Over the weekend, I’ve had the privilege of getting some questions answered by an Afghan woman, Nooriya Khan, that has lived in Afghanistan both during its heyday and its low point, during the period of 1996-2001. Before I commence my article on how we can perhaps ameliorate the horrific situation in a once great nation, please find below my interview with Mrs. Khan. My thanks to her and her relatives, including Daniel, for helping me gain a unique insight into life in Afghanistan.
1. What noticeable changes did you see in Afghanistan under previous rule?
Under the previous rule, Afghan men had to have a beard, Afghan women had to have a burka and the men had to pray 5 times a day in the Mosque. This didn’t happen before, so this change was a really big surprise for me.
2. What was your best memory in Afghanistan?
My university was 85% peaceful; complete peace and no wars (school alone). It was a big contrast from the rest of the country, so I really loved going there.
3. On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the worst and 10 being the best, how would you rate your experience in Afghanistan? Why?
5 out of 10. I had a fear of the suicide bombers, certain places were highly restricted so therefore I wasn’t able to go out very much, because I was a women, and in those times, women were heavily oppressed in Afghanistan.
4. Was Afghanistan really the way the media has covered it in recent years?
Not all of Afghanistan is a war zone, as the media have showed. Some cities have had shootings, kidnapping the rich, among other things. Although, not all parts, primarily the main cities had these factors. The rest of Afghanistan is very peaceful (especially the rural zones), contrary to what the media show.
5. What is your opinion of the Afghan people?
The Afghan people are lovely, they are well educated and certainly want to bring peace to the whole of Afghanistan. They are very welcoming and hospitable.
6. What is your opinion on the current refugee crisis, specifically with Afghan refugees?
At the moment, a large portion of people are unemployed; there is not enough jobs so thus many Afghans are forced to look for jobs in different countries. Most educated Afghans leave the country also to gain sustainable jobs. I am very sorry for the Afghan refugees who have to go through such a perilous journey to get to a safe place.
7. How are conditions for women in Afghanistan?
The conditions for Afghan women are not very good, they can’t choose their own lifestyles; their whole family controls them. They are never left alone and must wear a headscarf (a hijab). They also cannot go anywhere without a male family member accompanying them.
8. Do you think Afghanistan can ever go back to its old, peaceful ways?
At this moment in time, I can’t say anything. There are so many issues: the corrupt government, amongst others. It may never be possible.
How can Afghanistan be saved? – Shrey Srivastava
Due to the image portrayed of Afghanistan by the mass media in recent years, if you asked a Westerner what they thought of Afghanistan today, they would most likely say “war zone”. However, what most do not know is that Afghanistan used to be a vibrant, thriving country, with its capital city, Kabul, being a bustling, cosmopolitan tourist hub. Due to subsequent pernicious invasions and wars, however, all this has gone, replaced by a wasteland that has, it seems, no hope of recovery. Despite all of this, I firmly believe that Afghanistan can rise from the ashes, indeed like the proverbial phoenix, and once again become an incredible country to visit and stay in. However, in my opinion, they will only achieve this milestone if they start implementing some crucial economic policies, the first of which is to offer economic incentives for mining companies to set up operations there.
According to the Afghan government’s top mining official, Afghanistan has $3 trillion worth of untapped mineral deposits. However, due to conflict over recent decades and the marauding presence of radical groups, they have not been able to put these deposits to full use. Now that they have a democratically elected President in Ashraf Ghani, however, it is time for them to begin making use of these deposits, in order to provide funds to ensure the long term economic security of the country. As Afghanistan is not the first country a company thinks about when deciding which country to open operations in, Ghani and his government need to incentivise these corporations to come to Afghanistan, by promising tax credits and lowering corporation tax for these companies.
As a result, mining giants such as Glencore may want to open office there. This would help Afghanistan find the resources to exploit these mineral deposits, potentially lifting the country’s finances massively. Although, granted, even with these economic incentives, corporations may not want to come to Afghanistan, the incentive for a regular Afghan to open a mining corporation within Afghanistan itself will be very strong, and therefore Afghanistan perhaps will have the resources to finally make use of those deposits, through this economic incentivisation.
It is unequivocal that the first thing that any damaged country should look to, to repair itself, is education. Afghanistan’s literacy rate is shockingly poor, with only 38.2% of all adults and 24.2% of all females being literate. If people are not educated, then they will not be able to pursue many jobs, with the exception of in agriculture, so therefore are more and more likely to be allured by the utopian ideologies of Islamist radicalism. With vast majority of educated men and women being likely to see beyond the fanciful promises of terrorist organisations, there is a lesser likelihood of a major terrorist force coming up and bringing the country to its knees again. In addition to this, as the educated men and women can get relatively high paying jobs this way, they will not feel the need to change anything about their lives, curbing the rise of radical thoughts within society.
Once the country’s finances have been somewhat put back into order, and the radical thoughts emerging within society have been curbed, there is a need to let people save money, to rebuild their financially shattered lives. Therefore, it is only logical that Afghanistan should cut income tax levels, at least initially, in order for more people to be able to save a greater proportion of their income. I would argue that the optimum taxation rate for Afghanistan, owing to the Laffer Curve, should be quite low, so that people have more money with which to invest in Afghan businesses. As savings are equal to investment, people will save an equal proportion of their money as they invest. The investment into Afghan businesses will therefore grow these businesses at an unprecedented rate, meaning that they have to employ more people to match supply with demand, ensuring more people an income, and making unemployment go down. This combined with the increasing levels of tourism from a safer Afghanistan, should, hopefully, be enough to restore Afghanistan to past glories, and hopefully prove my lovely Afghan interviewee wrong about the future prospects of the country.