Economy

New factories open in Afghanistan amid hopes for peace

By Omar

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Employees at a solar manufacturing plant in Herat Industrial City are seen here at work December 17. [Omar]

HERAT -- As peace talks progress between the Afghan government and the Taliban, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce reports an increase in private investment and in the establishment of industrial firms in the country.

In December alone, five factories with more than $25 million (1.9 billion AFN) worth of private investment began operations in Herat Industrial City, manufacturing solar energy panels, metal pipes, floodgates for small dams, chicken feed and flour.

Progress in the peace process, albeit slow, has encouraged investors, said Minister of Industry and Commerce Nisar Ahmad Ghoryani.

"By supporting industrial parks, the government is trying to reduce imports from neighbouring countries and instead increase the export of domestic products," he said, speaking at Herat Industrial City on December 17.

Afghanistan is able to meet 65% of the domestic demand for products, he said.

Creating job opportunities

Employees of industrial factories in Herat Province told Salaam Times they are hopeful for lasting peace and for the establishment of more factories.

Establishing new factories in Herat Industrial City has created hundreds of jobs and slowed the tide of migrant workers moving abroad in search of work, said Kazem Nazari, an employee at a solar manufacturing plant in the industrial city.

Growth and development are linked to peace, he said, adding that ensuring peace in Afghanistan will enable the establishment of more manufacturing firms.

"Those who spend a lot of money on war should stop doing so and instead spend their money on building factories," he said. "If we build factories, there will be more jobs for youth and less capital flight."

Mustafa Wahidi, who works at a solar manufacturing firm in the industrial city, said he is "very happy to have a permanent job" since his university graduation.

Many investors are interested in Afghanistan, he said, "but due to the war and insecurity, they are forced to invest in neighbouring countries and the region".

With peace, he said, there will be further opportunities for the establishment of industrial firms that will provide the population with jobs.

While the country remains at war, the establishment of industrial firms and launch of infrastructure projects point to a brighter future, said Zekria Faqiri, another employee at the solar manufacturing firm.

"War has devastated the country. Nothing is or will be achieved through war," he said, adding that Afghanistan's 40-year war has turned it into a battleground for other countries' proxy wars.

"I call on all armed anti-government groups to join the peace talks so that peace can be ensured in Afghanistan and opportunities for growth and employment can be created," he said.

Fighting Iran's dumping policies

The Afghan government has stressed that it is doing everything it can to support the country's fledgling industrial sector.

The private sector has accused Iran of trying to harm Afghan industry through dumping policies, in which it offloads Iran-produced goods in Afghanistan to stifle that country's domestic market and prop up demand for Iranian products.

The government's policy is to fight Iran's dumping policies and put an end to smuggling, Herat Governor Sayed Wahid Qatali said December 17.

"Due to the dumping policies of neighbouring countries and the import of smuggled goods, four industrial firms were forced to close last week," he said.

"We had several meetings with the ambassadors of neighbouring countries over the past month, requesting them to stop these policies," he added, noting that dumping has disheartened Afghan industrialists and investors.

"We have increased the tariff on most imports from Iran," he said. "We also have increased monitoring in customs to prevent smuggled goods from entering the country."

"The greatest disappointment of the private sector is that dumping policies of neighbouring countries do not allow domestic products to compete with imported goods," Qatali said.

"In order to cripple Afghan industry, some countries import their products at very low prices to capture the market."

Increased interest in investment

The increased desire to invest in Afghanistan's industrial firms in recent years has created thousands of jobs across the country.

Afghanistan is now self sufficient in 56 sectors, compared to 15 six years ago, said Shir Baz Kaminzada, director general of Afghanistan's Chamber of Industries and Mines.

The number of manufacturing firms over the same period has increased from 2,000 to 5,000, he said, which indicates the rapid growth of investment.

"The increase in the number of industrial firms and the growth of investment in the country are the result of the government's support," he said, adding that the "government has supported domestic products with all its might".

Afghanistan exports products to various countries in 12 different sectors, Kaminzada added.

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A few days ago, the issue of expenses and costs of the food of the employees of presidential palace was reflected in the media. The cost of purchasing various types of meat, including quail and vegetable, was about 60 million Afghani. Poland has about 30 million cows, and it addresses all its economic issues from the dairy of the same cows. It earns a lot of money from the export of milk, yogurt, butter, etc. to the best delicious Polish chocolates. Therefore, believe me that the annual expenses of Polish cows is less than $ 10 million. Now you may compare the cost and food of a human being, especially the human beings inside the palace with that of the Polish cows, as how much different it is. Therefore, how should you and I expect a better economy and a better future,as the President and his subordinates have such expenses and food? A poetry verse says: Whatever gets rotten, you may put salt on it It is a matter of sadness as the salt itself gets rotten

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Afghanistan is a place for earning money. If rich people want to make money, they should come to Afghanistan, because 95% of the basic goods in this country are imported from abroad. If there are manufacturing companies in Afghanistan, there is no need for traders to import goods from abroad. Opening factories in Afghanistan is more beneficial in several dimensions than in other countries. First, Afghanistan is a country that is in conflict with its neighbors; that is, Pakistan and Iran, and from time to time these countries, especially Pakistan, close their borders with Afghanistan and the price of essential items increases, and domestic companies can solve this problem for ever. Second, Afghans who have invested in foreign countries have to compete with hundreds of other manufacturing companies, but in Afghanistan they have no competitors and can easily make the most money in the shortest period of time. To cut a long story short, there is a very good opportunity for manufacturing companies in Afghanistan. We hope that peace will come in the country soon so that the country will get rid of the needs of the neighboring countries. I call on all rich Afghans to come and invest in their country, peace is also on the way, and whether one wants it or not, America will bring peace to Afghanistan, and if God is willing, peace will come in this country.

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I am confident that if a lasting peace is achieved in Afghanistan, Afghanistan will grow very fast in the coming decade and Afghanistan’s economy will improve, because now Afghan investors have invested in other countries such as Pakistan, Iran, Dubai, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Central Asian countries and even in Europe and America, and if peace comes, a large number of these Afghan investors and rich people will invest in their own country and manufacture domestic products for their compatriots, as well as provide job opportunities for thousands of Afghans. There is no peace in the country now, and a number of Afghan investors who have invested in the country face hundreds of threats and dangers. Sometimes, they are threatened by armed robbers and sometimes threatened by the Taliban for not paying taxes.

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It is a matter of pleasure as such factories are inaugurated in Herat and in other parts of Afghanistan and thanks to Salaam Times for publishing such good news. Instead of supporting such programs, America and other friendly countries should spend money on building power dams in Afghanistan. Americans say they have spent more than $100 billion in Afghanistan, if it is true and if only $10 billion of that money was spent on building power dams, now Afghans would have been able to make factories in the country themselves and got rid of its needs from Iran, China and Pakistan.

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