A deluge of kidnappings in Afghanistan’s investment climate


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Editor's Note: Arvind Jain is a private sector development specialist working on survey implementation in the Enterprise Surveys group. Welcome!

What does it take to get data on Afghanistan's investment climate? It's a lot harder than simply figuring out an appropriate survey design. During recent fieldwork in Afghanistan, the Enterprise Surveys group found out exactly what it takes. Although one might assume that the targets of kidnappings in Kabul are Westerners and international aid workers, the primary targets are actually Afghani businessmen. A successful kidnapping provides the perpetrators with quick cash - it is a much larger criminal enterprise compared to abductions conducted for ideological purposes. This meant it was not at all easy for interviewers from Enterprise Surveys to contact businessmen for research purposes.

While the Doing Business project ranks countries on topics such as “Starting a Business," its PSD sibling in global indicators is the Enterprise Surveys group. They conduct surveys of the private sector and produce indicators under themes such as Gender and Corruption. Data is already available for 100+ countries, and among the 60+ countries where survey data is currently being collected, Afghanistan fieldwork is almost complete.


With data delivery expected in early 2009, it should provide a useful snapshot of Afghanistan’s non-agricultural economy, specifically the constraints to growth and development of the private sector. One of the main findings from the 2005 survey was that access to land was a severe constraint for business expansion. In response and in partnership with the World Bank, the Government created industrial parks on the outskirts of Kabul and other major economic hubs. The 2009 data is expected to play a major role in informing the dialogue between the World Bank and the Government in establishing reform priorities.



Arvind Jain

Private Sector Development Specialist, World Bank

Join the Conversation

December 16, 2008

In situations such as this I wonder why there isn't a greater effort to build cooperative business ventures where there is a broad community investment instead of a small or single point (such as an individual entrepreneur) who can be targeted. I've been thinking about this lately in regards to blighted urban neighborhoods. Often businesses avoid the area and thus even basic services become unavailable out of fear of being targets for robbery and other crimes. If the community itself had ownership in a very real sense in the service then it would follow that community members inclined to violate a business might be less inclined to violate one made up of their peers.

Just a fragment of a thought.

Aaron Goldzimer
December 17, 2008

This is one of the most interesting and insightful blog posts I've ever read.

Nilmini Rubin
December 23, 2008

Interesting insight into the challenge of finding out the ground truth! A couple days after I first read this posting, I heard a radio story about similar kidnappings of businesspeople in Mexico. It makes me wonder about what, if anything, the international community can do to prevent these crimes. What measures could be effective? Are they already being integrated into economic development, private sector development and governance programs? If not, why not?