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Editorial: A wake-up call

Due to a perpetual war ongoing for decades, Afghanistan’s economy is still not up on its feet. There is an excessive economic dependency on international partners for government expenditure. Amid the fledgling situation of the Afghan economy, a recent Asian Development Bank (ADB) report predicted that the ongoing political uncertainty and the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are expected to weigh on the economy in 2020. Similarly, the timing of potentially losing $1 billion worth of US funds due to an electoral rift between President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and the self-proclaimed president of the “inclusive government” Abdullah Abdullah only added insult to injury. Although President Ghani would seemingly try to fill the void through cost-saving and austerity policies, the effects of the aid cut cannot be downplayed unless there are proper measures put in place so that grant dependence could be resolved once and for all. Currently, despite some progress in building the Afghan revenue system, domestically collected revenue covers only 51pc of government expenditure as development partners finance the rest. For Afghanistan to become self-reliant and reduce grant dependence, the most crucial sectors are focusing on raising domestic revenues and exports. Lamentably, the international community has so far given us fish, rather than teaching us fishing – something that could have helped us built up our infrastructure and systems to achieve self-sufficiency. Under current circumstances, a strong economy means as a lifeline for Afghanistan; therefore, the government needs to focus its attention on strengthening revenue collection by introducing structural reforms. For a sustained progress towards autarky, exports must be boosted, controls and tax audits reinforced, stringent anti-fraud measures put in place and noncompliance properly sanctioned. Otherwise, given the expected decline in international aid coupled with the raging coronavirus pandemic straining the economy, the country would go into recession at the worst-case scenario and the government would be seeking further charity from the international community. Therefore, the recent $1 billion aid cut announcement by the US should serve as a wakeup call for the Afghan leaders to strive for self-dependence. They should realize that without foreign aid, they can do nothing and that it merely makes them dance to the tunes of those who provide the funds.

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