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The Killid Group
Ration scheme good, but not feasibleWritten by Izazullah Zaland
Saturday, 16 April 2011 11:53
Officials in the Ministry of Commerce and Industries (MoCI) promise that the old ration card scheme will be reintroduced to all state employees to improve their living conditions but critics say the scheme is undoable without support from foreign donors.
The planned process will entail the recruitment of about 2,300 people to manage, implement and supervise the programme which is highly expected to improve the food and economic situation of tens of thousands of public servants.
"The council of ministers [chaired by the president] has instructed the reintroduction of the state ration card scheme for all government employees," said Sayed Hashim Hashimi, an official of the MoCI.
The Soviet-backed regimes in Afghanistan (1978-1992) were distributing food and non-food items such as wheat flour, cooking oil, sugar, soap etc to all state employees on monthly basis free of charge. The supplies were coming from the former Soviet Union and cost hundreds of millions of dollars every year. There were also utility stores, backed by the government, which offered goods at subsidized prices. The scheme was suspended after the Mujahideen took over the power in April 1992.
Officials hope that bringing back the old welfare system will not only improve the living conditions of public servants but would also stabilize food prices in the domestic markets. "If 5,000 state employees use ration cards in every province it would certainly have positive impacts on market prices," said Hashimi adding that no donor had shown interest in the programme.
The announcement has been hailed by most of the state employees who are paid less than US$100 a month.
"It's too difficult for us to feed our families with 3,000-5,000 Afghanis a month but the ration cards will hopefully mitigate our economic burdens," said Mohammad Akbar, a government employee in Kabul.
Some officials, meanwhile, expressed optimism that the move could also enhance the government's anti-corruption efforts as some junior state employees refer to petty corruption out of economic pressures. Corruption is a major problem in the Afghan Government and some employees even voiced concerns that the promised ration card scheme would not be immune from it.
While there is no shortage in the number of people advocating for and supporting a national ration card system, economists said a strong state-run welfare programme was not feasible under the country's economic realities. The fact that donors have shown no interests in the programme further complicates the prospects. The Afghan Government alone would be unable to finance a profligate welfare system for its employees from the domestic resources.