In a letter to US President Joe Biden on Wednesday, more than 70 economists and experts, including Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, urged Washington and other countries to release Afghanistan's central bank assets.
The letter said foreign capitals needed to return the roughly $9 billion in Afghan central bank assets to Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) to allow the economy to function.
“In order to mitigate the humanitarian crisis and set the Afghan economy on a path toward recovery, we urge you to allow DAB to reclaim its international reserves,” Reuters said, quoting the letter.
The letter, also addressed to US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, was signed by 71 economists and academic experts, many based in the United States as well as Germany, India and the United Kingdom. Among them was former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis and Stiglitz, a Columbia University professor who received the Nobel Prize in economics in 2001 and is on the advisory board to the Washington-based think tank the Center for Economic and Policy Research, which organised the letter.
According to the letter, Afghanistan's economy has plunged deep into crisis since the Islamic Emirate took over almost a year ago as foreign forces withdrew.
Economists said the country is severely hampered by the inability of its central bank to function without access to its reserves.
Officials of Da Afghanistan Bank said that if the frozen assets of Afghanistan are released, the bank has the ability to manage them.
"This is Afghans' money, we are prepared for a third department to oversee it, and we are aware of its uses. What more can you say about the central bank's independence? We totally agree with the investigation of money and its use in accordance with the law, the financing of terrorism, and the application of the drug legislation,” said Lutfulhaq Noor Pesarlai, a senior advisor of the bank.
Nearly seven billion dollars of Afghan assets are kept in the United States of America, and half of this money is waiting for the court's decision on whether it will be handed over to the victims of the 9/11 attacks or not.
Meanwhile, some economists believe that this money should not be spent on government expenses.
"Foreign reserves greatly benefit a nation, especially the central bank, in terms of exchange rate risk. There is no need to exchange one's own currency with a reserve currency to conduct transactions,” said Siyar Quraishi, an economist.
"One thing is clear, though—and this is connected to how the usage of nine billion dollars is managed—it will really have its effects on the Afghan economy, but short-term,” said Sayed Masoud, another economist.
Afghanistan's foreign reserves have been frozen in thirteen banks and eight countries.