New Agreements with the World Bank Aim at Widening Reforms and Improving Irrigation Infrastructure
July 07, 2009, KABUL: The Afghan Ministry of Finance and the World Bank today signed two grant agreements totalling US$68.5 million. This assistance will support the Emergency Irrigation Rehabilitation and provide development policy support for the government's increasing fiscal demands as it tries to meet its development goals.
â€œOver the past seven years, the World Bank has been great supporter of Afghanistan's national programs, providing its support through national budget systems,â€ said HE Dr. Omar Zakhailwal, Minister of Finance. â€œWe are very pleased to sign two grants, one of which provides US $35 million in discretionary funding to our development budget. This direct budget support enables the government to make decisions on how the funds are used in support of our development priorities. This grant is provided in response to the government's successful implementation of a series of reforms to strengthen public financial management, public administration, and fiscal and economic governance. In addition, the Emergency Irrigation Rehabilitation Project will serve to develop a key sector that is extremely important to reviving our agriculture sector and overall economic growth.â€
The Development Policy Grant (DPG) of US$35 million will build on the government achievements under the ongoing public financial management and public administration reform agenda. The DPG will specifically support improved management of public finances, further strengthen fiscal and economic governance, foster fiscal responsibility, and introduce aspects of greater transparency and accountability.
â€œWorking with Afghan government over the past seven years, we have witnessed that things can improve even in an extremely difficult environment,â€ said Mariam J. Sherman, World Bank Country Manager for Afghanistan. â€œVastly improved public financial management and restored irrigation supplies for about half a million hectares of agriculture land are some clear examples of progress. While we see progress in the areas of government capacity at different levels, there are certain steps that need to be taken to safeguard and build on those gains. We, at the World Bank, remain committed to support the government's state building efforts.â€
The additional grant (US$33.5 million) for Emergency Irrigation Rehabilitation Project (EIRP) supports about 85 additional medium and 8 large rehabilitation schemes. It will also support further expansion of the hydro-meteorological facilities, including thirty cableways stations for river flow measurement and six silt measurement laboratories. Since its inception in 2003, the EIRP has restored irrigation supplies to more than 105,000 hectares of agricultural land that were earlier not receiving irrigation supplies because of the dilapidated condition of the irrigation infrastructure. In addition, over 90 hydrological stations have been installed to date in various river basins. These stations are crucial for improved management, future planning and development of the country's water resources as well as for better forecasting and mitigating floods and droughts. The project has also improved capacity within the Ministry of Energy and Water through on-the-job training, particularly in the areas of identifying, preparing, designing and implementing irrigation rehabilitation schemes. With the new additional grant, total Bank's assistance to this project reaches US$126.3 million.
â€œImproving irrigation infrastructure is critical to revive the Afghanistan's agriculture sector,â€ said HE Mohammad Esmail, Minister of Water and Energy, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. â€œWe made significant achievements with the assistance of the World Bank project. The improved availability of irrigation water has helped boost yields of staple crops such as wheat, maize, and rice, as well as of onions, melons, and watermelons in most of the country. In fact, the revival of the agriculture sector has boosted the incomes of thousands of rural households who depend on agriculture for a living.â€