In the two decades since the Taliban lost control of Afghanistan, living conditions have improved significantly, including huge improvements in health care, education, life expectancy and child mortality.
But local corruption and violence have slowed the pace of progress, and the reduction in military and aid in recent years has reduced one of its biggest sources of income and has had economic consequences.
Ajmal Ahmady, the former governor of Afghanistan’s central bank, fled the country last weekend when the Islamic organization regained power. Tell the financial times Anyone who downplays the improvement in the lives of Afghans “will downplay the changes that have taken place.”
But Dr. Gareth Price, a senior researcher at the Chatham Institute, a think tank, said that although Afghanistan has “have undergone tremendous changes” in society, “except for illegal mining”.
Economic growth-but now stagnant
Living standards benefited from the double-digit economic expansion as of the mid-2010s. But with the reduction of international financial support, output has stagnated in the past decade.
According to data from the World Bank, aid flows have fallen from about 100% of GDP in 2009 to 42.9% in 2020, thus restricting service industry activities and employment.
Under the rule of the Taliban, international funds are expected to be completely exhausted, threatening the survival of Afghanistan’s legitimate economy.
Capital Economics’ Asian economist Gareth Leather warned: “As most of the economic progress of the past 20 years has been based on external support, Afghanistan’s return to global untouchability is likely to allow The economy is out of trouble.” “The sharp contraction of GDP and the regression of socio-economic development seems almost certain.”
Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank, said that cutting off aid “may weaken a large part of the work of the modern economy and the service industry.” He questioned how Afghanistan can create a “legal” economy if aid is cut off.
According to data from the International Trade Center, a multilateral agency, Afghanistan only legally exported about $1 billion in goods in 2020—less than neighboring Tajikistan, even though its population is four times larger.
Although the importance of agriculture has declined with the expansion of the service industry, half of its official exports are grapes and other fresh fruits.
But Leather warned that official data should be reserved because “one of Afghanistan’s biggest products is illegal opium, which of course will not appear in the national accounts”.
Experts come to a conclusion The informal economy accounts for 80% of Afghanistan’s overall economic activity, which means that official growth estimates are of limited use.
Improved living standards
Despite the uneven overall economic performance, the daily lives of many Afghans have improved significantly. Healthcare and education have become more common, mortality rates have fallen, and technology use has become widespread.
According to data from the World Bank, about 60 children under the age of 5 died for every 1,000 babies born in 2019-this number has been halved since the turn of the century, and is the fastest drop in child mortality in all low-income countries once.
Over the same period, the proportion of underweight children has been reduced by more than half, and the risk of maternal death in Afghanistan has also been similarly reduced.
Medical care has also been improved through a series of measures. Nearly half of the population has access to sanitation facilities, compared with a quarter in the early 2000s.
As a result, Afghans are now living nearly 10 years longer than they were 20 years ago.
Educational performance has also improved significantly. Compared with 2001, the number of children in school has increased by approximately 8.2 million, and the proportion of children enrolled in secondary schools has jumped from 12% in 2001 to 55% in 2018.
“The number of Afghan youths who are really educated is much higher,” Cordesman said.
However, he emphasized that limited information means that the available data are sometimes “estimates.”
Women especially benefit
Women’s lives have improved on a series of indicators. The education enrollment rate of girls has soared, the fertility rate of adolescents has plummeted, and more women are working.
Susanna Hares, co-director of education policy at the Think Tank Global Development Center, said: “The education of girls has made tremendous progress in the past two decades.” But she warned, “These are now facing a huge risk of a rapid rollback… We may see. Many Afghan girls have been forced to drop out of school.”
The number of women entering the labor market is also much higher than before.Last year, about one-fifth of Afghan civil servants Yes Women and a quarter of parliamentary seats are held by women-zero in 2001.
But violence and poverty are still widespread
Despite the progress, the Taliban still controls one of the most vulnerable economies in the world. Few countries are less friendly to business or more corrupt.
Afghanistan is 165 of Transparency International’s 180 countries Corruption Index 2020-although it has risen 11 places since 2012.
“The development and diversification of the private sector is constrained by insecurity, political instability, weak institutions, inadequate infrastructure, widespread corruption, and difficult business environments,” according to The World Bank rated 173 of 190 countries in its 2020 Doing Business Survey.
Life expectancy is still 8 years below the world average and 5 years below the South Asian average.
The standard of living is the lowest in the region, with more than half of the population living below the poverty line. In terms of health, personal freedom, living conditions, trust in institutions, safety and security, Afghanistan remains one of the worst countries in the world.
Nonetheless, former central bank governor Ahmadi warned that the reversal of progress in the past two decades will have a major impact on the lives of ordinary Afghans.
“In Afghanistan, everyone has a mobile phone, which is the lifeline of many people,” he said. “The economy has made significant progress, [the coming deterioration] I think this will be a shock for most of them. “