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Afghanistan Hopes Future Aid Will Go Directly to Government


Aghanistan's finance minister has asked Japan to continue its assistance to Afghanistan. The appeal comes ahead of a donors' conference in London next week, at which several countries are to unveil their future aid pledges for Afghanistan.

Finance Minister Anwar ul-Haq Ahadi says the Afghan government expects in five to six years to generate enough revenue to finance most of its regular needs.

But in the meantime, he told reporters in Tokyo Friday, it will need international support to avoid sinking back into the violence and anarchy that has plagued the nation in recent decades.

Before meeting with the Japanese finance minister, Mr. Ahadi told reporters that Afghanistan welcomes a coming World Bank report urging donor countries to funnel more aid directly to his government. The report also urges Kabul to strengthen its fiduciary standards.

"We'll be very pleased if that report from the World Bank were to come out on Monday," he said. "I think that the Ministry of Finance has improved its ability to handle international assistance money."

The country is struggling to recover from more than two decades of war and economic neglect. It is heavily dependent on foreign aid to rebuild its infrastructure and keep the government going. But much of the aid does not go to the government directly, which makes it hard for Kabul to plan its budget and address issues it considers a priority.

Mr. Ahadi and other Afghan officials were in Tokyo this week to talk with Japanese officials ahead of a meeting of Afghanistan's major donors in London. They say they expect the United States to make a "big announcement" regarding the amount of its future contributions at the conference next week.

They also termed Tokyo's support as critical, noting that Japan has contributed one billion dollars for the reconstruction of Afghanistan over the past four years.

In response to questions about Afghanistan's thriving opium trade, Ahadi said his country has "not lost the war on drugs," but he acknowledged that opium constitutes one-third of his country's economy and eradicating it without compensating poppy farmers and others in the business would plunge Afghanistan into economic depression.

"The total size of the economy is less than $3 billion," noted the finance minister. "I think for the entire international community to get rid of or to reduce the problem of drugs by 80 percent or so, $3 billion might not be such a huge price to pay for that. But without providing an adequate alternative livelihood, I'm afraid that we will create huge economic problems."

Security concerns have deterred foreign and domestic involvement in Afghanistan for decades. But Friday said that Afghanistan now is safer than it has ever been in modern times. He said terrorists in Afghanistan are sometimes able to carry out attacks, just as they are in such advanced nations as the United States, Britain and Israel.

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