Afghan residents walk through the courtyard of the Hazrat Ali shrine, or Blue Mosque, in Mazar-i-Sharif. Farshad Usyan/ AFP
Afghanistan unveiled 43 tenders for natural resource projects on Monday in a drive to attract investment in a country ravaged by decades of war.
Afghanistan’s mineral assets, estimated to be worth as much as $1 trillion, are seen as key to the country’s economic viability. But development has been blocked by poor security, rampant corruption, and a lack of infrastructure.
The tenders, ranging from mineral to oil and gas projects, were announced in Dubai, a major Middle East investment hub, by Afghanistan’s acting Minister of Mines and Petroleum Nargis Nehan.
“We have a good package of incentives for investors,” Nehan told Reuters in an interview.
Afghanistan is opening 14 tenders for large-scale projects to international companies through a competitive bidding process, with the remaining small-scale projects to be awarded to local companies.
The projects have generated interest from US, European, and Gulf companies, Nehan said.
The announcement of the tenders comes amid peace talks between the Taliban and the United States, which wants to exit the country it invaded to overthrow the Taliban nearly two decades ago.
The two sides are scheduled to meet again this month.
“There are two ways of looking at the issue ... the situation might deteriorate,” Nehan said amid the uncertainty of what the two sides might agree and whether the United States will soon pull-out.
“There is another perspective to look at it, and that is actually finally having peace,” she said.
The government hopes a royalty rate from 2.5 per cent to 7.5 per cent and an import duty exemption on machinery used to work on the projects will encourage investment.
The tenders cover projects in 16 of the country’s 34 provinces and the government estimates $100 million will be spent over the next year on initial assessments, exploration, and evaluation work.
A tender can be awarded within six months and work is expected to start within a further six-month period, Nehan said.
The government will invest in some tender-related infrastructure but expects many companies will choose to do it themselves. Security on the projects will only be provided by local forces, she said.
“The Afghan Public Protection Force ... will asses the areas and based on the needs of the area they will submit a budget and proposal to the company.”
The US special representative for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, will meet with Chinese, Russian and European Union diplomats on Afghanistan on Thursday as he tries to forge a peace deal with the Taliban to bring an end to America’s longest war.
President Ashraf Ghani hopes to showcase unity at the four-day meeting — known as Loya Jirga — that brings together politicians, tribal elders and others.
Hopes for a breakthrough in a push to end Afghanistan’s gruelling conflict suffered a major setback on Friday after a key summit between the Taliban and Afghan officials was indefinitely postponed.
A 55-year-old woman has been arrested for allegedly torturing four minor boys by putting chilli powder in their private parts.
Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong walked free from prison on Monday after serving nearly five weeks for contempt of court, pledging to join a mass protest movement demanding that the city’s Beijing-backed leader,
Tens of thousands of Indian doctors went on strike Monday calling for more protection against violence by patients and their families, as parliament met for the first time since national elections.