Donors must help fight Afghan graft: Hamid Karzai

Karzai said on Monday he is encouraged by pledges to provide Afghanistan with USD 16 billion in aid.

Tokyo: President Hamid Karzai said on Monday he is encouraged by pledges to provide Afghanistan with USD 16 billion in aid, but warned that corruption in his country cannot be rooted out unless donors themselves take more action.

Karzai said fighting corruption is one of the most crucial chores Afghanistan now faces. But he said his government was not solely to blame, noting that the selection process for development projects, which have poured billions of dollars into his war-torn country`s fragile economy, can lead to influence-buying, while higher pay for foreign workers creates a wage gap that fuels resentment.

Karzai stressed that he is grateful for the pledges made yesterday at a conference in Tokyo to help his country after most foreign troops pull out or move into support roles by the end of 2014. Because of concerns over mismanagement and endemic corruption, that aid, to be provided over the next four years, is tied to a new monitoring process.

Karzai`s administration is widely seen as a patronage network, and the government is rife with corruption. Karzai has said before that he is fighting graft, but there have been few prosecutions of individuals accused of using their positions to enhance their personal wealth.

It is also widely agreed that corruption also involves foreigners. To create more accountability on both sides, aid will now be channeled mostly through the Afghan government budget and trusts by international organizations such as the World Bank.
Karzai stressed today that the way aid up until now has been administered has been a problem on both sides.

"The way donor assistance is given to Afghanistan, the way it is disbursed inside Afghanistan, the projects selected for such assistance and the manner of contracting and contractual mechanism, all of those are the issues that we have to address," he said. "On corruption, two hands must clap."

Karzai and his top ministers said the aid pledged at the Tokyo conference exceeded their expectations and sends a strong signal that the international community will not abandon Afghanistan after most troops leave.

It also sends a message to Karzai`s adversaries in the Taliban and elsewhere who are hoping his support will weaken once the troops are gone or move into support roles.

"Yesterday`s event reminded us once again, luckily, that the international community continues to be supportive of Afghanistan`s desire for a better life, for a stronger country, with strong and better institutions, and economy," he said.