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بِسْمِ اللهِ الرَّحْمٰنِ الرَّحِيْمِ
The Speech of H.E Abdul Sattar Murad The Minister of Economy of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at OECD Eurasia Week in Ministerial Panel on Productivity & Resilience in Paris – France on 22nd of November, 2016
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to extend our appreciation to the OECD for continuing to host the Eurasia Week, and for inviting Afghanistan to be a part of this much-needed gathering of senior policymakers from what is one of the richest regions of the world with numerous shared interests and concerns.
Platforms like this strengthen multilateral cooperation and understanding on a range of policy issues that must address obstacles to sustainable and equitable economic growth. I think of it as a vehicle, enabling all of us to meet some of the key Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), whose achievement helps ensure welfare and prosperity throughout the Eurasia region.
At the outset, I also wish to extend the gratitude of the Government and people of Afghanistan to the OECD member-states, most of whom have continued to provide us with substantive security and development assistance over the past 15 years.
Indeed, without their support, we could have hardly come this far, in defiance of ongoing security challenges that constantly sap our precious few resources for sustainable development.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The ongoing imposed war in Afghanistan continues to undermine the enabling environment needed for private sector-led economic growth. With the support of NATO, which includes OECD member-states, our brave forces continue to defend Afghanistan against external aggression, which is in violation of the United Nations Charter and international humanitarian and human rights laws, as we strive to strengthen resilience and human security in Afghanistan.
When our youthful population has access to sustainable jobs, electricity, education, and healthcare, they can easily cope with the adverse effects of war. But when they don’t, their vulnerabilities multiply, perpetuating a vicious cycle of poverty and violence, which not only destabilize Afghanistan but also undermine global peace and security.
We highlighted these facts in this year’s Meeting of the G7+ in Kabul where we presented our Government’s New Deal Fragility Assessment on “Afghanistan’s Pathways towards Resilience and Stability.”
We’ve further highlighted the interconnectedness of protective and human security in the Afghan context, in the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework (ANPDF), which we presented to the international community for support at the recent Brussels Conference.
Moreover, the Government of Afghanistan has worked hard to implement a comprehensive reforms agenda, which aims at achieving self-reliance. In doing so, our two leaders share a vision in “building a productive and broad-based economy that creates jobs; putting an end to corruption, criminality and violence; and establishing the rule of law.”
In each of these key areas, we have made notable progress:
• Infrastructure development through regional cooperation stands out, as we are working with the Heart of Asia countries to expand regional connectivity for increased commerce, transit trade, and investment. In this connection, I would like to point out the ongoing implementation of major regional projects—including:
o Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Natural Gas Pipeline (TAPI);
o Chabahar Port;
o Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-500 (TAP500);
o Energy transit projects such as Central Asia-South Asia-1000 (CASA-1000).
• In line with these regional trade projects, we have prioritized private sector development in order to facilitate domestic and foreign investment in Afghanistan’s “virgin markets.” Since our accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2015, our exports have increased to $570 million, up by $150 million since 2013. And we have made additional efforts in the agriculture sector, enabling Afghan businesses to access regional and international markets.
• We realize that good governance helps ensure stabilization of Afghanistan, which is necessary for an enabling environment for economic growth. Therefore, we have prioritized systemic elimination of corruption through establishing a number of results-oriented anti-corruption mechanisms, which include:
o The Anti-Corruption Justice Center;
o The National Procurement Committee;
o The High Council on Governance, Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption; and
o A one-stop-shop for issuing all permits.
• Some of our initiatives have already delivered tangible outcomes. For example, the National Procurement Committee, co-chaired by our leaders, has approved 1250 contracts, valued at $2.3 billion. This process has saved Afghanistan some $220 million.
• In tandem with these top-down anti-corruption measures and far-reaching judicial reforms, we have taken effective steps to ensure fiscal sustainability and integrity of public finance and commercial banking. This has resulted in an unprecedented revenue collection of $1.2 billion by our Ministry of Finance in the first quarter of the current fiscal year (2016-17). It reflects a 48% increase compared to the same quarter in the last fiscal year, exceeding the IMF target by 7% or $79 million.
• In the area of social development, we have continued to make strides. Today, our cabinet consists of four female ministers, nine female deputy ministers, one female governor, and one female deputy attorney general. Meanwhile, the number of Afghan female diplomats has continued to rise, with three female ambassadors representing the country in Indonesia, Norway, and Switzerland.
• In the areas of education and healthcare, we have also improved our previous socio-economic indicators. In 2015, close to a million new students enrolled in schools across Afghanistan. The total enrollment for grades 1-14 has now reached 9.4 million, 39.3% of whom are female.
• At the same time, more and more Afghans at the city, district, and village levels have accessed healthcare, with 58 million visitors having been provided with health services in 2015. This shows an increase of 3 million compared to the previous year.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In the recent Brussels Conference, H.E President Ashraf Ghani reminded the international community of the intertwined, central challenges of poverty and terrorism that confront many of our countries in Eurasia. To address these challenges, the President urged that “we join our forces, keep our focus, and move together.”
Indeed, one major regional cooperation platform is the Heart of Asia – Istanbul Process, whose next Ministerial Meeting takes place in India soon, through which to address the central challenges of poverty and terrorism. That is why we encourage the Heart of Asia countries and those from beyond the region that participate in the Process as supporting states to fully operationalize the Process as a results-oriented mechanism of regional security and economic cooperation, in support of Afghanistan’s sustainable development.
At the same time, we welcome OECD’s support with institutional capacity building and reform monitoring, in line with the objectives of our National Peace and Development Framework during the Transformation Decade (2014-2024).
There is much that we can benefit from the OECD Eurasia Competitiveness Program and its regional initiatives, in which we wish to become a much more active participant in the months ahead. In the coming weeks, we welcome to Afghanistan a senior OECD delegation to discuss and identify a few areas of results-oriented cooperation, as we strive for achieving greater “productivity” and “resilience” in Afghanistan.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I conclude by thanking OECD member-states again for their recent pledges of financial assistance in the Brussels Conference, as well as our neighbors and partners throughout the Eurasia region for their cooperation and support.
We look forward to working with all of them to stabilize Afghanistan as a way to ensure broader regional stability and peace so that our economic development goals materialize for the good of our nations and others in the international community.