World Bank rejects doomsday predictions about Afghanistan, describes it as`a success story’

November 14th, 2007 - 2:28 am ICT by admin  
Alistair McKechnie, the World Bank official responsible for development and financial initiatives in Afghanistan, was quoted by Canada’s Globe and Mail as saying that notwithstanding the continuing problems with security, corruption and the drug trade, economic and social conditions in Afghanistan have improved dramatically since the fall of the Taliban in October 2001.

“This is a success story. Afghanistan has defied predictions and has achieved a lot in a short period of time,” McKechnie, the country director for Afghanistan, was quoted as saying in Canada on the sidelines of meetings with officials in Ottawa and a speech in Toronto.

He pointed to a series of positive indicators, including double-digit economic growth, an expanding road network, a surge in school attendance - particularly by girls - and a drop in infant mortality from 165 per 1,000 live births to 135 in 41/2 years.

He said it was easy to project a negative view of Afghanistan if one focuses on the south and east of the country, where the insurgency is strongest. But, he added that what needed to be highlighted was that in two-thirds of the country, there is no insurgency and conditions are improving more quickly.

According to the paper, some of the credit goes to the World Bank, which has committed 1.5-billion dollars to Afghanistan and set up the Afghanistan Reconstruction Fund, which has so far gathered 2.4-billion dollars in pledges from two dozen countries.

This year`s single top donor to the fund is Canada, with 211-million dollars. Britain is second, with 145-million dollars.

The Canadian money goes to a variety of projects and uses and is a major source of funding for the daily operations of the Afghan Government, which still does not generate enough tax revenues to fund these activities on its own.

McKechnie, however, conceded that much remains to be done in reducing corruption in the police and improving the functioning of the justice system. Another challenge before the Kabul administration is to reduce the influence of the poppy trade.

Afghanistan is estimated to furnish 93 per cent of the world`s illegal opium supply, used in the manufacture of heroin, and opium production accounts for one-third of economic activity.

Even in this context, McKechnie was quoted by the paper as saying that the picture was not as bad as it seems, with only four per cent of the country`s total arable land being cultivated with poppies and more provinces becoming poppy free.

He said that the best way to battle opium trade was to encourage alternative cash crops such as grapes and appeal to the religious values of Afghans. (ANI)

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