Unemployment Needs Immediate Response
After more than eleven years of national and international organizations’ involvement in economic, social and political sectors, unemployment still rocks the country. More than 40 percent and more than half of the population lives below the poverty line. The situation of the state is undermined by the convergence of demographic, social, economic and of course political challenges. The current poor economic circumstances, while better than those under the Taliban are a key barrier to success for the coalition and Afghan government to win the war and bring a long-lasting peace.
Today great numbers of the citizens are employed in agriculture than any other sectors, so purchasing agricultural products locally is an effective and immediate path to increasing prosperity and bringing sustainable economic growth in the country. It also reduces the attractiveness of the illegal opium market, which is currently one of the largest sources of income for farmers and finances the Taliban militants in their fight while it contributes to the growing rate of drug addicts.
Perhaps, the Afghan government must find ways to severely restrain the drug trade that finances these armed groups. Attractive alternative employment encouragement could attract farmers away from producing poppies into producing legal crops or engaging in light manufacturing and services. With the price of opium reducing, this seems like an ideal time to adopt a policy to compensate farmers for the switch to enhance the adoption of agriculture productivities. A combination of credit, subsidies, and trade preferences should be put in place for this purpose if we are to bring sustainability and contribute to the betterment growth of our economy.
As of now, both the income of the government and the precarious economic equilibrium of the country are directly dependent on donor’s contributions and the country could thus suffer an economic downturn and severe uncertainties because of a reduction in development assistance funds. Therefore, instead we must develop our agriculture production if we are to escape the economic pressure beyond 2014.
Foreign companies also have great interventions in Afghanistan’s social, economic, agricultural and political growth. Thus, both the national and international NGOs working on the ground hire the foreigner expertise with competitive salary scales. At the same time, the same experts within the country suffer from lack of job opportunities. Hiring the foreign experts can be suitable ways of meeting their mission, claiming that Afghanistan lacks experts. The hiring of unskilled foreign expert, however, is unjustified and wasteful. It contributes to unemployment and sparks resentment among Afghans. According to a local television channel, most of the organizations have foreign employment working illegally with no tax paying that does not only increase the rate of unemployment, but also contributes to the violation of law and order. The unemployment rate may constantly increase as the U.S and other foreign nations leave Afghanistan beyond 2014. Most of the youths are compelled to seek jobs abroad for their survival or join the militant fighters.
Thanks to efforts by private citizens, nongovernmental organizations again and the international community, many of these children and teens, including girls are being educated, recruited and trained to work in the toughest and most competitive working environment. Most of the graduated are now recruited into local and international organizations with fair salary scale.
But all those who are under graduate, will struggle to enter into labor markets in which there is roughly 40 percent unemployment. The alternative may be to join the insurgency or leave the country. Both options will make rebuilding Afghanistan much harder once the U.S and other international organizations depart from the country. This will happen, when the security situation deteriorates and the non-governmental organizations stop operating on the ground due to security deterioration and the international community give up due to extra ordinary corruption in government departments.
More importantly, unemployment in Afghanistan is far worse than in any state of the word, therefore the response should be far more aggressive. So far funding has been misdirected. Most of the funds for the development program activities that seek in creating job opportunities go into the bank account of all those who are in its implementation. The funds and aids are almost restricted with those of its authorities before it reaches to the needy families and most poor provinces.
Aid and private investment should go hand in hand. With the people holding an estimated $16 billion abroad and lots of budget under the mattress, investment opportunities should be created at home both for Afghans and for foreign investors.
After all, in such circumstances, this is to call for a longer term approach to socio-economic development in Afghanistan, in which employment and decent work take a central role. While this is indeed, a major challenge given the economic and political uncertainties facing the country. A balance needs to be found between the urgency of stabilization and creating more sustainable jobs that lift people and their families out of poverty.
In the long and medium-run, the economic and social prospects will depend mostly on the following sectors:
- A satisfactory handover of security responsibilities to Afghan national police and army with full support, both by the U.S and international community even after they leave the region. And they must make sure that now the Afghan authorities are capable of taking the security responsibility in the best possible manner.
- A continuous and adequate financial commitment by the international community to stay engaged in supporting the country’s long-term development in different sectors.
- A positive and actual impact of the promising extraction and mining activities on the local economy to better foster development in services and productivity gains in the agriculture sector.
Most importantly, if the government is to negotiate with the Taliban militants and give the option to join the national security forces, run for political office, work for any number of legitimate businesses, or set up their own microenterprises, it is supposed to create new jobs so that there comes at least option for them not to join their fighting allied groups again after the negotiation.
Today the increase in security area is mainly due to unemployment. Youths are jobless and they need a source to feed their life. In absence of job opportunities, they are joining the Taliban or other militant groups in order to feed their family. Creating jobs for the millions of young people who are about to enter the labor force or escape the country may establish a long-lasting peace.
Above all, it is said that security is essential for every successful nation but not a sufficient condition for job creation. Good security condition may lead to job creation in Afghanistan at this point of time. In many states, it did lead to job creation. When confronting a crisis, policymakers must often adopt extraordinary measures to control the state and be able to provide the state’s requirements in best possible ways.
Abdul Samad Haidari is a writer of the Daily Afghanistan Express.