In an interview with TOLOnews on Sunday, William Byrd, former head of the World Bank, lent credence to the claim against the current administration that changes in government positions a year ahead of a presidential election are politically motivated.
“I think if it is only one year away from an election, or less than one year away from an election, it doesn’t make much of a point to reshuffle ministers. And, unavoidably, reshuffling and changing acting responsibilities gives the impression that those changes are politically motivated,” he said.
Regarding the current National Procurement Authority controversy, Bird commented:
“I think the risk when you centralize an activity like procurement is that you also centralize corruption rather than preventing it.”
Byrd, in an article for the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) on September 16, writes that rifts between the Afghan government and international donors will imperil the prospects for peace in Afghanistan.
He writes that “the government’s marginalization, in large part self-inflicted, is a danger to the stabilization and development of Afghanistan. In the interests of Afghans, stability in the region, and US hopes for a sustainable peace, this rift in the dialogue on aid needs to be repaired.”
He says that this disconnect has multiple roots but is caused to a large extent by the government’s abrupt shuffling of officials in key ministries, and by policy changes that raise fears of a more politicized approach to economic governance, plus increased corruption.
He says that a peace process is likely to result in significant changes in Afghanistan’s constitutional and political structures, but the basic functions of fiscal, economic and aid management will remain vital. Therefore, he suggests that the very real gains since 2001 must not be dissipated.
“While much ground already has been ceded by the Afghan government, its marginalization can and should be reversed in the near future,” Byrd writes. “The government should stop the apparent politicization of core ministries and agencies and return to a more strategic and holistic approach to economic management, development strategy, private sector development and aid coordination.”
On the international side, he says, the exclusion of the Afghan government from the September 19 meeting in London about Afghanistan aid was a mistake, and this snub should not be repeated in the future.
He further writes that the government’s absence from such international conferences is symptomatic of an emerging divide, over the past year, between Kabul and its international partners as they plan aid, development and peace-related programs.
According to Byrd, both sides need to recognize their interdependencies and pursue reasoned discussions, with priorities and positions evolving toward building a reasonable degree of consensus on the substantive agenda for development and aid in the context of possible peace.