Five years after his leadership in the National Unity Government, President Ashraf Ghani this week admitted that 90 percent of the country’s population is living below the poverty line, having less than $2 daily income. Analysts say this indicates a catastrophic situation in the country.
“This nation, despite 90 percent of the population being under the two dollar-a-day poverty line, has the spirit of an able nation,” Ghani said on Saturday as he announced a new relief package for needy families struggling with the COVID-19 crisis. The food distribution plan announced by Ghani costs $244 million, the highest relief fund in the country so far.
Political analysts see these figures as evidence of the president's failure to alleviate poverty despite billions of foreign aid.
“It is a regret that the president of Afghanistan is confessing that his people are living below the poverty line,” said Shahzada Massoud, a former presidential adviser.
“The poverty and calamity that are facing a group of Afghans are the consequences of illegitimate governance, political corruption and the consequences of false slogans by those who do not have trust in the collective destiny and who are gambling the security and political lives of the people of Afghanistan for their own interests,” said Asif Ashna, an analyst.
“Our president is primarily responsible, and then his insufficient ministers who have been working as acting ministers for years,” said Attaullah Mohammadi, an MP.
According to Integrity Watch Afghanistan, almost $2 billion every year has been paid as bribes to corrupt government officials over the last decade, something that critics say has had a big role in an increase in poverty in the country.
“Bribes have increased every year over the last 10 years, and this has a direct connection with the increase in poverty in the country,” said Nasir Taimuri, a researcher at Integrity Watch Afghanistan.
Data shows that in 2014 when the National Unity Government was formed, 38 percent of the population was living below the poverty line. This increased to 56 percent by the end of 2016.
“Unemployment is increasing day by day and more youth are becoming jobless,” said Yarghal Ahmadzai, a former government official.
A Kabul resident, Lailai, is one of many families struggling with meeting their daily expenses while living in poverty. Laila said her husband was a painter and lost his life due to depression after losing his job.
Laila, who cares for five children, said she is also jobless. “My son used to work as a vendor, but he lost his income due to the lockdown,” she said.