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Afghanistan

Crossing the Hindukush mountains in Afghanistan

Luquan Tian's picture
A panoramic view of the Salang Pass in Afghanistan
Panoramic view of the Salang Pass in Afghanistan. Credit: World Bank

The Afghan Government takes full ownership of a new project to rehabilitate the Salang Pass Highway

If you had travelled along the silk route to Afghanistan over a hundred years ago, your caravan would have encountered some formidable mountain terrain.  Crossing the treacherous icy passes was one of the greatest dangers, and could only be undertaken during the summer months.
 
Things did not change much until the 1960s.  That was when the Soviets built the sturdy two-lane Salang highway across the Hindukush mountains and bored a 2.8 km long tunnel at the Salang Pass at 3,400 meters above sea level. The Salang tunnel - the world’s highest road tunnel at that time - was a feat of engineering.

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Valerie Lorena's picture

Also available in: Français | العربية
 



A boat trip from Port Elizabeth to Kingstown, in the Caribbean country of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, is a one-hour trip that locals take several times a day. It was during one of these journeys that the boat of Kamara Jerome, a young Vincentian fisherman, ran out of gas six miles from Bequia City in what is termed locally as the "Bequia Channel." While waiting for help with strong wind gusts and the sun on his head, the idea of developing a boat that would run with wind and solar energy was born. Soon after, the idea became a prototype; a boat using green technology was on the water making 20-year-old Jerome a winner of international innovation competitions and a role model to other Caribbean youth. 
 
In Mexico, young engineer Daniel Gomez runs a multimillion bio-diesel company originally conceived as a research project for his high school chemistry class. Gomez and his partners - Guillermo Colunga, Antonio Lopez, and Mauricio Pareja - founded SOLBEN (Solutions in bio-energy in Spanish) in their early twenties. 
 
Although Daniel and Kamara have different educational backgrounds, they do share one important skill, the ability to identify a problem, develop an innovative solution, and take it to the market. In other words, being an entrepreneur, an alternative to be economically active, that seems to work and not only for a few.

Five lessons of regional integration from Asia, America, and Africa

Sanjay Kathuria's picture
More than 50% of today’s international trade goes through regional trading arrangements.  While trade is a critical component of regional integration, integration has several other dimensions including energy cooperation and intra-regional investment, to name a few.  After carefully examining cases of regional integration in Southeast Asia, the Americas and Africa, we present five lessons for South Asia.

Lesson 1: Facilitate trade in goods and services

Despite falling tariffs, there is still a large gap between the price of the exported good and the price paid by the importer, largely arising from high costs of moving goods, especially in South and Central Asia. On a percentage basis, the potential gains to trade facilitation in South and Central Asia, at 8 percent of GDP, are almost twice as large as the global average. High trade costs have contributed to South Asia being the least integrated region in the world.

FIGURE 1: Intra-regional trade share (percent of total trade), 2012

In the ASEAN region, most countries have established either Trade Information Portals or Single Windows that have enhanced trade facilitation, reduced trade costs and enhanced intra-regional trade. A Trade Information Portal allows traders to electronically access all the documents they need to obtain approvals from the government. A Single Window (a system that enables international traders to submit regulatory documents at a single location and/or single entity) allows for the electronic submission of such documents. These single windows, using international open communication standards, facilitate trade both within the region and with other countries using similar standards.

In services, one barrier to trade involves the movement of skilled workers, accountants, engineers and consultants who may move from one country to another on a temporary basis. The Southern Common Market (Mercosur)’s Residence Agreement allows workers to reside and work for up to two years in a host country. This residence permit can be made permanent if the worker proves that they can support themselves and their family.

In Afghanistan, new technologies for doing business in the 21th century

Ikramullah Quraishi's picture
 
The Enterprise System is handed over to Hashim Naeem Tailoring Company and its employees, Parwan, Afghanistan
The Enterprise System is handed over to Hashim Naeem Tailoring Company and its employees, Parwan, Afghanistan

Sail Food Production Company is one of the largest food manufacturing factory in Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan. Despite countless hours spent on manual bookkeeping, its owner always complained about errors when reporting profits and losses on the company’s balance sheets.

