Coping with Change
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RAY SUAREZ: For our update on Afghanistan we turn to that country’s finance minister, Ashraf Ghani. Before returning to his native country after the ouster of Taliban, he was a senior anthropologist at the World Bank here in Washington. He was a frequent guest on the NewsHour before and during the Afghan war a year and a half ago.
Welcome back to the program.
ASHRAF GHANI: Pleasure to be with you.
RAY SUAREZ: Has Afghanistan been getting the attention it needs from the United States while this country has been pursuing the war in Iraq?
ASHRAF GHANI: Well, the evidence of that is that Gen. Franks was in Kabul. For a commander of a major war to leave the theater of operation to go to another country is a very strong indication of commitment, as was Dr. Halizad, the special envoi of President Bush. Both left Afghanistan for Iraq. The dialogue we have been hearing in Washington and in Kabul has been sustained, focused, and indicative of the strength of the relationship. We value this dialogue very much.
RAY SUAREZ: What about the people of Afghanistan? If you ask them how things have been going, can they see the tangible results of all the work that these various funders and your new government has been doing to get this country back on its feet?
ASHRAF GHANI: Their reaction is going to be twofold. One is that the expectations were raised very high when the process of peace began in Afghanistan. So, in terms of reconstruction, and fundamental change in their livelihoods, that change has not occurred because the amount of resources pledged for that is really very small. Five billion dollars is hardly going to make a dent in the fundamental poverty and deprivation that the country faces. And the bulk of the resources last year went to humanitarian needs.
What did not happen, also — it’s important to note this — there was no starvation, mass starvation, there were no riots, there was no disruption, despite the fact that two million people came back. But it’s a hard life. To change that life to a decent life, if not a comfortable life, requires very sustained attention, and that’s why I’m asking for a multiyear framework. We need 12 to 15 percent growth for five years in order to generate the domestic revenues that would give us then a sustained basis for improving the livelihood of our people. And for that, we need $15 billion. The nature of the commitment that was made in Tokyo last year were less than five.
RAY SUAREZ: So a third of what you say you need?
ASHRAF GHANI: Yes.
RAY SUAREZ: Your country is of a similar size to Iraq; has just gone through an experience very similar in that it’s had a government removed by outside military force. What would you tell them about what they face in the next couple of years? What has Afghanistan learned about the difficulties that you would want the Iraqis to understand?
ASHRAF GHANI: The first thing, of course, is to know the differences. There was absolutely no question in the case of Afghanistan that the United States… there’s a total consensus in Afghan society across the board that the people see the partnership with the West as fundamental to development of the country. This is a country where there is a belief, the absolute majority of the country, that a moderate tolerant Islam in partnership with the West is the way to the future. We were subject to one of the worst forms was dictatorship and terrorists, you know, I mean, it was a terrorist state that was operating from our country.
Moving from that to getting democratic government is the most important thing, I think, where credibility depends is whether you establish good governance, where rule of law established and where the population can have trust that corruption is not going to prevail, but a small elite is not going to benefit, while the majority of people are going to be deprived. And in that, geographic equity and equity across groups are fundamental to getting it right.
So, there’s a balance between creating institutions, ways of organizing the government in the private sector, and there are ways of delivering results. And this is a balance that is very difficult, but one must get it right in order to establish the trust and to make sure that people participate in the process and have the ownership of the process, meaning that they identify and think that they are part and parcel of it.
RAY SUAREZ: Well, for all the similarities, there is one big decision: Afghanistan has no oil. Does that give Iraq an advantage in reconstruction?
ASHRAF GHANI: Both have been an advantage and a major challenge. And that the challenge is that, with the exception of Norway, no country that has an oil well has gotten good government strength because oil usually is resulted in a form of rent that is freed the government from accountability to the people. Instead, a form of patronage is developed where the people rely on those that govern for distribution of resources. So in that kind of system, to get accountability right has been a very difficult challenge.
The second area is that the nature of reconstruction projects that are undertaken at times are not done with a degree of care regarding efficiency. You look at Venezuela for one time. They started massive series of projects that were not sustainable. And this has been a story that has repeated itself. So in the case of Iraq, on the one hand it allows the people to have a major resource that would free them from external assistance in the long-term. But on the other hand, they really have to get democratic control of that resource and efficient use of it. These would be major challenges.
RAY SUAREZ: Mr. Ghani, thanks for coming by.
ASHRAF GHANI: Pleasure.