Saturday, February 27, 2010

Afghan-Dubai dollar blizzard exceeds tax take

From the Washington Post:

"A blizzard of bank notes is flying out of Afghanistan -- often in full view of customs officers at the Kabul airport . . The cash, estimated to total well over $1 billion a year, flows mostly to the Persian Gulf emirate of Dubai, where many wealthy Afghans now park their families and fund."

Why Dubai? Some clues are available here. The Post continues:

"Cash declaration forms filed at Kabul International Airport and reviewed by The Washington Post show that Afghan passengers took more than $180 million to Dubai during a two-month period starting in July. If that rate held for the entire year, the amount of cash that left Afghanistan in 2009 would have far exceeded the country's annual tax and other domestic revenue of about $875 million."

We don't know where the money is coming from, either. It, or at least part of it, may be a different version of the same old story starring several Latin American (and many other) countries: aid money comes in, rich elites snaffle it and send it back offshore, and keep the country poor. And the response from Dubai?

"Efforts to figure out just how much money is leaving Afghanistan and why have been hampered by a lack of cooperation from Dubai, complained Afghan and U.S. officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. Dubai's financial problems, said a U.S. official, had left the emirate eager for foreign cash, and "they don't seem to care where it comes from." Dubai authorities declined to comment."

Time for some concerted international action -- focussing on illicit inflows.


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