- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 16, 2002

NEW YORK It will cost at least $15 billion to rebuild war-ravaged, land-mine-laden Afghanistan, according to international financial experts preparing for next week's donors conference.
In a preliminary assessment, released before the conference opens Monday, the World Bank, U.N. Development Program and Asian Development Bank warn that restoring the decimated country will take a decade.
Representatives of 50 nations most of them foreign, development or financial ministers are expected at the two-day pledging conference in Tokyo. Host Japan has indicated it will contribute $500 million for reconstruction over the next 21/2 years, the duration of the transitional administration in Afghanistan.
Treasury Secretary Paul H. O'Neill and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell will represent the United States.
The conference is meant in part to reinforce support domestically and abroad for Hamid Karzai, the head of the interim administration, who also will be in Tokyo.
The new government is taking over a country with no infrastructure or police, little manufacturing or agriculture, few schools and hospitals, and a vast displaced population. By some estimates, it will take more than a half-billion dollars to pull up the uncountable land mines, which have rendered useless much of Afghanistan's farmlands and orchards.
"In the immediate months ahead, the Afghan administration will be under pressure to achieve quick results in its reconstruction efforts, meeting pressing needs in a way that gives the citizens a stake in peace and stability, and enhancing national integration," said the report, which was released yesterday.
"This underlines the urgent need for up-front reconstruction activities and support from the international assistance community," the report said.
The first year of Afghanistan's reconstruction alone is estimated to cost about $1.73 billion.
In Kabul on Monday, U.N. spokesman Ahmad Fawsi said the interim administration needed an emergency infusion of $100 million to pay long-deferred salaries and other immediate needs.
UNDP administrator Mark Malloch Brown acknowledged to reporters yesterday that the estimates for reconstruction "have drifted upward" from the $5 billion to $10 billion anticipated at a donors meeting in Brussels in December.
He said that after consulting with the interim administration, planners had not allocated enough for security or such running costs as municipal salaries and maintenance.
Mr. Malloch Brown noted that the government has no prospects for raising tax revenue for the next few years, "and there is nothing in the treasury. Their bank vaults are an echo chamber; there is not an afghani in there."
On Saturday, Afghanistan's planning minister, Haji Mohammed Mohaqiq, told Reuters news agency that the country needed at least $45 billion over the next decade to rebuild.
The 60-page assessment report outlines Afghanistan's long-term needs, including investments in police and security, justice and human rights, and good governance.

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