Afghan economy will survive US departure: minister
Afghanistan's economy will easily survive the pending departure of US and other international troops next year, Afghan Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal insisted on Wednesday.
"There will be an impact, no doubt about it, but ... the leaving of the (US) military will not lead to the collapse of our economy," Zakhilwal told reporters at the United Nations in Geneva.
The minister, who was set to give a lecture Thursday on his country's outlook after 2014, brushed aside concern that Afghanistan's corruption-plagued economy could crumble following the drop in foreign funding once the troops have gone home.
The withdrawal "will bring down economic growth," he acknowledged, but stressed that the country over the past decade had enjoyed double-digit growth.
After 2014, he said, growth has been projected to dip to about six percent.
"Six percent is not bad growth, and it certainly is not an economic collapse," he said.
In July, donor nations pledged $16 billion to prevent Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world, from sliding back into turmoil after foreign combat troops leave.
Zakhilwal insisted that Afghanistan, which has long been heavily dependent on aid, was intent upon moving towards complete self-reliance within the next decade.
He pointed out that Afghanistan had an abundance of mineral resources, which have been valued at more than $1 trillion by US experts, and that it also produced high quality fruit such as pomegranates that were already very popular in India.
"The opportunities are abundant," the minister said.
Zakhilwal also announced Wednesday a new partnership with the UN's Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) to create a 12-month Executive Master Degree Programme for around 20 professionals from his ministry.
The aim is to strengthen the ministerial officials' capacities in the realm of effective governance and sustainable development, UNITAR said.
"Hopefully they will emerge as the future leaders of my country," Zakhilwal said.
© 2013 AFP