Karzai and Triple Ms

Where is the manpower? No development is possible without people, professional and otherwise behind it. Afghanistan was short of qualified personnel even long before it fell into the abyss of chaos, war and destruction. A full quarter of a century of war deprived the nation of the possibility of educating its children and providing them with general and vocational education or professional instructions. One in four Afghans were forced to seek refuge outside and many were displaced inside the country due to war and natural calamities such as the drought that is now, believe it or not, six years old. Afghan professionals, especially those with skills compatible with survival in the West migrated to Europe, the United States, Canada and even Australia and distant lands such as New Zealand. What was left were those who accepted to be forced to dance to the tune of the many movements that came to power in the country. Unfortunately, none of those tunes was national music. Majority of the Afghan youth especially boys, learnt one of the trades necessary for survival, namely warfare. Many were forced into this culture by the communist puppet government and the proceeding Mujahideen governments and the Taleban. Many others in exile grew with the gun at their side. Kalashnikov semi-automatic machineguns became their companion and their culture was dictated by it. For some the possession of a gun became a dream. Learning of war related skills replaced the need for even outright literacy training. The story of young girls on the other hand, is another tragic one. It has been told and retold by international media. Now that the winds of political change have started to blow and the nation has entrusted Hamid Karzai with the task of leading it out of its many miseries, he needs first and foremost qualified manpower to engage in the process of development. Education is a long process and will take many years to produce the kind of personnel needed for Afghanistan’s immediate needs. The alternatives are difficult to tame. Recalling of the country’s educated from abroad is easily said than done. Engaging of foreign experts and expertise at times creates more problems than it would be able to solve. Presently except advertisements for positions with a variety of projects in Afghanistan there is no concerted effort, neither a plan for personnel to tackle the dire need for men for Afghanistan’s resuscitation. The people that are found and are engaged by the government at present have either education or experience; rarely anyone has both. But people for top positions in the government need even more than education and experience, they need political maturity which is another rare quality. Thus Karzai’s government finds itself making do with whatever seems politically, ethnically and geographically feasible including appointing warlords in provincial administrations and extremist religious personalities in the judiciary. Presently there is no parliament to check on these appointments and thus Karzai can play whatever hand he chooses to.
One of the best solutions to the problem of personnel would be developing of a plan that would consider the country’s immediate and long-term needs for a variety of personnel needed for the process of reconstruction. Afghanistan needs vocationally prepared personnel in almost all fields. She needs, carpenters, masons, welders, electricians, plumbers, mechanics, and a wide variety of craftsmen and craftswomen. The plan would specify the numbers and types of these personnel needed over time. Their training would take shorter time than highly specialized professions such as engineers and doctors. An education plan for the personnel would help provide opportunities for input by aid agencies in this most needed field of training. The plan should not, as many plans at present do, consider the needs of the capital, but also and in a balanced way the needs of all the provinces should also be studied and included in the plan. Presently some NGOs are engaged in this effort, but their actions are not coordinated and do not consider the real needs of the country as a whole. NGOs work only in areas with relative security and the result of their endeavors could benefit the needs of the locality where they are situated. The United Nations programs focus mostly in the area of finding employment for women. None of the projects so far have recorded any significant success. Reports are rather gloomy in that unemployment is on the rise. All of this point to the need for a national manpower plan that is coordinated with all sectors of the economy and is geographically balanced and just. The new government must accord manpower the priority that it deserves.

Where is the money? With the enthusiastic West and immediately after the toppling down of the Taleban regime, promises to help a new democratic Afghanistan became fashionable in international meetings, forums and gatherings. There was even talk of a Marshal Plan kind of assistance for Afghanistan to rise from the ashes of war. The so called allies of the United States also made promises to appease the big brother and show it that while they were not so much interested in military assistance, in areas of humanitarian and developmental help they were fully behind the White House plans. Billions of dollars were promised, and a fraction of the promised money was even allocated. The newly formed administration in Afghanistan was allegedly found incapable to absorb the assistance itself, thus the NGOs were involved. There was money and there were the money hungry NGOs with some experience in project formulation that convinced the red tape of the donor countries. Like mushroom, they sprouted all over Afghanistan and especially in areas where relative security was maintained. But NGOs like any other organization has overhead expenditures and if for example one hundred NGOs engaged in the area of undertaking educational projects, then the overhead for the education sector was bound to increase by one hundred times. Thus there was a hue ad cry over the operation of the NGOs. An interesting report by the Institute for War and Peace in Afghanistan written by Abdul Baseer Saeed published recently addressed the issue of the financial input into Afghanistan’s process of reconstruction. Here is our attempt to summarize the salient points of the report:

