June 3, 2008 / 12:22 PM / 11 years ago

Afghan govt must fight graft, help people-World Bank

KABUL, June 3 (Reuters) - The World Bank is committed to building a “prosperous and stable” Afghanistan, but Afghans themselves must fight corruption and provide better services for citizens, a top bank official said on Tuesday.

Poor security, corruption and the lack of good governance are some of the biggest challenges facing Afghanistan, more than six years after U.S.-led and Afghan forces overthrew the Taliban.

Violence in the country has surged over the last two years and Western politicians and think-tanks have this year warned the the country risks becoming a failed state and sliding into anarchy.

World Bank Managing Director Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, ending a three-day visit, called for the international community to continue its support but stressed the need for Afghans to take the lead.

“Only Afghans can develop Afghanistan,” she said in a statement.

“They must rise to the challenge and tackle the difficult issues of building institutions, fighting corruption and improving service delivery to ordinary citizens.”

The comments come ahead of a conference to be held in Paris on June 12 where the Afghan government will ask for more than $50 million from international donors to implement its new national development strategy.

Afghanistan depends on aid for 90 percent of its spending. A UN special envoy to Afghanistan said on Monday that the Afghan government should be given a much bigger role in distributing the aid. At present the Afghan government has control of only one-third of the money that has been pledged or spent by donors according to government officials and president Karzai has expressed the readiness of his government to be held to account for any aid channeled through it. But official corruption has made international donors reluctant to channel their money through the Afghan government and has undermined the public’s faith in their own leaders. Afghans are also disappointed with the slow pace of development.

Despite much being achieved in Afghanistan, enormous challenges remained and an “aggressive attack” on corruption was needed, said Okonjo-Iweala.

“Government must be, and be seen, to be accountable for service delivery,” she said.

Since resuming operations in Afghanistan in 2002, the World Bank has committed around $1.66 billion to the country. (Writing by Jonathon Burch; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)

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