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Afghan officials look to Colonie

Town part of U.S. tour meant to help forge future of Afghanistan

The Town of Colonie might not have the same culture, landscape or problems that the country of Afghanistan faces, but officials from that faraway land hope they can learn something here all the same.

The Town of Colonie might not have the same culture, landscape or problems that the country of Afghanistan faces, but officials from that faraway land hope they can learn something here all the same. Photo by Zan Strumfeld.

— One of the main components of the American tour is to highlight some governmental and economic processes that the Afghanistan government officials can bring back to their country.

“We have some wonderful examples to show them of how you can create municipalities and councils … that it can be democratic and participatory and people pay taxes,” Conroy-LaCivita said. “All of these things that we don’t think that much about … infrastructure, sewer department and a planning department. They have an opportunity to create a tremendous community.”

The Afghan officials said it was their first time in the United States, and so far they had learned about the budgetary challenges the country faces.

“So far our program is focused on the public sector and budgeting and finance … it will really help us to take this experience to our country in order to build a sustainable and accountable process in government in our own departments,” Director of the Ministry of Counternarcotics Sumaya Shaheen said.

Shaheen said her country’s national revenue covers only 70 percent of its budget, and there is a 30 percent deficit.

“We need to sustain a system in order to decrease the deficit of the budget … it has a direct effect on the economy of our country and government,” she said.

Shaheen added that while Afghanistan is leaving “30 years of dark time,” the country has “tried a lot to sustain a good government and to work for the development of the country.” All of the officials said they were grateful for the help given by the United States and are concerned about what will happen in 2014, when the U.S. will hand over all responsibilities to Afghanistan.

“Please do not leave the Afghan people alone after 2014 … we will be good partners … we need your assistance and friendship,” parliament member Lailoma Wali Hakami said through interpreter Mohammad Faieq Zarif.

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