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Tuesday, 22 January, 2002, 14:27 GMT
Spending the billions
A girl looks out the window of her house in Mazar-e-Sharif
Almost everything will need to be rebuilt
By BBC News Online's David Chazan

International aid donors have promised $4.5bn to rebuild Afghanistan, but what exactly will the money be spent on and will it be effective?

Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai says it is urgent to make the cash available quickly.

Some aid workers fear that lengthy bureaucratic procedures in donor countries or agencies will delay the approval of projects and the arrival of funds.

Reconstruction priorities
Security - police, gun control and mine clearance
Agriculture, planting seeds and irrigation
Schools and health care
Return of refugees

Decades of war, factional fighting, neglect by the west and fanatical Taleban rule have left Afghanistan without adequate roads, electricity, schools or hospitals.

Order out of chaos

But many development workers are sceptical of what one called "grandiose nation-building schemes". They point to previous failures, such as the attempt by the United States and the United Nations to reconstruct Somalia a decade ago.

Aid officials stress that a lot of lessons have been learned since then.

Aid for Afghanistan
Food deliveries have staved off widespread famine ...

But some still fear that - as in Somalia - a massive reconstruction effort will mean jobs for aid workers and UN personnel, but only a relatively small percentage of the money will work its way into the Afghan economy.

In Somalia, the need for security and services for UN and other international personnel, often provided by foreign contractors, was so great that only a small fraction of the more than $1bn the United Nations spent on its military and humanitarian mission in 1993 and 1994 went to projects such as building schools and hospitals.


Security - freeing Afghans from "gun rule" and creating the stability needed for reconstruction - is one of the UN's top priorities in Afghanistan.

One of the first uses of the new funds will be to pay civil servants, who have not received wages for months or years as the state bureaucracy all but collapsed.

Pledges so far
US: $297m this year
Japan: Up to $500m by 2004
EU: $495m this year
Saudi: $220m over three years
UK: $288m over five years
Germany: $362m over four years
World Bank: $500m
Asian Development Bank: $500m
Police and justice systems need to be created, landmines need to be cleared and small arms collected in a country where up to half the men are said to carry a gun.

Providing jobs for former fighters is also seen as crucial if Afghanistan is to avoid sliding back into war.

Afghan role 'vital'

The UN says it wants to create the conditions for Afghans to rebuild their own country - it is hoping that professionals and business people from the huge Afghan diaspora will be encouraged to return.

Brendan Paddy of the aid agency Save the Children told News Online that it is crucial to involve Afghans.

"Reconstruction is not just a question of pumping in money to rebuild schools, roads and hospitals," he said.

"You've got to work with the local people to help to build the capacity of individuals and the few organisations that do exist to allow them to be full and equal partners in the process of rebuilding."

An Afghan youth wheels food aid on a cart
... but it is only the beginning
Alex de Waal of the human rights organisation Justice Africa, who has studied similar reconstruction efforts in Mozambique, Somalia and other countries told News Online that it would be difficult for Afghanistan to handle the aid which has been pledged.

"There's a tremendous capacity problem in receiving this aid, and the quality of aid is often very poor," he said.

One structure

"What donors should be doing is setting up a unified system to pool their assistance in a single system - to implement on a project by project basis is incredibly inefficient," said Mr de Waal.

He added that European Union and US government aid agencies were notorious for bureaucracy.

The World Bank has called for a trust to be set up to finance public services, but it is still unclear exactly how the distribution of funds will be decided and tracked.

Several major donors including the United States, Japan and Saudi Arabia reportedly prefer to allocate funds to individual projects.

Afghanistan's new authorities will also need help - and supervision - to prevent corruption or the misuse of funds.

The US has spent billions of dollars on its military campaign, but is contributing only $296m for reconstruction - seen as an international responsibility.

But international attempts to rebuild countries ruined by war have had, at best, a mixed record.

"It depends how ambitious you are," CARE International's Kaye Stearman told News Online.

Setting realistic goals

"Afghanistan is a poor country and it will probably be a poor country in five or 10 years time, but there's a difference between a poor country without a functioning government and one that has a working administration where children go to school and there's water and electricity," said Ms Stearman.

"If you don't have the aid, you don't have a chance," she said.

Afghanistan - once an exporter of agricultural produce with a number of factories producing textiles, medicines and cement - now has only a subsistence economy at best. Many Afghans depend on food aid after a severe drought.

But there are hopes that a long-stalled oil and gas pipeline to transport reserves from the Caspian region, through Central Asia to Pakistan could now be revived.


Political uncertainty






See also:

15 Jan 02 | South Asia
15 Jan 02 | South Asia
14 Jan 02 | Americas
14 Jan 02 | Media reports
21 Dec 01 | South Asia
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