Saturday, 16 June 2018

European Union officials have said the Afghan government has not been able to use the incentives provided by the EU to substantially increase exports to European countries

European Union (EU) officials have said that Afghanistan’s export climate over recent years has not been encouraging and that the trade deficit is one of the worst in the world. They said the Afghan government has not been able to use the incentives provided by the EU to substantially increase exports to European countries. Speaking at an event in Kabul on Sunday, where a new export strategy was released, Arancha Gonzalez, Executive Director of the International Trade Center (ITC), said prosperity and peace would come from trade. “The national export strategy is called peace through prosperity, prosperity through trade, and this is precisely what we all in this room want to do, to use trade to generate growth and to generate jobs; this is what the young population is demanding from all of us in the room. Doing that contributes to peace and stability that is the logic behind this document,” Gonzalez said in reference to the strategy. Also speaking at the event was ambassador Pierre Mayaudon, the European Union Head of Delegation to Afghanistan, who said the trade deficit in Afghanistan was one of the worst in the world. “It is alarming even so minister (of trade and industry) you have reflected some progress in the volume of exports, but nevertheless this ratio of ten to one we have seen the corresponding trade deficit to be one of the worst in the world in-fact and it’s about time to replace the trading model which is driven by imports.” But Afghan officials said the national export strategy will have a significant impact on reducing the trade balance deficit over the next five years. Based on the strategy, Afghanistan’s exports will increase significantly in this time, with the cooperation of the European Union and International Trade Centre (ITC). Meanwhile CEO Abdullah Abdullah said in turn that the implementation of the strategy was a key element to reducing the trade balance deficit. “We are absolutely confident about the results which will be obtained from the implementation of this strategy, we hope that the problems in this field are resolved,” said Abdullah. He also stressed the need for more facilities to be provided to the export sector. “Compared to recent years, our export volume has increased from USD 600 million per annum to USD 700 million and this indicates a better situation,” said Humayoun Rasa, the minister of commerce and industries. Meanwhile officials from the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) said that in some cases, the decisions made by the leaders of the National Unity Government (NUG) are not adhered to by ministries and other government institutions. The national export strategy aims to take solid steps towards Afghanistan’s sustainable economic development and to boost government revenues and increase exports. The strategy will be implemented over the next five years.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Afghan women have the right to feel safe in public spaces and transportation

Today, I got in a taxi and the driver asked me to move on the other side of the backseat because his car’s tire pressure was low on my side. I usually sit behind the driver’s seat to minimize him watching me through the mirror and other harassment. From this seat, I can keep an eye on where his hands are and what he is doing. It gives me a small sense of control. Despite my anxiety about harassment, I abided.
The driver had set his mirror to show the chest of the passenger in the back seat. This can be extremely uncomfortable while moving through Kabul’s bumpy streets. I asked him if he can fix his mirror. He closed the window, perhaps he was pretending to not know what I was asking for he genuinely thought I was cold. I noticed he wasn’t driving normally and wasn’t looking for a mechanic to fix the tire he claimed was out of air. I reminded him that the first thing he should do is fix the air pressure in the tire or the it will puncture itself. He made an excuse that he will do it eventually. It was so uncomfortable to sit there. I thought about asking him to change the mirror again or get out of the car. Usually, I would also explain myself and make it clear why I am asking him to change the mirror. I’d say explicitly that the way he has positioned his mirrors are very uncomfortable. However, I felt too tired for an argument. I placed my bag in front of my chest and took a picture of the situation.
For women in Kabul, leaving the house comes with never-ending anxiety. If we choose to walk, men standing around or passing by in their cars catcall every few minutes. If we take a taxi, we have to examine the drivers and pass on several taxis until we find a driver that we feel won’t harass us. I took three taxi rides today and had to ask two of them to change their mirrors because they stared at me. Many drivers set their mirrors to watch women’s lips- how creepy is that, by the way- or make unnecessary conversation. They often ask personal questions. Where are you coming from? What do you do? Are you married? Why not?
In addition to accusatory and invasive questions, some taxi drivers play religious sermon cassettes. So far each and every one I have heard have been about women’s clothes and appearance and our activities. The angry and belittling messages of this sermon are not played coincidentally. They are meant to “educate” female passengers like myself; a punishment for daring to be outside alone.
During one taxi ride the sermon was about how women should not leave the vicinity of their homes, they shouldn’t walk on streets, and ride bicycles. The preacher went to say that “true Muslim women” are like diamonds and by coming outside the house and walking or riding bicycles they lower their value to that of street pebbles. He argued that nobody values and puts a street pebble on a ring as a jewel. I just held on through this taxi ride and when I reached my destination, I got off the taxi and as I was handing the cab-ride fee to the driver I gathered all the energy I could muster and politely told him that women are not diamonds or pebbles – we are living breathing humans and we do not wish to be used as ring jewels or anything else.
I don’t feel safe in taxis. I can’t get used to the catcalls. Buses are overcrowded and prime location for groping. If you are not wealthy and don’t own a car, there is no safe transportation for you in Kabul. The harassment occurs regardless what you wear or who you are with.
I still choose to leave home every day to go to work and to occupy space on the streets. When I leave home, I am not just worried about a bomb going off, I am also hit by psychological mines at every step. When they don’t touch, stalk, or catcall, they stare. I feel like stopping and telling them that I do not exist for their eyes. I did not leave home for them to count every step of mine. I want to tell them to do something better with their time. More than anything, I want them to walk in my shoes. I want them to feel how they make me feel.
This can’t go on. We need to make Kabul’s streets safe for women. We need to make taxi rides and walking on streets less stressful. One way to do that is to begin sharing stories and raise awareness about the stress and anxiety caused by simply existing in public. Many say that not all men harass. That may be true, but not harassing women is not enough. I want good men to stop being bystanders and actively challenge their peers. I want them to make their friends aware of toxicity they are spreading on the streets and the nightmare they have created for women.
Written by Rohina Sediqui @


