In an important development on Wednesday, January 17, the lower house of Afghan parliament – the Wolesi Jirga – approved the budget for the solar year 1397. It was essential for the budget to get through the parliament before the winter recess of 45 days, and fortunately, it was able to achieve success in this regard.
The new budget that has been announced is worth AFN 377.011 billion, which includes 266.133 billion as ordinary budget and AFN 110.878 billion as budget for development. The share of development budget in the total value seems ample; however, there needs to be remarkable measures taken before a larger portion of this amount is truly spent for development work within the country.
Though, the total budget seems sufficient as per the objective conditions, it is worthwhile to note that at least AFN 188 billion of the budget will be provided from international aid, while AFN 183 billion will be provided from the national revenues, which seems a bit discouraging and shows the level of dependence of Afghanistan on other countries regarding generation of revenues. The country needs to achieve great milestones before it is truly able to generate its own revenues and provide for most of its budget itself.
It is also important to note that there is a large difference between what is announced as the budget and what is actually spent for the purposes that they are announced. The development budget for the coming year seems promising, but it is vital that is should actually be spent. The historical facts and figures show that the different ministries in Afghanistan have not been able to spend the development budget properly. Moreover, the international community and international organizations, or even national NGOs have not been able to achieve their objectives. The recent report of Special Inspector for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) clearly showed how the development funds go astray in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan, as a matter of fact, has failed to deliver maximum at times when the development is required the most and, in the process, has also lost some golden opportunities. Corruption has been lethal enough to annihilate the efforts or the plans to reconstruct the country and the different systems that may set it on the way to development. It should be noted that billions of dollars poured in the country for both military support and development projects. But if we analyze the socio-political and socio-economic scenario in the country the development does not seem as great as it should have been. Most of these aids were devoured by corruption instead of being spent for the intended purposes. Either the money that was to be spent through government or the NGO sector, both the ways corruption had the largest share.
Afghanistan is ranked among the top ten most corrupt countries in the world. This is really tragic and shows that no considerable work has been done against corruption though it has been highlighted as a major problem throughout the last decade. And, it has had negative influences as well; particularly in the top governmental institutions. Corruption not only dominated the elections but also haunted different institutions; particularly, the government institutions, and brought bad name to the nation and at the same time financial loss; however, it has been left to dominate with vigor and strength. It has, in fact, victimized our society more than terrorism and insecurity and today if Afghanistan is not able to stand on its own, it is also because of the corruption.
In addition to this tragic situation, National Unity Government (NUG) has failed to deliver on ITS promises to carryout development work or fight corruption in the country. NUG, in its early days, promised to handle corruption with iron fists; however, that does not seem to be happening even after several years have passed. Many development projects are in limbo and there are concerns being raised by international organizations that assistance fund and support in Afghanistan are not being used for their intended purposes.
There seems to be no doubt in the fact that one of the basic reasons of the persistent rise in corruption in Afghanistan is the lack of commitment and honest efforts to control and eradicate this menace. Neither the previous government, nor the current government has shown real efforts to face it seriously. Therefore, the serpent has survived and has become reckless and out of control.
It is a real challenge now for the Afghan government to stand against it. However, a solid and dedicated effort against it can make a difference. It is not altogether impossible to defeat it. Definitely, strict measures are required, temperaments would be tested, institutions would be questioned, the powerful would have to be threatened, and more responsible attitude would be expected from all the people; in short, the whole mechanism would be shaken if there are real and honest efforts. And, it should be noted that there is no alternative for Afghanistan. The way it is going on would lead to chaos and instability. If the Afghan government is determined to realize development and complete the development goals, and spend the development budget in a proper manner, it must decide now and act accordingly.
Daily Outlook Afghanistan, January 19, 2018