Economy

Private sector invested $50 million in Afghan economy in past two months

By Najibullah

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A worker is seen at a cake factory inaugurated May 17 in Herat Industrial City. [Omar/Salaam Times]

KABUL -- Manufacturers across Afghanistan have received a boost in the form of $50 million (3.9 billion AFN) in private investment in recent months, according to the Ministry of Industry and Commerce (MoIC).

Over the past two months, 10 factories began operating in Kandahar, Herat and Nangarhar provinces, said MoIC spokesperson Ahmad Fawad Ahmadi.

"Local Afghan investors have invested in these factories," he said, adding that another 40 factories are preparing to start operations in the coming months.

"We will soon inaugurate a non-alcoholic beverage production company with a total investment of about $20 million [1.5 billion AFN] in Herat province," he added. "As many as 1,000 workers are expected to work in the factory."

The MoIC recently opened three industrial plants in Shurandam Industrial Park in Kandahar with a total investment of $1.2 million [94 million AFN], the ministry announced May 24.

The plants produce diapers, sanitary pads, napkins and polyvinyl chloride pipes and have provided more than 200 jobs for residents of the province.

Earlier in that month, the ministry inaugurated three production plants with several separate production lines in Herat Industrial City, the MoIC announced May 18.

The plants have provided 500 direct and indirect jobs through $10 million [786 million AFN] in investments.

Militant recruiting ground

The government's attention to the manufacturing sector and to job creation is a welcome alternative to the Taliban's false promises, members of parliament and other citizens say.

Rather than investing in Afghanistan's future through infrastructure projects and creating sustainable jobs, the Taliban are exploiting unemployed youth by recruiting them to fight, prolonging the war and destruction.

"Poverty and unemployment in Afghanistan have reached such a level that our youth are forced to join groups fighting against the government and eventually lose their lives," said Ghulam Wali Afghan, a member of the Wolesi Jirga from Helmand Province.

"The Taliban and other terrorist groups are [taking advantage of] poverty and unemployment and recruit our people to join their fighting," he said.

In some parts of Afghanistan, the Taliban are exploiting unemployment and poverty to recruit insurgents, confirmed Mahbooba Rahmat, a member of the Wolesi Jirga from Samangan.

"However, in some provinces such as Samangan, residents, especially the youth, have refused to join the Taliban despite all the challenges," she said.

Many young residents of Samangan province have gone abroad to seek work rather than join the Taliban because they are well aware of the adverse impact of joining the Taliban and of fighting other Afghans, she said.

Farhad, a resident of Kunduz province who sells fruit in Kabul, described how the Taliban had pressured him to join them.

"I was unemployed for two years," he said under a pseudonym. "The Taliban knew that I was so desperate to make money to survive; therefore, they invited me, and I joined them to make money."

"After two months serving with the group, I noticed so many others like me were forced to join the Taliban because of unemployment," he said.

He realised the Taliban's actions were wrong and cruel because they oppress the Afghan people and extort money from them, he said.

"My conscience did not allow me to continue working with the Taliban terrorist group, so I decided to come to Kabul with my wife and two children and earn a legitimate living," he said.

Creating jobs

The government is working to create more jobs to reduce Afghans' likelihood of being recruited by terrorist groups, said Abdul Fatah Ashrat Ahmadzai, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

"The government is sparing no efforts to address unemployment issues," he said.

"Our understanding is that the informed and knowledgeable will never join terrorist and extremist groups as a way of escaping poverty and unemployment."

"The government has been advertising and filling positions within its structure through the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission," Ahmadzai said.

By providing vocational education, the ministry has created opportunities for uneducated or semi-educated citizens to acquire skills before entering the labour market, Ahmadzai said.

The ministry has signed a memorandum of understanding to send Afghans abroad for work, Ahmadzai said, adding that a number of labourers will soon depart for the United Arab Emirates and other countries.

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