We’re Back! With Highlights from SIGAR.
PDT’s Afghanistan team is back on the blog train, folks. Prepare yourself for an onslaught of posts from multiple members of our 40 person-strong team! We’ll be coming at you with posts spanning the gamut of Afghanistan, economic, and international development-related topics, such as: female entrepreneurship in post-conflict settings; expeditionary economics; transitioning a non-profit development organization into a sustainable, social enterprise; civ-mil relations and more on the militarization of aid; a Mythbusters-worthy investigation into the quality and cost of Afghan bottled water; a discussion of our elation at Rajiv Shah’s plans to overhaul the way USAID does development; tips on how to measure job creation in a conflict zone; the economic impact of Kabul’s wintertime pollution dustbowl; and what Afghans really think about the protests sweeping the Muslim world.
First topic on the docket is a quick overview of the latest quarterly edition of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report, which hit the world wide web on Monday. The 160+ page report, signed off on by the recently departed Anthony Fields (Maj. Gen., Ret.), is chock full of juicy tidbits on the progress and efficiency (or inefficiency, as the case may be) of US reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. Fascinating stuff, if that’s your thing. The prolific Joshua Foust has already provided highlights of the report over at Registan.net, and for good measure I’ll just add some points that caught my eye here:
- The top twenty recipients of US reconstruction funding reads like alphabet soup of usual suspects, though for the first time I noticed the company in the #3 slot: Kabuljan Construction Company. I have, surprisingly, never heard of them, but I suspect that they are a Turkish company hiding behind a quasi-Afghan name. (p.7)
- The report finds a continuation of the trends involving unsustainable US Military Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP) projects and lack of a comprehensive Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) facilities construction strategy. (p.8) CERP projects have ballooned in scope and value, though the Fiscal Year 2011 U.S. National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) seeks to rein in this trend. (p.30)
- Security Assistance Office-Afghanistan (SAO-A) has been auditing the Ministry of the Interior’s Procurement Department since last summer. The findings showed that MoI’s antiquated systems were preventing efficient and transparent processes. We at PDT know firsthand that MoI is making efforts to modernize its procurement system in response to the audits; for example, Afghan bidders can now access MoI solicitations from several different places, to include PDT’s online tender portal. We expect to see even more solicitations this year from MoI, as CSTC-A is gradually transferring contracting responsibility for the Afghan National Police to the ministry. (p.64)
- Donor spending and demand-driven service sector growth is propelling GDP growth toward 9%, per the World Bank. Afghanistan’s leading export is now dried fruits and seeds, comprising more than half of all exports. The services sector is the leading economic driver, with the communications sector growing by an impressive 45%. Disappointingly, the World Bank predicts that Afghanistan’s industrial sector will shrink. (p. 87-89)
- USAID provides some interesting job creation statistics, based on their cash-for-work and Afghan First programs. Specifically, USAID claims that the Afghan First local procurement program has contracted work worth US$1.12 billion to 4,227 Afghan firms, which employed 85,650 Afghans. (p.89)
- Energy is an area of reconstruction with limited results for the U.S. Government, particularly in mission critical areas like Kandahar. Apparently, the US Military’s “transitional energy solution” is to use CERP funds to buy diesel generators and fuel, until the big projects are eventually completed. (p.92)
- There are many other audits, reports, and oversight activities that are ongoing. Of particular interest is the Government Accountability Office’s oversight of the Department of Defense’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations and DoD Business Vetting in Afghanistan. (p. 125-126).
There, now you don’t need to read the whole report. Have any burning questions about business and development work in Afghanistan? Ask away! And find more fun facts and interesting information from our Afghanistan-based team on Facebook and Twitter.