Afghanistan’s “Staggering” Economic Growth Doesn’t Stem Poverty

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Recently, Alastair McKechnie, the World Bank director for Afghanistan, called the changes in Afghanistan “staggering.” According to McKechnie, the Afghan economy has grown at a 10% rate, and though he concedes that there is no available data on unemployment, “people even in rural areas look more prosperous,” and are “generally much better off.”

Now the Bush administration has requested an additional $11.8 billion from Congress “to accelerate Afghan reconstruction projects and security forces training in 2007-2008,” and to “help President Karzai defeat our common enemies.” This, they claim, is to demonstrate a “commitment to the Afghan people.”

Hopefully, the average Afghan, including the Afghan government, will reap some benefits, but so far it’s not looking good. IRIN reports that since the 2001, about 60 donors have spent $13 billion in reconstruction and development activities; yet “out of every US dollar spent by donors in Afghanistan’s reconstruction 80 cents finds its way out of the country.” The “rest has been spent by donors themselves,” with some Afghan officials stating that the money has been allocated through foreign subcontractors, leaving little accountability of where all the aid money is going.

In February, 64 countries and 11 international organizations met in London, pledging $10.5 billion to Afghanistan by 2010 for “security, governance and economic development.” Not for the basic needs of the citizens, 6.5 million of whom are starving, most having no access to potable water, sanitation, and heath and social services, and more than half of Afghans living below the poverty line.

Further, the San Francisco Chronicle pointed out that perhaps 40% of promised aid is actually delivered, and,

“70% of U.S. aid is contingent upon the recipient spending it on American stuff, including especially American-made armaments. The upshot is that 86 cents of every dollar of U.S. aid is phantom aid.”

Why has pouring billions of dollars into Afghanistan been important? It’s for “reconstruction,” but reconstructing Afghanistan for the purposes of the “Great Game“– a game that’s about energy exports and ensuring US hegemony in South Asia.

—Neha Inamdar

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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