UN calls for infrastructure investment in Afghanistan

By Richard High02 July 2009

The United Nation's special representative of the secretary-general, Kai Eide, has called for greater investment in large infrastructure projects in Afghanistan, saying they would "connect the region together and stimulate economic growth."

Speaking at the end of the G8 meeting in Trieste (25 and 26 June), Mr Eide, who heads the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), added that, "Today most of the economic growth stems from the influx of donor resources. We all know this is not sustainable. Afghanistan needs to generate its own wealth," with infrastructure development "the most critical precondition for economic growth."

Investment in the country's transport infrastructure networks, said Mr Eide, would "turn the country from being a barrier in the region to being a land bridge, enabling products to go from the east - from India and Pakistan through to Afghanistan and north or west."

Infrastructure investment would also generate revenue, stimulating growth and employment, said Mr Eide, who told delegates to the meeting that two railway lines were already being planned, one from the northern border to Torkham, and the other from Iran to the northeast. Planned railway lines would run close to existing iron ore deposits, making their extraction economically feasible.

Mr Eide called on donors to "fill in the gaps" saying transport infrastructure would also allow the country to develop its vast natural resources. "Afghanistan is a poor country, but it does not need to be poor," he added.

Mr Eide also called for investment in the energy generation and supply sectors.

"With additional transport and energy infrastructure, investments that are now economically unfeasible would become possible."

The future economic value of these projects, said Mr Eide, means they could be financed by loans as well as grants. However, he underlined that development required "a more strategic perspective that looks to the long-term."

"Investment in large projects that can drive sustainable economic development in Afghanistan and the region will deliver returns, economic and political, in both the short and the long-term," he concluded.

The meeting in Trieste was focused on Afghanistan and its regional role. The foreign ministers of the G8 - France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK, US, Canada and Russia - as well as of Afghanistan, Pakistan, other countries in the region and Afghanistan's development partners all attended the meeting.

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