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Editorial: Controversy over NFP

One of the heated debates nowadays is the recently-launched National Food Package (NFP) by the government which has received a backlash from the public, civil society and the parliament. NFP program is worth $244 million through which essential food items would be distributed among millions of vulnerable families. President Ashraf Ghani last week said that 90 percent of the country’s population lived below the $2-a-day poverty line. This is while there had been earlier distribution of wheat grains and then bread in Ramadan to Afghans but they came under serious fire because there were claims of embezzlement, including the allegation that the assistance wasn’t actually provided to the destitute class of the society. However, this time the President once again promised that there won’t be any corruption or embezzlement in the aid funds, warning if somebody did so, they would be ‘hanged upside down’. But Wolesi Jirga or lower house of the parliament has rejected the NFP scheme, citing legal shortcomings and the reason that it wasn’t endorsed by the lower house. There is a controversy about the World Bank-funded scheme as the government said the development funds don’t need approval from the lower house based on Article 35 of budget principles. On the other hand, Wolesi Jirga says the scheme is against Article 91 of the Constitution which stipulates that the lower house held special authorities such as deciding on the development programs, as well as the state budget. Thus, the parliament voted against the national scheme through a majority vote. It is without a doubt that the coronavirus-induced lockdowns further exacerbated the miseries of Afghans, with the daily wagers being hardly hit. At this juncture, this dispute among the two pillars of the state affects the ordinary people, who mostly bear the brunt. The parliament is well-advised to be a support to this scheme and if it wants to be helpful, it should take serious measures regarding the monitoring process of it. Its implementation should be seriously followed and the concerned authorities of this scheme should be held responsible and accountable to the parliament. This way the scheme will benefit the needy people and there will be no opportunity for corruption.

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