Can Afghanistan Overcome Corruption as 2014 Looms?
Background: The High Office of Oversight & Anti-corruption (HOOAC) in Afghanistan has said that corruption constitutes a serious threat to the country’s nation-building and development agenda. Over the years, it has increased dramatically and has emerged as one the biggest challenges facing the country’s reconstruction efforts and strengthening national and sub-national governance. According to the HOOAC website, the poor have started questioning the whole paradigm of development while the anti-government groups have started exploiting the disenchantment among the common people.
A recent New York Times report covered the resignation of seven senior members of the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency. The article appeared to reinforce the notion that corruption is continuing to undermine public trust in state institutions and blocking efforts for building democratic governance within Afghanistan.
In a letter to Mr. Kaerzai the seven officials said the agency, whose mission is to promote private business investment by Afghan and international companies, had enjoyed a good reputation among private sector companies and investors. But, they wrote, “we can no longer argue that A.I.S.A. is free from corruption.” Among those who resigned were the director of investment promotion, Rohullah Ahmadzai, and the director of research and policy, Omar Joya. The allegations, voiced at a televised news conference by those who signed the letter, ignited another debate about corruption in Afghanistan.
The Debate: The following articles offer a range of views on the debate concerning prospective anti-graft measures and Afghanistan’s future:
- Voice of America reported that Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, opened the donors’ conference in Tokyo on 8 July with a pledge to crack down on corruption in his country and issued a warning that instability in Afghanistan threatens the whole world. Mr. Karzai acknowledged that endemic corruption in Afghanistan has undermined previous aid efforts and he promised to do more to bring that under control.
- In an interview with Tolo News, published 17 July, US Ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Croker, said that the Afghan government’s anti-corruption efforts are likely to deliver and the international community will be there in support. During the interview, Crocker said he was optimistic that President Hamid Karzai’s statements to fight corruption would come through for the Afghan people.
- On 16 July the HOOAC head, Azizullah Lodin said the fight against graft could succeed only when security problems were overcome and the general public supported the drive. Addressing a gathering on the HOOAC’s effectiveness in Kabul, Lodin said the issue of corruption in government departments could not be resolved even if several organizations like HOOAC were created as long as there was no cooperation from the masses. Lodin went on to say that insecurity was a key factor hampering anti-corruption efforts. “If an official is involved in taking bribes in Logar or Maidan Wardak, how can we reach him when there is no security?” He claimed some parallel organizations had been established, creating hurdles to the war on corruption.
- TribeLive writes that critics of Karzai at home are wondering whether he’ll follow through on his latest promise to combat corruption. They note that while the president has repeatedly promised to improve governance and transparency, progress has been limited during his tenure.
Will Afghanistan be able to tighten the reins on corruption and maintain a stable and sustainable government before 2014?