GENEVA Jan 30 Afghanistan expects Chinese and
Indian investments in iron ore and copper mining to buoy its
economy after NATO troops withdraw in 2014, the country's
finance minister said on Wednesday.
A group of Indian companies which in 2011 won rights to mine
iron-ore in Bamiyan, in central Afghanistan, should invest from
$10 billion to $13 billion, and Chinese firms should commit from
$5 billion to $7 billion on the Aynak copper deposit in Logar
province, Omar Zakhilwal told a news briefing in Geneva.
The Afghan government is trying to reassure foreign
investors its economy will not sink following the NATO
withdrawal. Gross domestic product should grow 10 percent this
year, in line with the 10-12 percent annual expansion over the
past decade, and expand by 6 percent next year, Zakhilwal said.
Asked about the withdrawal of U.S.-led troops, Zakhilwal
said: "There will be an impact, no doubt about it, but it is not
to the extent it is reported. The leaving of the military will
not lead to the collapse of the economy."
Referring to China and India, he said: "As we move forward
beyond 2014, when international assistance comes down, of course
we expect it will be substituted by the private sector .... We
believe the involvement of the private sector and private
investment certainly has a more lasting impact on our economy
than even aid."
Afghanistan signed a 25-year contract with China National
Petroleum Corp in late 2011 covering drilling and a planned
refinery in the northern provinces of Faryab and Sar-e-Pul, the
first major oil production in the country.
CNPC, which has started oil production, should invest from
$1 billion to $1.5 billion, Zakhilwal said.
Investors have to factor in the threat from the Taliban, who
have fired rockets at mining projects and planted improvised
explosive devices along roads.
In late November, most of the roughly 170 Chinese workers
who fled rocket attacks at Aynak, the largest foreign investment
project in Afghanistan, returned because of improved security,
the mining minister told Reuters at the time.
Afghanistan was among countries classed as being at "very
high risk" of corruption in a report issued by watchdog
Transparency International UK on Tuesday.
But Zakhilwal, who signed an agreement with the United
Nations on Tuesday for training of Afghan officials in
governance, said reports of corruption were exaggerated and the
country had made "significant improvement" in recent years.
Afghanistan expected to become a member in the next month or
two of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, he
said, adding that some of its measures exceeded requirements.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Jason Webb)