Kabul, Afghanistan, 6 June 2007 – Afghan government officials, private sector figures, civil society leaders and donor community representatives have agreed on a series of actions designed to create a favourable climate for Afghanistan’s struggling private sector.
In a series of discussions during a two-day meeting in Kabul, dubbed the Enabling Environment Conference, numerous participants praised Afghanistan’s effort in drafting business-friendly laws. But many warned that the effort to turn the country’s private sector into a sustainable engine of growth and development could fail unless the laws are speedily and fairly applied. They also urged a better coordination of international development assistance to Afghanistan.
In a statement adopted at the end of the conference, the participants recommended a series of measures. They include the creation and enforcement of a private sector-friendly legal climate and reduction of bureaucratic red tape. The statement called for government decisions to be implemented “predictably, consistently, competently and impartially.” It also provided timeframes for the implementation of these measures.
More than 300 people attended the conference, organised jointly by the office of Afghanistan’s President, Hamid Karzai, and His Highness the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and the Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) which has promoted numerous development projects throughout Afghanistan. The conference was sponsored by the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme and the Asian Development Bank.
The conference’s closing statement said the “pervasive and negative influence of the opium economy and weaknesses in government institutions” contributed to the hardships of people and inhibited progress toward the country’s social, economic and cultural environment.
Several senior Afghan government officials told the conference that they were aware of the many problems and the need to remedy them without further delay but they also noted that Afghanistan was only just emerging from decades of conflict and years of mismanagement of the economy by previous governments.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz who delivered the key-note address at the conferences closing session, called for wealthy Western nations to open their markets to Afghan goods. He also proposed the establishment of what he called “reconstruction opportunity zones” in extremely poor areas that straddle the volatile border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz stressed the importance of Afghanistan’s private sector and the need for the government to create the right conditions to attract foreign investment. “Afghanistan is in a position to do well, as long as it can jump the curve,” he said. The Pakistani Prime Minister also emphasised his country’s strategic interest in helping Afghanistan back on its feet.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz met with the Enabling Conference’s co-hosts -- Afghan President Karzai and His Highness the Aga Khan to discuss some of the challenges faced by Afghanistan.
At the conference, international development officials praised Afghanistan’s efforts to date, emphasising that the country has made huge strides since 2001. They also lauded the general consensus among Afghanistan’s decision makers that more needed to be done.
“This is the beginning but not the end,” said Tom Kessinger, General Manager of the Aga Khan Foundation which is part of the AKDN.
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