Ashgabat, 31 August 2015 (nCa) — The world community including Turkmenistan has poured billions of dollars into Afghanistan in the hope of turning it around. Unfortunately, Afghanistan has very little to show so far.
President Berdymuhamedov visited Turkmenistan on 27 August 2015. He had extensive talks with President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah, covering all the areas of mutual interest.
Berdymuhamedov promised to keep supplying electricity to Afghanistan at heavily subsidized rates up to 2017. Even though the price is not made public, it is reportedly 50% of the price Turkmenistan would normally charge for its electricity. This arrangement is in place since 2002.
Turkmenistan also assured that Afghanistan will continue to receive gasoline, lubricants and LPG at hefty rebate.
In addition, Turkmenistan is funding some hospitals and schools in Afghanistan.
Traditionally, every year Turkmenistan sends wheat flour, clothes and footwear, school supplies, medicines and other goods as friendship gift to Afghanistan.
Considering the size of the economy of Turkmenistan, this is a huge contribution. It gains even more significance when we keep in mind that Turkmenistan was never a part of any coalition that smashed and devastated Afghanistan. Whatever Turkmenistan is doing is purely on the strength of its friendship toward a neighbor in need; there is no underlying remorse or guilt for any wrongdoing.
Turkmenistan has also undertaken to lead the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) gas pipeline consortium, committing to pick at least 51% of the tab.
Turkmenistan is spearheading the TAT (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan) railway line project and will finance and build about 35 km of railway line inside the territory of Afghanistan. Turkmenistan has already revamped the rail segment from Kushka to Turgundi, a stretch of 35 km and the railway depot at Turgundi inside Afghanistan.
The role of Turkmenistan in the rebuild of Afghanistan always remains under-appreciated because of three reasons: 1. Unlike some other countries, Turkmenistan doesn’t blow its own trumpet; 2. Also, unlike some other countries, Turkmenistan doesn’t flaunt its humanitarian work to gain political mileage; and 3. Afghanistan, if at all, only acknowledges the contribution of Turkmenistan as an afterthought.
Even if this remains a thankless job so far, Turkmenistan will certainly continue to do everything in its power to uplift Afghanistan. For instance, at the 70th session of the UN General Assembly, Turkmenistan will take up the cause of Afghanistan in a big way. One of the points in Turkmenistan’s portfolio for the session is the call for fortification of the Istanbul Process.
While Turkmenistan is going out of its way to assist Afghanistan, there is the need to look at the broader picture now.
Afghanistan, sadly, is a house divided against itself; mired in corruption and intrigue.
The US spending on Afghanistan had exceeded $ 104 billion by July 2014. Which means that a year ago already, the money poured by the USA into Afghanistan had overtaken the funds spent on the Marshall Plan which helped rebuild Europe after WWII.
The comparison is certainly misleading because all of the Marshall Plan was aimed at rebuilding the infrastructure and employment opportunities whereas in Afghanistan some 60% of $ 104 billion have gone into raising the army and the police.
Nevertheless, the fact remains that Afghanistan was just one country but Europe was a whole continent. There is also huge disparity between the population of the Marshall Plan countries and Afghanistan.
The total spending on Marshall Plan was $ 103 billion in today’s dollar value ($ 11.78 billion by 1952). The total population of the 18 countries that received funding under the Marshall Plan from 1948 to 1952 was about 307 million. The per capita aid thus comes to $38.5, which in today’s dollar will be about $ 386.
Afghanistan had already received $ 104 billion from the USA alone by July 2014. Considering that the population of Afghanistan is around 30 million, it comes to nearly $ 3467 per capita.
And, we are not counting the billions of dollars provided by the other donors.
We are also not counting the aid provided by countries like Turkmenistan in the shape of heavily subsidized commodities and essentials.
What is there to show?
The politically incorrect but undeniable fact is that Afghanistan is nor trying to carry its own weight.
On top of the deeply rooted corruption and inefficiency, the two-headed leadership is a curse for Afghanistan. The Loya Jirga next year may try to correct this anomaly but by that time it could be too late.