of International Affairs.

The ambassador spoke with a panel of experts at the sixth annual GW International Development Forum. They addressed the question of post-conflict economics in Afghanistan and looked at the economic future of Afghanistan.

While an apparent lack of security and infrastructure as well as corruption are obstacles holding foreign investors back at this point, Jawad was quick to point out the significant progress Afghanistan has made in the short period of time since the end of fighting.

These improvements include consistently high growth rates. Afghanistan's key location in the region has fostered trade and per capita income has more than doubled in the past four years, he said.

Jawad challenged investors to consider these factors and to "take a risk to invest" in a growing economy.

Panelists praised Afghanistan's development, but were at odds with the steps they should follow to secure future growth.

"You can start a company in Afghanistan in the morning and have your license at the end of the same day," said Ajmal Ghani, chairman of the Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce (AACC), speaking favorably Afghanistan's economic climate.

In fact, this quick turnaround puts Afghanistan in the top 16 countries with the greatest ease of entrance for businesses, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Ghani believes this favorable business climate will attract investors.

The two other panel members, Ehsan Bayat, president and CEO of Telephone Systems International & Afghan Wireless, and Rex Pingle, president of PMD International, Inc. –who does business in developing countries including Afghanistan – were more skeptical about the economic prospect of attracting investors.

Bayat pointed to the "security issue, the unfavorable tax system and corruption" as problems that still discourage investors. Pingle underlined the fact that quick start-up opportunities are not enough to attract mid and large size investors. Pingle said "projects have to be packaged" to encourage investors.

Friday's forum was part of an ongoing series as GW that promotes public policy and international development. GW's Center for International Business Education and Research (GW-CIBER), the GW School of Public Policy and Public Administration, the GW Center for the Study of Globalization, and GW's Elliott School of International Affairs co-host the forums, which recently invited Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez.

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