June 14, 2009:
The Afghan government is not happy with the fact that, of $38 billion provided by foreign nations for reconstruction, only 16 percent of it is under the control of the government. There are two reasons for this. The primary problem is corruption. Money given to the government tends to get stolen. More than a third of it disappears into the pockets of government officials, their kin and friends. But letting the donors, and NGOs (Non-governmental organizations, like the Red Cross), handle the money also sees about the same portion lost. This is because these donations often come with requirements that much of the money be spent on goods and services from the donor nation. This particularly bothers the Afghans as it means a lot of highly (especially by Afghan standards) paid Western aid workers are supervising whatever is done in Afghanistan. The higher NGO pay standards are very visible because the Westerners tend to live much better than Afghans. The Westerners are also accused of not understanding the needs of Afghans, but the NGOs are also less prone to devote most of the programs to the tribes of senior government officials. The Afghans would like to gain control of all the aid money, or at least get more of it spent inside Afghanistan, but have not had much success.