On 7 July 2020, the OECD, the EU and the government of Afghanistan, organised a videoconference to assess immediate COVID-19 challenges, share policy experiences, and discuss longer-term investment promotion avenues in Afghanistan.
The event was an opportunity to share the experiences of OECD and other partner countries in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis and discuss key findings for Afghanistan from on-going OECD work on investment promotion activities in Eurasia that could help the restructuring process of Afghanistan’s Investment Promotion Directorate. The webinar brought together representatives of the Ministries of Economy and of Commerce and Industry, the Da Afghanistan Bank, the EU, the OECD, and the ITC, as well as the private sector and other international organisations. The webinar and its related work were financed by the EU.
The webinar was opened on the Afghan side by Dr Mustafa Mastoor, Minister of Economy, Mr Ajmal Ahmady, Governor of Da Afghanistan Bank and Senior Economic Advisor to the President, and Mr Abdul Karim Malikyar, Deputy Minister of Industry and Commerce, who provided an overview of policy responses to the COVID-19 in Afghanistan. Minister Mastoor introduced government health and fiscal measures implemented in support of households and businesses that amounted to 5% of GDP. Mr Ahmady underlined that the response primarily focused on providing food and basic necessity to the population, and on upholding the country’s connectivity within the region. Deputy Minister Mailkyar further detailed the measures taken in favour of firms and SMEs. Ambassador Pierre Mayaudon, Head of the EU Delegation to Afghanistan, stressed that the situation should be seized as a momentum for increased international solidarity during which the EU will stand at Afghanistan’s side.
The policy discussions started on the topics of support for entrepreneurs and private firms during the pandemic. Ms Talisa Zur Hausen (OECD) presented some reflections for Afghanistan stemming from the experiences of Central Asia and OECD members described in an OECD regional note issued in June, and highlighted the impact of COVID-19 on the informal sector, presenting possible liquidity support measures. Mr Adil Hidane, from the Ministry of Finance of Morocco, explained the cash transfer mechanism his government has implemented during the pandemic to support households and workers in the informal sector.
COVID-19 triggered a contraction in global FDI flows, and Ms Peline Atamer (OECD) discussed the state and prospects of FDI promotion tools in Afghanistan, based on a survey of Investment Promotion Agencies in Eurasia. Mr Jean-Sébastien Roure, from the ITC, provided insights from a joint EU-ITC project and insisted on the need for a transparent and predictable business environment. Finally, Mr Noor Hakimyar, CEO of the investment climate facility Harakat, discussed actions taken to improve the business climate, such as one-stop-shops for business licences.
During the discussions, Mr Mahdi Mohammadi, Director of the Investment Promotion Directorate within the MOCI, presented the government’s new investment strategy with a focus on the “Invest in Afghanistan” branding. Mr Stefan Lock, EUD to Afghanistan, Ms Wagma Mohmand, IFC Afghanistan, and Mr Mozamil Shinwari, former Deputy Minister of Trade, highlighted that regional cooperation, public-private dialogue and better conditions for the private sector will be key to mainstream the development framework for Afghanistan.
Deputy Minister of Economy Nabi Soroosh concluded the event by calling for international partners’ support on connectivity and investment, two key priorities for the country.