Taliban increase wheat payment as economic crisis deepens

A flag of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan hangs above a street in Kabul, Afghanistan October 19, 2021. Picture taken October 19, 2021. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

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KABUL, Jan 11 (Reuters) – The Taliban administration said on Tuesday it was expanding its “food-for-work” scheme, in which it uses donated wheat to pay thousands of public sector workers instead of cash as the financial crisis intensifies.

The wheat, largely donated by India to the previous U.S.-backed government in Kabul, is being used to pay 40,000 workers 10kg of wheat a day to work five hours a day, officials said. agriculture at a press conference.

The scheme, which has heavily paid laborers on public works programs in Kabul, will be rolled out across the country, they said.

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“We are ready to help our people as much as possible,” said Fazel Bari Fazli, deputy minister of administration and finance at the agriculture ministry.

The Taliban administration has already received an additional 18 tonnes of wheat from Pakistan with a promise of 37 tonnes more and is negotiating with India for 55 tonnes, according to Fazli.

“We have a lot of plans for the food-for-work program,” he said.

It was unclear how much of the donated wheat would be used as direct humanitarian aid and how much to pay the workers.

The expanding program underscores the growing conundrum facing the Taliban administration as cash in the country dries up and could raise questions among donors about the use of humanitarian aid for government purposes as strict restrictions remain on financial flows to the country.

International sanctions against Taliban members, the freezing of central bank assets and the sudden drop in international aid that once formed the backbone of the economy have left the Taliban government with tight public finances and an economic crisis. growing.

Humanitarian aid has continued as foreign governments try to prevent millions from starving to death, but it is designed to bypass Afghan government channels and is mostly distributed through international multilateral institutions.

UN agencies on Tuesday asked donors for $4.4 billion in humanitarian aid for Afghanistan in 2022, calling the funds an “essential stopper” to secure the country’s future. Read more

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Writing by Charlotte Greenfield Editing by Alexandra Hudson

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