At the close of each monthly accounting period, the company was always late in submitting profit and loss statements to the Provincial Department of Finance. Similarly, there were many inefficiencies in production and raw material tracking due to the absence of a proper inventory control system.

The scarcity of information technology integration within business operations has limited the development of Sail Food Production and many other Afghan small and medium enterprises (SME) as they are trying to remain competitive in a global business environment. How could this be improved?

Swept up in work: My years in the Kabul office

Paul Sisk's picture
Family on Motorbike in Afghanistan
Afghanistan. Photo by Graham Crouch/World Bank


I spent the past 11 years working and living in Afghanistan.  I didn’t intend to stay that long in one country office, but I got swept up in the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, which under the World Bank, was financing 50% of government expenditures earlier on.  Its budget operations grew from $600 million in 2004 to more than $5 billion in 2014.

For anyone working on public financial management, there were a lot of challenges to tackle and no good time to leave. Our work in Afghanistan is the World Bank at its best. Moreover, Afghans are excellent hosts and have been very receptive to World Bank collaboration.

Picture Trade: How we can visualize intra-regional trade in South Asia and beyond

Siddhesh Kaushik's picture
Intra-regional trade constitutes less than 5 percent of total trade in South Asia, according to World Bank analysis. Economic cooperation remains low, despite the Agreement on a South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA). The region’s low level of intra-regional trade is a puzzling phenomenon, and it’s left many interested folks asking questions.

Which regions trade more amongst themselves? What are the top products being exported or imported? Who are the top exporting and importing countries in a particular region?

Here is a visual representation of regional trade in South Asia in WITS that can help quickly unpack some of these questions as they relate to the region. 
 
South Asia, Export by Region
(Click on + sign on left to view country breakdown)


After the jump, we break down these numbers and show how you can explore the viz. 

Afghanistan debt - when words get lost in translation

Paul Sisk's picture
Photo Credit: Rumi Consultancy/World Bank

 

One of the many successful fiscal initiatives implemented in Afghanistan was the HIPC, the Highly Indebted Poor Country program, a joint IMF–World Bank effort to reduce the public debt of poor countries. We called this the forgiveness of debt.
At an early stage in this work I had to meet with a senior Afghan government official to explain the program. The official, the Deputy Auditor General, was a dedicated, serious man who had trained in the former Soviet Union as an engineer and did not speak English, so we relied on an interpreter.

In those days any Afghan who spoke some English could find work as an interpreter, and ours was a medical doctor. He told me he was anxious to find work in his own field but in the meantime was willing to work anywhere, even interpreting in this arcane field of auditing, although he was unfamiliar with the jargon. The conversation was not to be long; just outline that the external public debt, which was mostly Russian debt from the communist era, would be absorbed by a trust fund and hence “forgiven” if Afghanistan met the program requirements – basically good fiscal transparency and discipline.

Structured dialogue, value chain and competitiveness: A journey through implementation, from Copenhagen to Kabul

Steve Utterwulghe's picture



Afghanistan. Photo by Steve Utterwulghe.

This latest blog post should start with a mea culpa. Indeed, my 2015 work plan for public-private dialogue (PPD) did start in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, not Copenhagen. However, who can swear that he never tweaked a title a tiny bit to make it catchier?
 
While Dushanbe hosted the very productive First Regional PPD Forum in the “stans,” the 8th Global PPD Workshop took place in March in the Danish capital. There, “more than 300 representatives from governments, private enterprises, PPD coordination units, investors’ councils, competitiveness partnerships, civil society, business organizations, and various development partners participated in the event. They represented 54 countries and a total of 40 PPD initiatives who joined the event to share their experiences and discuss lessons learned.”
 
High-powered individuals kick-started the Copenhagen event, including HRH Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, who reiterated that, to make a difference in the world, “it will take partnerships across countries, governments, and between public and private sectors.”
 
