Tag Archives: Economy

All the world’s an asylum

The Associated Press exposes an interesting leading indicator in the report posted at FoxNews.com, Afghan asylum bids hit 10-year high.  “More Afghans fled the country and sought asylum abroad in 2011 than in any other year since the start of the decade-long war, suggesting that many are looking for their own exit strategy as international troops prepare to withdraw.”

The announced end date for our presence in Afghanistan is going to suck more than just troops out of the country; anyone with the means and sense to leave will probalby not delay much longer (i.e. the people needed here if this country is to have a chance).  The quotes from the ‘man-on-the-street’ in the AP report likely reflect the dominant perspective of the al-Gaeda (see Confessions of a Mullah Warrior, Masood Farivar, p. 290) but will certainly be discounted by Washington as anecdotal.

Regarding the “progress” the coalition is making:

“I don’t think anything will improve in three or five years, so it’s better to leave now,” said Ahmad, who expects to leave for Iran within a few weeks. He asked to be identified only by his first name for fear of being arrested.  “If foreign troops leave, the situation will only get worse, not better,” he said.

 Regarding the influence of the Taliban:

Some Afghans fear that once most foreign troops leave, the Taliban will take over more territory and civil war could erupt along ethnic lines, as it did in the 1990s.

[Esmat Adine] says he left his wife and infant son at home in Afghanistan and paid $5,000 to travel to Australia after the Taliban threatened to kill him for working with American aid workers.

Regarding the economy:

Others worry the Afghan economy will collapse if foreign aid dries up.

There is little doubt that the coalition demand for goods and services has inflated prices in Afghanistan.  Many planners assume a decrease in such costs when the ‘big money’ leaves which will stretch the foreign aid dollars provided.  I’m not an economist but this may not happen as hoped; rapid deflation will result in a decrease in purchasing power leaving merchants unable to sell their products, unable to buy new product, unable to pay their employees.  The result is a downward spiraling economy (F.A. Hayek is rolling over in his grave after that analysis).

Another common perception is that the Afghans that assisted the U.S. and Coalition in any way will be the first targets when security decreases and the Taliban or Haqqani Network moves to restore their prominence in the country.  The one silver lining of announcing a withdrawal date is that those friendly (or at least neutral) to the U.S. have a chance of survival by preparing now. 

In any case, while the numbers in Afghanistan of those that like us will decrease significantly after we leave, the number of people that don’t like us will probably remain unchanged.

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.

–Shakespeare, As You Like It

Renewable Energy ≠ Afghan Right

With the reconstruction of Afghanistan in progress, there are countless Good Idea Fairies circulating renewable energy as the solution to peace and harmony for Afghanistan and the Middle East at large.

Unlike the satellites that support the video phones NTM-A is buying, at least Afghans can feel the wind and see the sun, so solar and wind power would seem logical possibilities to the enthusiastic do-gooder.  Enter the solution:  a combination windmill and solar panel built within the past year.

Set against the idyllic Little Ghar, the energy farm looks like a picture of environmentally responsible modernity.  Closer inspection reveals that the solar panel is caked with dust preventing even a small amount of electrical generation.  What you cannot see is that, in spite of the breezy day, the windmill was frozen.

But someone was able to get a generator installed and running!  Afghans practice the time-honored method of break-down maintenance.  With U.S. funding, that usually means repair-by-replacement.  The one renewable energy solution the Afghans implemented themselves–other than the U.S. dollar–was working quite effectively (a formerly common American fixture–the clothes line).  In a dusty environment with equipment that requires regular attention, renewable energy is not a great solution for the technologically dearth Afghanistan.  Ultimately, Afghans resort to what they know and trust–clothes lines and generators.

Assuming a 30kw generator, the nearly $1,000,000 ‘renewable energy farm’ could have purchased enough fuel to power the generator at full load for 4 years. . . and pay for the generator!

The reality is that,  if/when Afghanistan becomes self-sufficient, their growing affluence will be able to afford and sustain advanced technologies that are better for the environment.  While academics may discount Kuznets curves (because of the belief that ‘dirty’ industries are just exported by richer countries to the poorer), as society at-large has progressed it has moved to cleaner forms of energy; free markets incentivize the reduction of waste in delivering any product, including power (at least in free-market societies), as it makes that product more affordable and attractive over a dirty, wasteful option. 

On the bright side, renewable energy does make us feel good about ourselves while enhancing a great corporate welfare program.

It ain’t easy being green.