Saturday, 25 November 2017

Afghan Government collected more than 1.4 billion Afghanis (about USD 21,000,000) from 'Cigarette Tax'

Figures from Central Statistics Office show that Afghanistan imports cigarettes from 10 countries and exports part of it to Central Asian nations. The Ministry of Finance of Afghanistan says more than 1.4 billion AFs (over USD 20.7 million) has been collected from tobacco tax since the beginning of this fiscal year, December 2016 to December 2017. Figures from Central Statistics Office indicate that Afghan investors have spent more than USD 54 million on cigarette imports in the past six months while this amount was up to USD 50 million last year. “We had 963 million AFs – over USD 13.9 million (from tobacco tax) in 1395 (Persian year) but in the past 11 months, we have collected 1.430 billion AFs as the tobacco tax revenue. This is an income source for Afghan government,” said an official at the Ministry of Finance. Earlier this year, the Lower House of Afghan Parliament decided to increase the tobacco tax by 100%. However, the decision was rejected by Meshrano Jirga, the Upper House of Parliament. “First, it was not in the interest of the country and second, as I mentioned, there was no decree from president (Ashraf Ghani) or there was no letter from Ministry of Finance. It was the personal demand of a number of lawmakers to increase the cigarette tax; therefore, it was rejected by senators,” said the deputy secretary of Meshrano Jirga. According to Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries, part of the imported cigarettes is sent to other countries in the region. “If the tariff increases by 100%, it will have many damages. First, it will grab employment from the people, second, it will pave the ground for smuggling and third, it will decrease government’s revenue from cigarette imports,”  said the spokesman of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Closed three years ago, a major Pakistan-Afghanistan trade route will be reopened next month, says a senior Pakistani military commander

The Ghulam Khan trade route in North Waziristan Agency was shut in 2014 when a major military offensive against insurgents was launched in the region.
The reopening of the border check-post would create jobs for area residents, hoped General Officer Commanding (GOC) Maj. Gen. Azhar Iqbal Abbasi. Speaking to Utmanzai Wazir tribe elders on Sunday, Abbasi said work on several reconstruction and development projects was underway in the region. He promised restoring peace in the area to ensure economic progress. People had immensely suffered due to militancy and lawlessness, the commander added.

The Afghanistan’s economic growth is projected to increase slightly to 2.6% in 2017 from 2.2% in 2016 as the Country’s deteriorating security situation weighs on the economy

The Afghanistan’s economic growth is projected to increase slightly to 2.6 percent in 2017 from 2.2 percent in 2016 as the country’s deteriorating security weighs on the economy, The World Bank (WB) says in the latest Afghanistan Development Update series released recent days. Security environment continued to deteriorate, with the increased crime and conflict holding back business and consumer confidence from recovering fully from the impact of the security transition in 2014 that saw large numbers of foreign troops left. Economic growth has increased moderately from 2014–2015, when growth was the lowest since 2003, the WB statement said. Proxy data for the first half of 2017, however, indicated that economic activity continued to languish, while business sentiment, gauged from the quarterly business perception surveys, has improved slightly between the first and second quarters of 2017, though it remained lower than in the second quarter of 2016. Because of government’s improved tax administration and better compliance, revenue collection was on track to reach the annual budgeted target. Revenue collection remained strong for the third year in a row, following the abrupt decline in 2014. In the first eight months of 2017, domestic revenues increased by almost 13 percent, year-on-year. Deterioration in the security environment has had a direct impact on government efforts to sustain and scale up growth and job opportunities, and deliver much needed public services,” said Shubham Chaudhuri, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan. “We commend government’s determination to establish stability and peace across the country and sustaining these efforts will very much depend on progress in development. Improving local governance, deepening reforms, building public confidence and fighting corruption are key drivers of sustainable growth and prosperity.” Growth was projected to edge up to 3.2 percent in 2018, assuming no further deterioration in the security environment. While this constituted a moderate improvement compared to 2014 and 2015, it was still significantly below the 9.6 percent average annual rate recorded in the period from 2003 to 2012. Weaker domestic demand and subdued investment sentiment, in the context of the increased violence and political uncertainty since 2014, have resulted in the lower growth trajectory. However, anecdotal evidence indicates that overall confidence is moderately improving, as the uncertainty around the international troop presence in Afghanistan is likely to subside following the announcement of the U.S. strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia. If improvements in security materialize, and with political stability, steady progress on reforms, and with aid flows continuing, at least at current levels, growth is likely to strengthen modestly. Growth could be boosted further in the next two to three years with the right combination of fiscal and policy reforms, including improving budget execution, and reorienting budget expenditures towards labor-intensive and community-based programs that directly reach the population with the greatest needs and with the highest marginal propensity to consume.

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