Once the keynote speeches had been delivered, the real work began among the delegates and with the PPD experts. I jumped from impromptu coffee break to coffee break and strategized with the Côte d’Ivoire delegation on how to prepare for the National Day of Partnership/Dialogue in Abidjan; discussed ways to better involve the private sector in Morocco; debriefed with the Guinea Minister of Industry, SMEs and Private Sector Promotion on how the PPD structure that we helped put in place is strengthening the local value chain for extractive industries (see below); and moderated an engaging session on public-private dialogue in fragile states and conflict-affected countries (FCS), which provided great insights as I prepared to fly out on PPD missions to Somalia and Afghanistan.
 
Aside from the buzz of international gatherings, what really matters for the delegates, from both governments and the private sector, is to get inspired and bring back home ideas that can be adapted locally and successfully implemented. Public-private dialogue is an art defined by some fundamental core principles that can be adjusted according to specific needs and environments.
 
As a reminder, PPD refers to the structured interaction between the public and private sectors to promote the right conditions for private sector development. Its ultimate function is to contribute to a prosperous economy by expanding market opportunities and enabling private initiative. This is also very much the mission of the new World Bank Group Global Practice on Trade & Competitiveness (T&C). Its Senior Director, Anabel Gonzales, wrote in one of her blog posts on Trade and Development in Africa that fostering competitiveness and strengthening supply chains is a key to development and an integral part of T&C’s offering.
 
As I reflected on the links between structured multi-stakeholder dialogue, competitiveness and supply chains, I remembered a Harvard Business Review article written by Michael Porter and Mark Kramer, entitled Strategy and Society: The Link between Competitive Advantage and Corporate Social Responsibility.
 
What particularly caught my attention at the time was the theory on interdependence between companies and society that the Harvard professors put forward. They argued that this interdependence takes two forms: the social impact that a company’s activities has on society, or “inside-out linkages,” and the social influences on the company’s competitiveness, or “outside-in linkages.”
 

Making PPPs work in fragile situations

Andrew Jones's picture
I have been working in both Afghanistan and the Palestinian Territories for several years now, supporting both upstream enabling activities and working on specific public-private partnership (PPP) transactions. I recently traveled back to both places for our Public-Private Infrastructure Advisory Facility (PPIAF) to help design new interventions that will help develop private sector participation in infrastructure.
 
 
Kabul, Afghanistan
Supporting the development of private sector participation in infrastructure in fragile and conflict affected states is a strategic priority for PPIAF, where immediate and overwhelming infrastructure needs are apparent.
 
In that realm, PPIAF has long been supporting Afghanistan and the Palestinian Territories, among many other conflict impacted economies, and has achieved significant impact, particularly in the telecommunications sector in Afghanistan, and the solid waste sector in the West Bank. Increased access to infrastructure is crucial in fragile and conflict-affected states, and resulting services create opportunity and drive economic growth, thereby reducing the risk of resurgent conflict.
 
While both places face unique challenges, my experiences demonstrate some commonalities that could be applied to other economies with similar situations. Both Afghanistan and the Palestinian Territories have recently undergone political transition, and both have outlined plans to pursue private sector participation to accelerate access to infrastructure and drive economic growth. This comes in the context of growing fiscal constraints and reduced future donor budgetary support.  
 
Let’s look at the specific economic and political context of both Afghanistan and the Palestinian Territories to put things in perspective:

The fumble that may have saved his life

Alexander Ferguson's picture



Ahmad Sarmast may owe his life to a fumble with his cellphone. He bent down in his seat to pick up his mobile just as a suicide bomber detonated his charge behind him at a music and theatre performance at the Institut Français d’Afghanistan in Kabul.

The founder and director of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music survived the December blast that killed one and injured more than 10. Dr. Sarmast suffered perforated ear drums and shrapnel in the back of his head.  But the experience has not deterred him from his ambition of reviving and rebuilding Afghan musical traditions through establishing and leading the country's first dedicated music school.

“Music represents the right to self-expression of all the Afghan people,” he told me during a tour of the modest building in a suburb of Kabul where ANIM is housed.

girl playing piano

The institute’s young musicians, many of them former street vendors or orphans, have toured the world to showcase Afghan music and present a more positive face of the war-torn country. An ensemble played at the World Bank in 2013 and went on to perform amid great acclaim at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall in New York.


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