Kabul’s New Elite: The Foreign Consultants
The going rate paid by the Taliban for an attack on a police checkpoint in the western part of Afghanistan: $4 (repeat FOUR Dollars). While foreign consultants working for the Western aid agencies in Kabul can command salaries of $250,000 to $500,000 a year. Such are the profound ironies one comes across in the war-torn Afghanistan.
“The high degree of wastage of aid money in Afghanistan has long been an open secret. In 2006, Jean Mazurelle, the then country director of the World Bank, calculated that between 35 per cent and 40 per cent of aid was ‘badly spent’. ‘The wastage of aid is sky-high,’ he said. ‘There is real looting going on, mainly by private enterprises. It is a scandal’,” reports The Independent.
” Whole districts of Kabul have already been taken over or rebuilt to accommodate Westerners working for aid agencies or embassies. ‘I have just rented out this building for $30,000 a month to an aid organisation,’ said Torialai Bahadery, the director of Property Consulting Afghanistan, which specialises in renting to foreigners.
” ‘It was so expensive because it has 24 rooms with en-suite bathrooms as well as armoured doors and bullet-proof windows,’ he explained, pointing to a picture of a cavernous mansion.
“Though 77 per cent of Afghans lack access to clean water, Mr Bahadery said that aid agencies and the foreign contractors who work for them insist that every bedroom should have an en-suite bathroom and this often doubles the cost of accommodation.
Some officials working for non-governmental organisations in Afghanistan are themselves troubled by the amount of money which foreign government officials and their aid agencies spend on staff compared to the poverty of the Afghan government.
” ‘I was in Badakhshan province in northern Afghanistan which has a population of 830,000, most of whom depend on farming,’ said Matt Waldman, the head of policy and advocacy for Oxfam in Kabul. ‘The entire budget of the local department of agriculture, irrigation and livestock, which is extremely important for farmers in Badakhshan, is just $40,000. This would be the pay of an expatriate consultant in Kabul for a few months’.”
Photo above courtesy Getty Images: Kabul City shopping centre, which opened in 2005