Monday, 11 June 2018

China hopes to include Afghanistan in the Belt and Road Initiative

Chinese Ambassador to Afghanistan Liu Jinsong says his country hopes to include Afghanistan in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This came after high-level delegates, including President Ashraf Ghani, took part in this weekend’s Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in China. “Afghanistan expects to have more benefit from the Belt and Road project. This country has great expectations from the Shanghai Cooperation Organization,” the ambassador said. He said there were positive signs coming from different social sectors in Afghanistan. The Ministry of Economy, meanwhile, said Afghanistan is part of the Belt and Road project due to its strategic location in the region. Ministry officials also said the project can help boost economic stability in the country. “We should focus on issues inside the country. Our railway system should be established,” said Suhrab Bahman, a spokesman for the Ministry of Economy. Analysts said the project is crucial for the region therefore Afghanistan should try to connect with the route. “The project is based on trade connectivity. Such projects are win-win projects for Afghanistan and China,” said Mohammad Yusuf Rahnaward, advisor of the council on joint trade between Afghanistan and China. The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-century Maritime Silk Road or The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a development strategy proposed by the Chinese government that focuses on connectivity and cooperation between Eurasian countries, primarily the People's Republic of China (PRC), the land-based Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and the ocean-going Maritime Silk Road (MSR). The initiative was known in English as the One Belt and One Road Initiative (OBOR) until 2016.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Afghanistan - Dall’Italia 2 milioni di euro per sostenere i piccoli produttori agricoli di Herat e Bamyan

Due milioni di euro per sostenere il settore agricolo afghano. Li ha stanziati il governo italiano, per il tramite della Cooperazione allo sviluppo, a supporto delle comunità rurali di Herat e Bamyan. I beneficiari del progetto sono circa 5mila piccoli produttori di zafferano, miele, uva passa, ortaggi e latticini, tutti prodotti provenienti da filiere di alto valore. L’accordo tecnico per l’iniziativa è stato firmato dall’Ambasciatore italiano in Afghanistan, Roberto Cantone, e dal Ministro delle Finanze afghano, Eklil Ahmad Hakimi.“La sfida dello sviluppo agricolo risiede nella crescita economica delle comunità rurali e nella diminuzione dell’insicurezza alimentare e della povertà. Ciò che intendiamo sostenere con questo programma è lo sviluppo di alcune filiere agricole di alto valore attraverso cui contrastare lo stato di impoverimento delle aree rurali e incoraggiare le coltivazioni alternative all’oppio”, ha dichiarato l’Ambasciatore Cantone.

Pakistan announced waiving off the regulatory duty on Afghanistan exports in a gesture to help Afghan economy

Pakistan on Saturday announced waiving off the regulatory duty on Afghan exports – in a gesture to help boost the war-torn country’s economy. During his visit to Kabul, Former prime minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had decided to waive off the regulatory duty, which was imposed in October last year on Afghan exports. The exports include grapes (fresh and dried), apples, pomegranates, apricots, watermelons, melons, cucumbers, gherkins, prunes dried and figs. In a statement, the Pakistan embassy said the waiver went into effect from June 8, 2018. In the meantime, Pakistan’s export to Afghanistan has reached to a two-year high during the first 10 months of the current fiscal year despite relations remain strained on political level between the two neighboring countries, it has been reported. The latest report from the State Bank of Pakistan shows the country’s exports to Afghanistan reached $1.282 billion during July-April 2917-18. This was higher than the figure of $956 million in the same period last year, according to Dawn News. The source further added that during the last five years, the outgoing government never made any serious attempt to improve trade ties with the war-torn neighbor. With the penetration of Chinese products in Afghanistan, Pakistan’s share has been further reduced. “In 2014-15, exports to Afghanistan were $1.699bn which fell to $1.230bn in FY16 before further declining to $1.165bn in FY17, reflecting the downward trajectory,” according to the report.