SOUTH ASIA: AFGHANISTAN News Briefs
add insult to injury, much of the diesel is meant for the USAID power
plant at Tarakhil that has become a symbol of the sort of massive and
widespread reconstruction waste and abuse that has gone on in this
country for years. The plant, built by Black & Veatch, is now
projected to cost $300 million, three times the price of similar plants
in neighboring Pakistan. In addition, it will only be capable of
supplying one-third of the power the Uzbek power line can deliver far
less expensively. Nor will the Uzbek line be the only source of cheap
electricity. KEC's engineers have broken ground on a second power line
-- this one from Tajikistan -- that will supply 300 megawatts of
electricity to Kabul, three times what the Tarakhil plant will produce
at a bargain basement construction cost of $28 million.
full capacity, we burn 600,000 liters a day," Jack Currie, the
Scottish manager of the Tarakhil plant told me as I toured it in late
October. "And just how much will that cost the Afghan
taxpayer?" I asked. "Well," replied Currie, "you can
assume a dollar a liter of diesel." I quickly calculated and
arrived at an annual total of $219 million per year, not including the
plant's maintenance costs (estimated at another $60 million a year).
Currie looked astonished when I mentioned the figure.
took these numbers to Mohammed Khan, a member of the Afghan parliament
and chair of its energy committee. "Will you approve the funds for
this diesel power plant?" I asked. The soft-spoken Khan, a trained
electrical engineer who worked for many years in the Kabul Electricity
Department, answered simply: "No. Not unless we have an
why build a power plant that, in terms of kilowatt hours made available,
costs 26 times as much as the Indian-built power line? Anwar-ul-Haq
Ahadi, Afghan's former finance minister, recalls the process. The idea,
he says, originally came from then-US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ronald
Neumann, who dreamed it up in April 2007 shortly before he left the
country. He apparently envisioned it as a strategic alternative to the
Uzbek power line. After all, at that time the repressive Uzbek regime
had denied Washington the use of what was seen as a key military base in
Central Asia, Karshi-Khanabad, and so functionally kicked US troops out
of the country. Naturally, then, it was also seen as an unreliable
political partner for the US-backed regime of Hamid Karzai.
up, USAID officials told the Karzai government that they could build a
diesel plant in Kabul in just over two years for $120 million. It would,
the ambassador indicated, be functional just in time for the 2009
elections, allowing Karzai to claim that he had provided power to the
electricity-starved capital. The Afghan president readily agreed to the
plan, instructing anxious officials at the ministry of finance to
approve the scheme in early 2007. He even agreed to put $20 million of
Afghan funds into the project -- after being assured that the US would
pay for the rest.
the next two years, while Indian engineers raced the Americans to
provide power to Kabul (ultimately winning handily), the ministry of
energy and water was having a hard time keeping the lights on during
Kabul's harsh winters. And while the city waited for these promised
sources of power to come on line, the new political-business elite, with
its specially set up companies like Zahid Walid, was winning
government-issued contracts to supply diesel to the old Kabul power
plant -- and making money hand over fist.
Walid was hardly the only politically well-connected business to clean
up: Ghazanfar, a company from Mazar-i-Sharif, also won $17 million in
diesel-supply contracts in the winter of 2006-2007, and then an
astonishing $78 million in new contracts for 2008-early 2009. Not
surprisingly, Ghazanfar turns out to be run by a family that is very
close to President Karzai. (One sister, Hosn Banu Ghazanfar, is the
women's minister and a brother is a member of parliament.)
In March 2009, the Ghazanfars opened a new bank in the capital,
plastering the city with giant billboard advertisements featuring a
cascade of gold coins. Less than six months later, the bank wrote out a
two million dollar interest-free loan to Karzai for his election
campaign, paying back the favors his government had done for them over
the previous three years.
[Copyright 2009 Pratap Chatterjee]
Chatterjee is an investigative journalist and senior editor at
CorpWatch. He is the author of of Halliburton's Army: How a
Well-Connected Texas Oil Company Revolutionized the Way America Makes
War (Nation Books, 2009) and Iraq, Inc. (Seven Stories Press, 2004). Dr
Ali Safi contributed research and reporting for this article.
Work on railway line to begin soon: Officials from
agreement to the effect was reached at talks between the two sides on
January 16. The Uzbek delegation was led by Railways Director Rahmatove
while the Afghan team was headed by acting Deputy Minister of Public Works
Dr. Ahmad Shah Waheed.
Governor's spokesman Munir Farhad told Pajhwok Afghan News the 75-km railway track would cost $129 million, to be provided by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
The construction of another railway line -- linking the airport in Mazar-i-Sharif to Dara-i-Sauf district of neighbouring Samangan province -- would be launched in the second phase, he revealed.
The Uzbek director said work on the scheme would begin in a week's time and would take a year to complete. The project would help strengthen trade relations between the two countries, he hoped Dr. Waheed said the scheme would provide work opportunities for hundreds of people and boost the revenue of the Hairatan dry port besides facilitating the transportation of goods.
is the gateway for almost half of
Value of old bills tumbles in Kabul: A number of money changers in Kabul are paying less for old currency notes of 10 to 100 afghanis while charging more for new bills of the same denomination.
The value differential is taking place despite Da Afghanistan Bank's an announcement that both old and new notes have the same worth. Residents complain the practical situation negates the central bank's directive.
The district's administrative head told Pajhwok Afghan News hens would be distributed to the women after completion of the training. Qasim Desiwal said the participants would get egg-laying hens.
He hoped the training and the support would enable women to earn respectable living for their families. He said each trained woman would get 15 hens from a local organisation called Afghanistan Development.
Khwaja Omari is the most peaceful district of Ghazni, located around 17 kilometres north of the provincial capital.
Director of Agriculture and Livestock Sultan Hussain Abbasyar -- confident the assistance would help impoverished families -- said they planned to launch such projects in other districts.
[Pajhwok Afghan News]