As everyone knows Afghanistan is a country located in the heart of Asia; it has significant geographical location with vast natural resources. Unluckily today Afghanistan is amongst the poorest countries in the world, and according to the recent survey by the Sustainable Solutions Network (SSN) Afghans are amongst the most miserable people. Today Afghanistan is poor, not because it has nothing, but because it lacks inclusive economic institutions and it’s poor because those who have power make choices that create poverty. As Acemoglu and Robinson well stated in their book (Why Nations Fail) ’’Nations fail when they have extractive economic institutions, supported by extractive political institutions that impede and even block economic growth’’. In fact a minority of Afghanistan’s population have as much wealth as the remaining rest of the population combined; regrettably these minority narrow elite govern the country in their will.
Corruption and Nepotism are two important phenomena that are less talked about and hardly discussed in the media, but critically weakened Afghanistan’s economic situation and considerably hamper economic growth. In fragile and war torn countries such as Afghanistan, corruption can deeply undermine the effectiveness and legitimacy of nascent government institutions. The dangers arising by corruption are far more important than Terrorism itself.
Government of Few by the few and for the few
Corruption has become deep-rooted in Afghan society and unfortunately it is now integrated as part of culture. Even Former Afghan President Karzai during his government publically encouraged people to take bribe so long as they spent them at home rather than investing them abroad. Therefore it peaked during Karzai’s Tenure, where billions of USD assigned for development projects were wasted and disappeared, mostly gone in the pockets of former warlords and drug mafia, only a tiny amount of money was invested in infrastructure buildings. It was also during Karzai’s regime, Afghanistan consecutively ranked as one of the most corrupt nations in the world tied up with North Korea and Somalia according to Transparency international.
Ashraf Ghani a technocrat and an intellectual person have took office as an Afghan president with aim of economic growth and combat corruption. It was during his campaign President Ashraf Ghani laid out his strong policy in the fight against corruption and given big promises in terms of Administrative reforms, economic reforms, political reforms, employing Young educated people to the governmental sectors and so on. Not only these agendas were greatly welcomed inside Afghanistan, but also has raised a sense of hope amongst International Community especially country donors which were highly frustrated with the previous Afghan government over the corruption and lack of accountability.
Since the beginning of Ghani’s time in power not only the government failed to tackle factors of corruption and reduce bribery, but instead it increased, even Ashraf Ghani recently during his public speech accepted people spend billions of USD each year in bribery
As The New York Times recently quoted ’’Corruption can no longer be considered as a cancer on the system: it is the system’’ that influenced every department within Government, but most considerably affected judicial system, which is considered to be an important pillar of society. The way judicial institutions operate has a serious impact on a country’s economic and development performance, it’s often believed in Afghanistan ‘‘money buys justice’’. If someone were to define the judicial system of the country it would be’’ a judicial system for the rich and powerful people’’. People totally lost trust in court; it is believed that the functioning of unjust judicial services resulting from corruption has lead to an increase in insurgency and widening the gap between the public and the government. A report published in 2013 by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) indicated half of Afghans paid bribe while requesting a public service and the total amount of bribe paid to government officials estimated to be around 4 billion USD.
Let’s not put the responsibility for widespread corruption on the shoulder of Afghan Government alone, the US alone spent more than $70 billion from 2002 to 2012 in Afghanistan, but due to poor coordination and lack of transparency even between American contractors caused huge disappearance of money. The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) repeatedly raised their concern about the way of money spending by American government. It was until recent that SIGAR published a report indicating the US Department of Defence spent $ 43 million on a useless gas station which really estimated to cost $5000, this report clearly shows that the phenomena of Corruption is beyond our expectation.
Another factor which causes corruption is the bureaucratic system of Afghanistan and the old fashioned office types, it’s often called over bureaucratic, the complication of procedures on one hand and the dysfunction of bureaucracy on the other hand leads people to wait for their administrative works and stuck for long time. Therefore the administrative system definitely needs to improve the bureaucratic setup and make it flexible and more functional.
Nepotism is another common characteristic of Afghanistan; evidently nepotism plays a vital role in the spread of corruption, despite Ashraf Ghani’s lofty promises to bring dramatic reforms and to put educated people to the right governmental positions, but still nepotism remains an obstacle to economic growth. To enrol in governmental positions in Afghanistan the level of qualification, talent, experience and professions cannot grant you the job, regrettably it is determined by the family connections, political dependency and personal links for instance if we see the structure of Foreign Affairs Ministry from the top diplomats to the bottoms have links with each others. Thus nepotism causes the lack of intellectual and motivated people in the various governmental positions, and moreover leads to the flight of young talented people to Europe or other countries in the region.
Despite of the over a year of Ashraf Ghani’s being in power not a single step has been taken towards reforms and eradication of corruption, still major challenges remain ahead of his National Unity Government (NUG). Therefore the factors threatening stability and continuity of Afghanistan is not Terrorism alone, I firmly believe that corruption, marginalisation, nepotism, dependent economic institutions which caused massive unemployment, flight of talented young generation from the country and importantly lack of inclusive political institution causes the rise of extremism and fuel their tanks. I am really afraid Afghan government would be able to tackle all the major mentioned factors in the nearby future. As Its only concentration would be how to fight insurgency and to loose or regain the control of a district or a city.
View expressed in this article are of the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Pajhwok’s editorial policy.