Two United Nations agencies have signed a $4.9 million agreement aimed at facilitating trade and customs activities in Afghanistan.
The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) will combine their expertise to support the modernization of trade-related activities in the country, which after years of conflict and isolation suffers from severely damaged infrastructure, restrictive trade policies and a flourishing black market.
According to UNCTAD, the Afghan Government "cannot depend on a predictable and reliable flow of revenue." The country's $1.7 billion development budget for 2003 was financed entirely by external sources.
Officially, reported imports in 2002 totalled $851 million, but due to poor reporting and smuggling, UNCTAD said a more realistic estimate would be $2.4 billion.
Earlier this year, the World Bank approved a $31 million interest-free credit for the development and execution of an emergency customs modernization and trade facilitation project in Afghanistan, which will be executed by UNOPS in collaboration with UNCTAD.
UNCTAD said the project would help improve the framework for doing business, facilitate foreign trade and create a climate conducive to investment in Afghanistan.