Donor companies at one of the interminable meetings held so frequently - this one last weekend - pledged some $10 billion in aid for Afghanistan to "cover" for the inevitable withdrawal of foreign troops from the country. But as the Chairwoman of Transparency International writes in a piece in the IHT the war-torn country must first eradicate corruption and ensure that there is transparency in what government officials do.
The major donors and Afghan government officials meeting in Tokyo on Sunday to discuss future aid to Afghanistan have to face up to a bitter truth: As much as $1 billion of the $8 billion donated in the past eight years has been lost to corruption. All governments in Tokyo must show that business as usual cannot continue
Turning off the aid taps is not an option. This would hurt the poorest, increase instability and likely lead to illicit flows taking the place of donor funding. Donors and the Afghan government need an enforceable plan to tackle the issue. They don’t need more words.
Corruption in the country is nothing new, but it is worsening. Afghanistan has had a long history of conflict, contraband and war. It falls almost at the bottom of the list of the most corrupt and poorly governed countries, including the Corruption Perceptions Index produced by Transparency International.
Estimates from local watchdog Integrity Watch Afghanistan show bribe payments — for everything from enrolling in elementary school to getting a permit — doubled between 2007 and 2009, topping $1 billion a year. Corruption and black-market trading, which is closely linked to drugs and arms trafficking, have reached over $12 billion annually, according to calculations by NATO.
Yet the Afghan government is reportedly going to the meeting without a clear plan of attack against corruption. There is a strategy — known as the National Priority Program on Transparency and Accountability — but it has not been fully endorsed by the government or international representatives. A large part of the critique is that it is not realistic or ambitious enough.