By Mohammad Yunus Yawar
KABUL, Jan 2 (Reuters) – The Taliban administration will encourage self-sufficiency and wants international trade and investment, the acting commerce minister said, as Afghanistan faces isolation and suspension of some humanitarian operations over restrictions on women.
“We will start a national self-sufficiency programme, we will encourage all government administrations to use domestic products, we will also try to encourage people through mosques to support our domestic products” Haji Nooruddin Azizi told Reuters. “We will support any item which can help us for self-sufficiency.”
Another part of their strategy was to boost trade and foreign investment, he said.
“Those who were importing items to Afghanistan from abroad, they are asking us to provide opportunities for investing in Afghanistan and they want to invest here instead of importing from abroad,” he said.
He said that countries including Iran, Russia and China were interested in trade and investment. He said some of the projects under discussion were Chinese industrial parks and thermal power plants, with involvement from Russia and Iran.
Already facing a lack of formal recognition and sanctions hampering the country’s banking sector, investors are faced with growing security concerns after attacks on foreign targets in Kabul, claimed by the Islamic State.
An attack on a hotel catering to Chinese businessmen this month, which badly hurt several foreigners, could prompt some to re-think investing, a leading member of the Chinese business community has said.
Azizi said authorities were working to ensure security.
“We do our best for our businessmen to not come to harm. The attack hasn’t had any bad impact, (but) if it happened constantly, yes it might have bad impact,” he said, referring to the investment environment.
Azizi laid out a plan to develop industry by creating special economic zones on land previously used for U.S. military bases. He said his ministry was presenting the plan to the administration’s cabinet and economic commission.
He added that foreign investors were showing interest in Afghanistan’s mining sector, which has been valued at more than $1 trillion. He said that an iron mine in western Herat and a lead mine in central Ghor province had seen 40 companies take part in an auction and that the results would be announced soon.
He said that a major contract signed with Russia in September for the supply of gas, oil and wheat would see the delivery of the items to Afghanistan in coming days.
The Taliban-led administration is facing increased isolation over policies in recent days restricting women from access to public life, including attending university.
An order barring female NGO workers has thrown the humanitarian sector, which is providing urgent aid to millions of people, into disarray, with some organisations suspending operations in the middle of the harsh winter.
Azizi did not comment on the new restrictions but said his ministry had allocated 5 acres of land for a permanent exhibition centre and hub for women-led businesses.
“We always support women investors,” he said.
(Reporting by Mohammad Yunus Yawar; Writing by Charlotte Greenfield. Editing by Gerry Doyle)