Thursday, January 31, 2013

Afghanistan: Millions wasted after British ‘cut and run’ from Helmand aid park

Britain has scrapped one of its major development programmes in Afghanistan, wasting years of work and millions of pounds on an idea that it had been warned would fail. The decision to walk away from the unfinished Bost Agri-Business Park is a major blow to Helmand’s fledgeling legitimate industries in a province that produces a fifth of the world’s opium
Originally designed by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) as an industrial park, it became an agricultural area perhaps when it was realised that there were only two factories in the province and almost no appetite for more. USAID stopped funding the park in 2009, but the [British] Department for International Development decided to restart it, commissioning a lengthy independent consultant’s report

The DfID continued, hiring Western consultants, sending prospective Afghan tenants and officials to Dubai for training, and hiring Mott MacDonald, the engineering consultancy, to draw up the plans. The DfID has repeatedly refused to disclose its expenditure on the project, but it is believed to be at least £5 million
In 2011, the DfID said on its website that the park represented a “beacon for business potential” and detailed its plans to build basic services before constructing “offices, warehouses and processing units”. It said that the park would generate 4,250 jobs by the following autumn. When The Times visited the park last year the only people working there were two policemen guarding its entrance. USAID had paid to lay roads and erect pylons. However, against the advice of some Afghan officials, the DfID arranged for the roads to be torn up, because it believed they were not fit to handle lorries. They will not be rebuilt
News report here. British government website still available here.