What Cripples Afghanistan’s Economy?

Nov 23, 2011   //   by Hameed   //   Uncategorized  //  No Comments

A world bank report came out yes­ter­day that says depend­ing on secu­rity the econ­omy of Afghanistan could face a com­plete col­lapse beyond 2014. More than 90 per cent of our national bud­get comes from for­eign dona­tions. The world bank report in PDF: Tran­si­tion in Afghanistan: Look­ing Beyond 2014. Income per per­son in Afghanistan is $528 a year. Josie Bassinette, the act­ing direc­tor of the World Bank says this fig­ure con­ceals pock­ets of worse poverty because aid money is not divided evenly across the coun­try. A lot of money goes into unsta­ble areas and bypass­ing the more peace­ful ones. That means a huge amount of that aid money goes into secu­rity. About 10 per cent of the total bud­get of the coun­try comes from import export tax, etc.

What hap­pens to our rev­enue?
I know some­one who works in Nan­garhar cus­toms office. He turned down a very good job offer from an inter­na­tional busi­ness com­pany in Kabul to come and work in the cus­toms office. The com­pany offered him $3000 US dol­lars of salary per month and some other incen­tives. The cus­toms offi­cer makes $1600 every­day. The way he takes bribe is very mod­ern. He uses his bank to trans­fer money so that he doesn’t get caught. There is tax on the goods that are imported into Afghanistan. For exam­ple, if a busi­ness­man imports 200 trucks of Chi­nese tele­vi­sions and each truck con­tains 300, the cus­toms offi­cer will tax him for 150 tele­vi­sions per truck and then ask him to pay the tax for 100 tele­vi­sions per truck directly to him (mean­ing trans­fer it to his bank account) and the busi­ness­man gets 50 tele­vi­sions (per truck) into the coun­try with no tax.

There is a price list that has prices of the dif­fer­ent gov­ern­ment posi­tions. For one to get a cus­toms office director’s posi­tion, espe­cially in a fron­tier province like Nan­garhar where there is a lot of import and some export, they usu­ally pay mul­ti­ple hun­dred thou­sand dol­lars in the min­istry of com­merce (some­times there is bid­ding on this and who­ever offers the high­est bribe gets the posi­tion).
A while ago, the min­istry of com­merce hired and made spe­cial cus­toms offices con­trol com­mit­tees. These com­mit­tees are based in all those bor­der provinces that make big tran­sit ways. Their task is to mon­i­tor and report on cor­rup­tion in these provin­cial offices. They are well-equipped and well-paid so that they will be hon­est in their job. The spe­cial cor­rup­tion mon­i­tor­ing com­mit­tees, at least in Nan­garhar and Herat provinces, when saw the “tempt­ing” money, teamed with the cus­toms offi­cers and they made a deal and started get­ting their cut. Before, tax for 150 tele­vi­sions of each 300-television-truck was going to the mid­dle men and the rest of the 150 was going to the gov­ern­ment. These offi­cers don’t want their orig­i­nal income to cut back. Instead, they tax even less goods per truck so that they can get the mon­i­tor­ing com­mit­tees’ cut (maybe the tax from 100 items in each 300-item-truck goes the gov­ern­ment, 100 to the cus­toms offi­cers, 50 to the com­mit­tee, and the rest of the 50 items will is “waived” for the busi­ness­man). In all these cus­toms offices are advanced computer-operated scan­ners that scan imported good for tax, etc. but again all of this is run by a human being who makes the final deci­sion.
About a year ago, there was a train­ing sem­i­nar abroad that the min­istry wanted its employ­ees from these key cus­toms offices to go and attend so that they can learn advanced meth­ods. Nobody wanted to go because depend­ing on their posi­tion that meant $1600 loss every­day. When it’s the end of month, most of these offi­cers don’t even go to the bank to get their offi­cial salary from the gov­ern­ment (which is usu­ally a few hun­dred dol­lars).
A job in the cus­toms office is a big deal in our coun­try. It’s the same as work­ing in any other min­istry of the gov­ern­ment but peo­ple here say they have a lot of “Aayid” mean­ing “indi­rect income”. These peo­ple with a lot of Aayid usu­ally have a very mis­er­able life. Their kids can­not go out or play freely. They have a con­stant fear that their kids would be kid­napped. These kid­nap­pers have marked them and are ready for any win­dow of oppor­tu­nity to attack.