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Editorial: Industrialists’ concerns

According to the World Bank (WB), Afghanistan’s economy grew by an estimated 2.9 percent in 2019, driven mainly by strong agricultural growth following recovering from drought. Released last month, the WB report stated that with the receded drought impacts if private sector confidence further improves following the conclusion of the fraud-tainted presidential election, growth is expected to accelerate to 3.3 percent in 2020. This is great news for Afghanistan but seemingly insecurity and political uncertainty coupled with some governmental inabilities are holding back the Afghan economy. Despite the way Afghanistan is making progress currently, industrialists have recently grumbled about the government’s lack of attention in providing them land. They urge the government to provide them land in Kabul and not in provinces because they would not invest there due to insecurity. They were unsatisfied with using land against rent – given the fact that 240 factories operated on rented lands in Kabul – for the past 10 years and as well as paying taxes to the government but in return, they were provided no facilities. Moreover, the Kabul Chamber of Commerce and Industry says that 150 Afghan investors in Pakistan wanted to bring their capital to Kabul but the government failed to give them land. Although the government is bound by law to distribute lands to investors and pay attention to their safety and security, there is the issue of the tradeoff between economic output and environmental protection. As this winter has been severe and intense in terms of giving rise to pollution-induced issues and tormenting Kabul citizens, the government is seemingly reluctant to allow more factories in the capital. The Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) informs there are reportedly 300 ready-for-distribution land plots at 16 industrial parks in the capital and provinces but it did not want to distribute the land at the Pul-i-Charkhi industrial park of Kabul city. If this stance of withholding the land is due to environmental concerns, then it seems within reason to do so. However, the government should address the issues of venture capitalists and industrialists, provide them with the necessary facilities and ensure their security and safety wherever they are. Meanwhile, they should be encouraged to build up their factories in provinces and possibly on the outskirts of Kabul city, where the operations of manufacturing companies are carried out without detriment to the environment and public health. Although Afghanistan is a market economy, businessmen and investors should toe the line and be heedful not to pursue financial gains at the expense of the environment and people. Setting up new factories will surely contribute to economic growth and help reduce unemployment in the country but it shouldn’t be overlooked that their benefits should outweigh their hazards; however, locating them away from urban life should be a starting point in this regard.

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