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Volume 450: debated on Thursday 26 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what progress his Department is making on reconstruction in Afghanistan. (96624)

DFID has spent over £390 million on reconstruction and development in Afghanistan. The UK is Afghanistan’s second largest donor. DFID’s budget for Afghanistan is £102 million for this year, rising to £113 million in 2007-08; and £115 million in 2008-09.

Afghanistan remains one of the UK’s top priorities and we have provided valuable support to the Government who have made great progress over the last five years: presidential and parliamentary elections were held. Six million children have returned to school, over a third of them girls. 13,000 girls’ and boys’ primary and secondary schools have been built and 15 teacher training centres have been established. 35,000 lives have been saved by routine immunisations. In 2005-06 the legal economy is estimated to have grown by 14 per cent. 3.5 million refugees have returned home. Major road rehabilitation is connecting major urban centres and Afghanistan with its neighbours. Reliable electricity supply is being restored. The telecommunications sector is growing fast, connecting businesses and people in Afghanistan,

Over 70 per cent. of our aid goes directly to the Government of Afghanistan and UK is the largest donor to the Government’s recurrent budget—covering annual costs such as salaries for teachers and health workers. This is exactly what the Afghan Government want—and is the best chance for building effective state institutions that will last.

DFlD’s programme in Afghanistan is trying to encourage sustainable growth and poverty reduction. Building state institutions, improving economic management and providing legal economic alternatives to those involved in poppy cultivation are all critical to that objective. DFID provides significant funding to support the National Priority Programmes of the Afghan Government, such as the National Solidarity Programme (NSP) and the Micro-finance Investment Support Facility of Afghanistan (MISFA), which bring direct benefits to poor people. The NSP is active in all 34 provinces of Afghanistan and is responding to priority needs identified by some of the most remote and poorest communities. MISFA is currently working in 18 provinces and plans to be active in all 34 by end of 2007.

The reconstruction effort in Afghanistan is a long-term initiative. Achieving our objective of a peaceful, prosperous and secure Afghanistan, will be reliant upon the support and commitment of UK and other partners for many years to come