Friday, June 09, 2006

Helmand's Economy

I hit this a lot at American Footprints, but for those who don't read both sites, I thought I'd call attention to the problems posed by current poppy eradication policies in Afghanistan. As noted a couple of days ago by RFE-RL, the campaign in Helmand province is failing. Officials are simply demanding bribes not to eradicate crops, which means that poor farmers are suffering since they can't afford to pay any sort of protection money and still make ends meet. Even if the crop were to be destroyed, however, you'd still have problems, and perhaps bigger ones. As noted by Senlis Council leader Emmanuel Reinert:
"'It represents more than 50 percent of the Helmand economy,' he added. 'The rest is basically international aid. So, it is used as a currency; it is used as a way to gain access to credit; it is the only economic activity. So, I would say there are two currencies in southern Afghanistan. It's opium and Pakistan's rupee.'

"That is a main reason why the Senlis Council recommends that eradication policies be rejected in favor of controlled, licensed opium poppy growing for pharmaceutical production.

"The Senlis Council says research carried out in Afghanistan shows that such a plan would not only be financially viable, but also workable on a local level. That is because the very traditional communities have strong social and ethical bonds that could be called upon, and the local jirgas (councils), shuras, and elders would readily cut their links with drug mafias.

"'It would be a way for the central government to collaborate with the local communities, and not to alienate them or antagonize them, as is currently the case with the eradication policy,' Reinert says. 'So, not only [will you] develop sustainable economic activities for Afghanistan, but on top of that you will bring the rule of law and good governance in the provinces.'"

Destroying the Afghan economy is not a good way to ensure the country's stability.


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