On June 23, 2020, Harakat, in cooperation with the Kandahar Chamber of Commerce and Investment (KCCI), successfully hosted a Public-Private Dialogue (PPD) on Afghanistan’s exports and imports challenges, which the business communities in Kandahar have recently been confronting by, in particularly, with Pakistan. Representatives from the business community, Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment (ACCI), Kandahar Chamber of Commerce and Investment (KCCI), Kandahar Women’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KWCCI), and government officials were in attendance.
The event commenced with Harakat’s CEO, Mr. Noor Alam Hakimyar, thanking KCCI for their support and collaborative efforts. His opening remarks highlighted few previous projects that Harakat had recently implemented and the positive impact they have had on the country’s economy. For instance, he pointed out Afghanistan Center for Dispute Resolution (ACDR), which delivers arbitration and mediation to the domestic and international business community by supplying fast, fair, cost effective and reliable professional arbitration and mediation service, and (ARAZI), which is managing state owned lands and provides land related services and information to citizens, institutions and investors. Additionally, he also reminded everyone that the PPD pillar of Harakat is a project that will have a great impact on trade and business as well.
The objective of this event was to discuss Kandahar’s business owners’ challenges, find solutions for each of the problems, and prepare a written progress report to demonstrate which challenges would be resolved by Harakat’s efforts. Mr. Hakimyar noted that, one of the issues that he would like to raise is on investment. He expressed that, “We all, especially the government, should prioritize to focus on encouraging domestic investments as Afghan traders and investors have lost interest, and are trying to invest in other countries.” He also mentioned, that Harakat strives to have a long-term bilateral trade cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan to create trade balance and trade benefits for both countries, in addition to finding a permanent solution on transit with Pakistan.
Mr. Younes Momand, Vice Chairman of ACCI, talked on behalf of ACCI and thanked Harakat’s involvement and interventions in the private sector. He said dozens of trucks are waiting in the border for transit, hence a permanent solution needs to be discussed and created for trade and transit. He also stated that the HAPTA contract is ending, “therefore, we need to have a new contract with Pakistan which should address all transit related issues.” He added that, “Pakistan is a strategic partner, henceforth, we need to build our relationship with this country based on both sides’ interest.” When it comes to Kandahar, there seems to be numerous problems on the border and the solutions need to include more car parking lots, costume renovation, and cold storage.
Mr. Nasurllah Zaheer, while talking on behalf of KCCI, criticized the government for not paying attention to traders’ plea regarding tariffs. He said, “When we pay tariffs and taxes, in return, we expect the government to listen to our problems. We ask the government to reduce the costume’s tariffs.”
Abdul Ahad, a representative from the export section of KCCI, thanked Harakat for launching a disinfection program in Spin Boldak and holding this PPD in Kandahar City. He requested that the Afghan government keeps the transitways open, operational, and the commodities to be exported to other countries – not only to Pakistan. “The air corridor has yet to be of any benefit to Kandahar’s business owners,” he expressed, and “therefore, we want the government to listen to our complaints and grievances, and to cooperate with us.”
Laila Ufaq, chairwoman of KWCCI, addressed small businesses’ challenges, which are owned by women. She said, “It is our right to complain and to raise our voices. The government wants us to pay tax, but it never listens to our problems. The government should provide support packages, create markets, and provide small loans for businesswomen in Kandahar,” she expressed.
This PPD also had group discussions in which business owners were divided into four groups. They were Fresh and Dry Fruits Groups, and Industry and Import Groups. In the group discussion, each business owner shared their concerns and challenges regarding exports and transit via Spin Boldak to Pakistan. Their key demands included urgent support from the government of Afghanistan and the international partners to facilitate dialogue between Afghanistan and Pakistan to find a sustainable solution for uninterrupted trade and transit.