The COVID-19 pandemic has plunged the Afghan economy into a deep recession. The economy is projected to contract by 8.2 percent in 2020, with the rate of poverty increasing from 55 percent in 2017 to around 72 percent in 2020, according to the press release issued by the University of Central Asia (UCA).

Revenue collection is severely affected by the economic slowdown, worsening the prospects for medium-term fiscal sustainability.  Furthermore, the on-going ‘peace’ process and the upcoming donor pledging conference in November 2020 in Geneva add to the growing complexities for economic management during the crisis.

The University of Central Asia’s Institute of Public Policy and Administration (IPPA) in partnership with the Biruni Institute, a Kabul-based economic policy think tank, organized a webinar on August 10 on: “COVID-19: Outlook and Prospects for Economic Recovery in Afghanistan” to discuss key issues and findings from the latest ‘Afghanistan Economic Outlook’, a document outlining the state of the economy and prospects for recovery.

The Webinar reportedly also included a panel discussion chaired by Dr. Roman Mogilevskii, Associate Director of IPPA, with contributions from Mr. Naser Sidiqee, Director General– Coordination, Monitoring & Reporting from the Afghan Ministry of Finance, and Mr. Sayed Zaman Hashimi, CEO of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce & Industries.

Mr. Nazir Kabiri, Executive Director of the Biruni Institute, gave an overview of the economic situation in Afghanistan, followed by a presentation by Dr. Omar Joya, Head of Research at the Biruni Institute who provided details about Afghanistan’s economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Dr. Joya explained some of the interventions which had taken place to date and the challenges faced by the Government in implementing these initiatives, including a fall in revenue collection, limited donor funding, and a rise in the unemployment rate.  Despite the many challenges and issues, he commended the Afghan Government for reacting quickly and continuing to provide support across the country despite other pressing issues related to peace and security.

Mr. Sidiqee offered the Ministry of Finance’s perspective on the issues related to the pandemic as well as broader issues facing the Afghan people.  He discussed the upcoming Ministerial Conference to be held in Geneva in November and explained that the Government will campaign for further financial commitment from the international community progressing the planned regional projects such as the TAPI pipeline project.

Mr. Hashemi discussed the areas in which the government needs to further support the private sector in Afghanistan including the development of longer-term strategies and policies which would encourage and build confidence for foreign investors looking to invest in Afghanistan.  He also explained the role of the private sector in supporting the government during the pandemic and how support from the Government to develop strong local infrastructure could help grow and stabilize the private sector in Afghanistan during times of crisis.

This webinar is part of the University of Central Asia’s Executive Masters in Economic Policy Program in partnership with the Ministry of Finance of Afghanistan.  Funding is provided by the International Development Research Centre and Aga Khan Foundation Canada through the Pathways to Innovation: Strengthening Mathematics, Science and Economic Policy Capacity in Afghanistan and Central Asia project.