The Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) and Harakat-AICFO (Afghanistan Investment Climate Facility Organization) jointly organized the “Business Climate Workshop” and “Anti-Corruption Seminar” at Balkh Province on 13th February, 2013. The purpose of these gatherings was to bring economic stockholders together to address challenges facing business climate at north zone of Afghanistan and find applicable solutions on this matter. It is the second Workshop & Seminar. The first was organized at Herat province three weeks ago on 21st January.
The Business Climate Workshop was attended by Deputy Governor of Balkh, Board Members of Balkh CCI, senior officials of Harakat-AICFO, government respective directors and some entrepreneurs in total 130 participants.
Mr. Zaher Wahdat, the Deputy Governor, said that despite challenges exist in the country, the private sector has significantly grown, especially in the North of Afghanistan. “Government has attempted to provide the necessary business infrastructure, but we still face much more difficulties that are needed to be solved by a public and private partnership to improve the framework for doing business.”
Mr. Younosi, Chairman of Balkh CCI complained that most of decisions that have been taken in the meetings between local government and private sector, have not been implemented yet. “Creating a stable business climate needs a strong government will. It is the main factor for an enduring business climate.” Younosi said.
Mr. Naseem Akbar, CEO of Harakat-AICFO underlined that the culture in the public and private sector is a main factor for the spread of corruption in the country. That’s why, he called upon the stakeholders to agree on a joint decision to combat corruption. He also mentioned some barriers facing business climate in the country. Complicated laws and regulations, the non-existence of a specific policy on anti-corruption by government, bureaucracy and the lack of investment policies are examples.
Mr. Hashem Barna, Director General of Commerce and Industries of Balkh Province, highlighted that the new economic system, Market Economy, can not respond to Afghanistan’s needs. Because, the country has suddenly been transferred from a managed state economy to a market economy, which is conducted by private sector. “Unfortunately, neither government has the capacity to monitor the economy nor the private sector is familiar to its responsibilities to conduct demand-driven activities. Thus, we need to revise the economy framework to specify the role of government and private sector separately. And then we will approach to an enduring economic system.” He said
In the following workshop the participants were grouped into five working groups and discussed a particular topic, such as loan terms and high interests, laws and regulations, public outreach on commercial laws and regulations, complicated procurement procedures, arbitration tribunals procedures, ownership of properties, competition environment, infrastructures, quality of products and the creation of laboratories, capacity building of private sector and the role of civil society and private sector on anti-corruption.
The working groups drafted on as a result of the discussion policy recommendations, which are the following: Islamic banking system should be conducted, some financial institutions such as Agriculture Development Fund should offers loan directly to private businesses not through third party such associations and unions, seasonal loans specially for agricultural firms shall be considered, Value Added Tax should be removed, capacity building for private sector is needed, creating of new institute for monitoring of implementation of laws, private banks should be flexible on loan guaranty, providing of facilitation for businesswomen at industrial parks, creating of arbitration center, revising of commercial laws and regulations, establishing of laboratories, supporting of SMEs and campaigning of anti-corruption attitude among private sector.
At the afternoon, the Anti-Corruption Seminar was held. In addition to the participants, the Director General of Treasury of the province, the Director General of Economy and Parliamentary Coordinator of CIPE (Center for International Private Enterprises) attended the seminar as well. All participations agreed that anti-corruption needs a strong political will on the side of the public and private sector.
Mr. Akbar said that corruption needs to be tackled from the society not from the government. Mr. Murad, Parliamentary Coordinator of CIPE blamed private sector in the growth of corruption. “We are witnessing that sometime private companies even give bribes to proceed their legal documents. It shows that private sector either do not know its rights or still don’t want to reduce corruption.” He said
Other participants also discussed the existence of mafia and corruption networks in Afghanistan, the non-execution of President’s order in provinces, the lack of a modern and computerized admin system in government offices, the low salaries for government employees, the existence of multiple anti-corruption institutions, complicated laws and regulations, bureaucracy and activity of middlemen in collecting of taxes and duties.
At end of the seminar, Director General of Treasury promised that his department will closely cooperate with ACCI and Harakat to reduce corruption.
ACCI and Harakat are committed to hold such workshops and seminars in other provinces to improve business climate and strengthen the anti-corruption across Afghanistan.