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Be the Guest of State for a Week (Dastarkhwan-e-milli)

By Irfanullah Mateen

During Covid-19 pandemic, Afghan government implemented a project of 2 billion Afghanis to distribute bread amongst the poorest. But due to the large scale of corruption and lack of transparency in the project, the needy people didn’t get much benefit out of it. Now, the government wants to start another project named National Dining Table (Dastarkhwan-e-Milli) and wants to distribute $244 million received as fund from the World Bank amongst the deprived, but the MPs in a parliament session voted against this program and didn’t approve it. Now, some of the top government officials are criticizing the parliament for the decision saying that Afghan parliament has snatched bread from the dining table of the indigenous Afghans by rejecting this program. Suppose that MPs voted in favor of this program, and even if there is no corruption involved in the program and all the procedures are fair and transparent, can this program eradicate poverty from Afghanistan?

According to Dr. Ashraf Ghani, 90% of Afghan population is living below the poverty line with a daily income of $2. The total population of Afghanistan as of July 25th, 2020, according to worldometers.info, is Approx. 38,928,346. Out of this, 35,035,511 (90% of total population) are living below the poverty line. If the Govt. distribute the whole fund with a fair and transparent procedure every single person will get $6.96. Since the average family size of Afghans are 6 persons per family, a single family will earn $41.784 equal to AFN3,134. On 3,134 Afghanis, a family of 6 persons can only spend few days or a week. As a result, this $41.784 can’t eradicate poverty from the country. Now, the question is that “Where should the Govt. spend this Fund?” What is the best alternative?

According to SIGAR 2017 report about $285 million and Aljazeera as “Years of war and poverty takes tall on Afghanistan’s Health Care”, each year, $300 million is going outside Afghanistan to India, Pakistan and Turkey in medical tourism. Most Afghans are going to these countries for medical treatment because of the lack of medical specialists in Afghanistan. Though we have good hospitals in our country, due to lack of medical specialists these hospitals are useless. Now, if the Govt. Invites eligible medical specialists from the above-mentioned countries and pay them a decent salary, they will train our doctors, we will save $300 million from going outside Afghanistan. This will be a great help with the poor because most Afghans who go outside of the country sell their assets, mortgage their property or borrow money from others. Suppose we hired 10 doctors per province at a salary of $20,000 per month the total salary of 340 doctors for 3 years will equal to $244.8 million. Out of this, the Govt. can save Approx. $47,144,400 in taxes and spend it on the administrative cost of these doctors. These doctors will have to work in the Govt. Sector teaching hospitals. If each of these doctors train 10 doctors for the 3 years period, we will have 3,400 medical specialists by the end of year three.

So, instead of distributing these funds among the people, Govt has to invest these funds in the developmental projects which will benefit the people in long-run.

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