martedì 28 maggio 2013

Concerns after 2014 and Peace Talks in Afghanistan: Optimism and Confidence in Herat?

by Ahmadollah Omary*

Transition of security and the possibility of a process of peace talks with the Taleban are a concern to most Afghans. House prices are falling, investors are getting more careful and more people are contemplating to leave the country because of concerns that the situation may get worse. However, the situation is not the same in all of the country; provincial differences are many. I am looking what is happening, and what these processes mean to the people of Herat, the capital of one of the biggest and most affluent provinces of Afghanistan.

In my opinion, people of Herat, infact, seems more confident of both the future of economy and their security. Herat’s geographical location, its culture and people’s priorities and lifestyles are all factors influencing the economic situation of the city and that can be considered important reasons behind why the outlook in Herat is so different.

Herat’s location on the border with both Iran and Turkmenistan makes the city one of the economic hubs of Afghanistan. Huge volumes of imported and exported products transit through the city, and the income generated by border revenues has long constituted an asset for the province, allowing for it to stand on its own financially in times of crises, and often constituting a major bone of contention between those in power at the local level and Kabul.

The Herati people’s attitude to savings is another major reason that affects the city’s economic situation. In Herat, for instance, very few people are used to luxury expenditures. Some examples of extravagancies, like expensive wedding halls, luxurious shopping malls and very expensive households - are not frequently seen in Herat. Women in Herat also play a very significant role in ensuring these savings. When buying expensive jewelry, for example, Herati women think of it as both as a deposit and a luxury item. So, when buying gold, Herati women pay attention to its future value, more than to considerations of fashion and style, and therefore, they usually buy pure gold that can be sold approximately at the same value it was bought.

The favorable geographic location, along with this saving attitude, contributed to make Herat's people one of the richest town in the country. Meanwhile, the economy of Kabul has depended to a great extent on international aid. The source of income of Kabul has been dependent, more or less directly, on international aid over the last ten years. Although the generous aid of the international community has had a significant impact on Herat's economy as well, fontunately it has not represented the only source of income. There has been a process of reconstruction by building roads, creating industrial parks and job opportunities.(Currently, there are 250 active factories and 50 out of activity inside Herat’s industrial parks).

Economy is not the only concern for Afghans for the post 2014 period; anxiety about the sustainability of security is another major trend among Afghans. For many in Kabul, the withdrawal of foreign troops after 2014 means the beginning of a civil war. Since Kabul was the hotspot of the Civil War between 1992-1996, its inhabitants are left with many bad memories of those years, and therefore are more worried of possible explosions of urban violence after.

* Project Officer SudgestAid Scarl - Herat, Afghanistan

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