John Galt

'Light tomorrow with today.' -- Elizabeth Barrett Browning --

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

If The Afghans Can Do It...

This is a memo to Congressman Richard Boucher and the civic leaders in Southwest Virginia.

Afghanistan is on the verge of doing what you have failed to do. They are growing their economy, creating jobs, and stimulating growth.

This from Ashraf Ghani, Afghanistan's Finance Minister, should be a wake-up call to all of you (or a slap in the face, depending on your point of reference).

After Afghanistan's democratic elections, it is time for the global private sector to vote in support of the Afghan political revolution. If 50 multinational corporations each invested $10 million in Afghanistan over the next two years, the resulting half-billion dollars would be equivalent to $3 billion in public investment. Decent wages, capital turnover and demonstrated international confidence would support economic growth and political stability, yielding a critical victory in the global war on terror.

Afghanistan's reasons for courting private sector investment are clear. Aid dependency is no path to dignified prosperity. But why should the private sector choose to invest now?

• Since 2002, our economy has expanded more than 40%. Construction in Kabul and other major towns is booming, and mobile phone use per capita has already grown to exceed that of more developed regional neighbors. Yet inflation has remained below 10% and despite significant inflows of foreign aid, our currency has remained stable.

• Afghans are ready to work with investors. For two millennia we have proved ourselves entrepreneurs who thrive on long-distance trade and respect for private property. Afghanistan was once a land bridge between South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East, and we plan to regain that role. It should be no surprise that our new constitution enshrines protection of property and commits to a market economy.

• Afghanistan is rich in natural resources, including coal, copper and iron. If our neighbors' oil and gas wealth provides any guide, Afghanistan is highly likely to have
sizeable deposits, and surveys are now underway. Traditionally, Afghanistan has also had a strong agricultural sector. In fact, before the recent conflict undermined our economy, Afghanistan was the largest exporter of dried fruits and nuts in the region. Light industry also has a future here. Construction projects are underway throughout the country, with investment in cement and textiles looking particularly promising.

• Since 2002, the Afghan government has significantly improved the investment climate. Our new investment law allows for 100% direct foreign ownership. We have created a simplified one-stop shop for licensing. Reforms to our tariff, customs and tax systems have greatly reduced transaction costs. Our central bank is autonomous, international commercial banks have begun operations under new regulations, and we strictly implement no-deficit financing.

• Our seven-year, $27.5 billion public investment program has secured the first three years of international financing, helping us to address bottlenecks in transportation, irrigation, power, and urban services. Already, private investments in Afghanistan's telecommunications have proved profitable, and investors are actively exploring construction, transport and light industries. We are committed to an export-oriented economy that can take advantage of preferential market access to the U.S., EU, Canada and other countries.

• With the peaceful completion of our first direct presidential election, increased political stability makes private sector investment more attractive. Security is expanding throughout the country with the deployment of the newly trained national army and police forces; the long-term commitment of international security forces underwrites the global commitment to Afghanistan's stability.

How embarassing. The Afghans are doing what we refuse to do; to secure a future for our children and grandchildren. And did you catch the piece regarding their abundance of coal? It wouldn't surprise me if the city of Hoboken imported their coal needs from Kabul instead of Big Stone Gap.
Shame on all of you.

New York Schools Need More Money?

This from David Andreatta in the New York Post this morning:
December 1, 2004 -- Complying with a court mandate to improve city schools will cost an extra $23.3 billion over five years, a judicial panel determined yesterday.

The eye-popping figure includes nearly $14.1 billion in additional funding for operating expenses and almost $9.2 billion in new money to build schools and revamp aging ones. The state is under order from New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, to hike city school funding.

It is likely the vast majority of the new funds will come from the state. (link)

The mayor of New York is happy, buts warns that the money has to come from sources outside the city. The governor of New York says the state's citizens should not have to foot the bill.

I say they can inject $14 trillion into that broken system and half the graduating seniors still won't be able to read.