As per John Myers, director general of the European Commission’s Humanitarian and Aid Organization, ECHO the European community had advanced the following sums to Afghanistan:

Year Amount in million Dollars
2002 102
2003 74
2004 49
2005 22
Total 247

A per Patrick Fine, mission director of the United States Agency for International Development in Afghanistan the United States had spent 1.2 billion Dollars in Afghanistan last year.

Japanese aid of 900 million Dollars, according to Norihiro Okuda, the Japanese Ambassador in Afghanistan consisted of 8.2 million Dollars for voter registration and 8.8 million Dollars for parliamentary election expenses as well as helping build 46 schools and assist in the area of security under DDR program.

Miero Kreibich, the first secretary for Development, Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid at German Embassy stated that his government had pledged 110 million Dollars towards helping of the formation of the Afghan Police, water and power projects as well as training of elementary teachers.

Last year 67 million Dollars were spent to reduce unemployment in the country. It increased.

There have been other inputs by other sources of assistance to Afghan projects as well. But looking only at the figures above that roughly represent about two billion Dollars, and comparing the expenditures with the country’s true priorities, it is obvious that much of the objectives remain unsatisfied and that there is a true need for finding out about exactly where did the money go?

The money is also embedded in the country’s soil in the form of agricultural production and industrial output. These two areas need urgent consideration by the government. Development of a just and practical tax system whereby citizens take part in furnishing the welfare states coffers with money. Income tax as well as property tax and other forms of taxation, though not new to Afghanistan, require a big overhaul. The government needs to look into it more vigorously.

Development of commerce in the form of regulated import and export will contribute to a healthy economy and generation of funds for the country’s reconstruction. Not much has been done in these areas so far.

Therefore another area of priority for the Afghan government should be looking into all the money that has been promised and delivered in the name of Afghanistan for Afghan projects and to find out how they were spent and how should they be spent under strict supervision of a commission that should be composed of unbiased technically qualified national and international individuals working closely with the Afghan president.

Where are the materials? The resilient Afghans have proven time and again that they have and that they will rise up to opportunities to shape up their lives and the life of their nation. There are huge reconstruction projects taken up by private investment (not by the government) in major cities and recent reports suggest that cement in bags and trucks are made available to satisfy the rising needs for this commodity. Yet reconstruction of a country does not solely depend on cement, which has traditionally been produced inside the country. Afghanistan needs energy, which is partially provided by local production and partially bought and brought from abroad. Afghan electricity as a source of energy is partially produced at a number of hydroelectric plants and is partially flowing in water with the fast flowing waters of many mountain streams and rivers. Afghanistan’s natural gas is partially exploited and is partially buried deep down the bosom of its soil. Its oil reserves remain to be determined and exploited. There is great potential in Afghanistan for tapping the solar and wind energy resources. The government should also consider cultivation of special plants that can be used for energy in this agriculturally oriented country. Afghanistan also has coal, iron and copper ore mines that can be restudied for exploitation.

These sources of energy can put the wheels of production in operation and import of machinery and technology can also be given a thorough and coordinated attention by yet another group of experts who would report to the Afghan government.

All of this require planning and it is puzzling and disturbing to well wishers of Afghanistan to see that the new government in Afghanistan has eliminated one of the most important government departments namely the ministry of planning over a row with a less experienced person who with all good intentions lost a battle to the president and to his cabinet colleagues.

The process of development, reconstruction, nation building and reparation of the infrastructure needs manpower, money and materials. For Karzai’s government to be able to leave a positive mark in Afghan history, all three and much more are needed. It is not only the quantity of the above resources that matter, but more so it would be the quality of each. This paper has tried to briefly describe and draw attention to the present status of these resources. 1/7/05