Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

How I Will Rebuild My Nation

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

How I Will Rebuild My Nation

Article excerpt

Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, yet its potential for growth is staggering. It possesses the resources for robust and sustained development for decades to come. In this semi-arid region, the country produces 80 billion cubic metres of water each year, but taps only 20 billion for irrigation, drinking and hydropower. Power being the critical driver of development, a regional partnership on energy initiatives could serve as the foundation of wider regional economic co-operation involving China, central Asia, Pakistan, Iran and India. Building oil and gas pipelines through Afghanistan would increase speed and efficiency, and lower the cost of energy sources in Asia.

Unfortunately, the corruption of the current regime has allowed drug trafficking to flourish across borders instead. Yet rural farmers will turn away from poppy cultivation if their incomes from staple crops rise from the current level of $1 to $4 a day, and that is an achievable goal. In the short term, Nato forces, as buyers, could become the greatest friends of the Afghan farmers. As agriculture develops, regional importers of food--in the Gulf countries and particularly Iran--present huge opportunities. Were the EU to extend trade preferences to Afghan agriculture, as it has done to other countries, it would be a small chip in European agricultural policy, but a windfall here.

Afghanistan is also rich in copper, gold, gas, iron and barite, as well as gemstones such as emeralds and rubies. A mining-based economy is a real alternative, in the medium term, to the drug-based one. …

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