Officials at the Ministry of Finance (MoF) on Friday announced that the World Bank has pledged to provide 21 million USD to the Afghan government in order to help it standardize the services provided at customs offices around the country as well as address their ongoing corruption-related issues.
Customs Houses in Afghanistan are often made out to be the head of the snake when it comes to the country's administrative incompetence and malfeasance problems. While being a hotbed of bribery and extortion, customs offices, which oversee the inflow of all goods into Afghanistan, also lack standardized methods and infrastructure, which makes quality control and consistency in their work nearly impossible. All in all, the continued deficiencies in customs have proven a major drain on the country's public revenue streams.
But the Finance Ministry appears optimistic about the reform agenda thanks to the new boost from the World Bank. "With the support of the World Bank's financial assistance, we will be able to overcome the issues facing customs and ensure transparency in revenue collections, and the money will be spent through the national budget," MoF spokesman Ajmal Hamid said.
Based on recommendations made by the World Bank and the Afghan government, the following reform items are expected to be pursued with the financial backing provided by the bank: the standardization of the oversight process at customs; a capacity building program for customs employees; the establishment of more infrastructure at customs, including a monitoring system and database; and the establishment of a central monitoring body to oversee custom activities.
Independent economic analysts have welcomed the World Bank aid, but emphasized the importance of addressing corruption at customs. "The aid indicates that the internationalcommunity and international institutions are determined to continue their cooperation in Afghanistan," economist Syed Massoud told TOLOnews. "The implementation of reforms at customs is crucial for the present government to prevent corruption."