Law students and lawyers in Afghanistan file reports with JURIST on the situation there after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban. Here, a law student in Kabul offers his take on how the soaring inflation of the Afghan currency against the US dollar is destroying the lives and souls of Afghans even before the cold winter sets in . For reasons of confidentiality and security, we retain the name and institutional affiliation of our correspondent. The text has only been slightly retouched to respect the author’s voice.
After more than 100 days of Taliban-ruled Kabul, inflation is sucking the lives of millions of people. In June 2021, 1 US dollar was equivalent to 76 to 77 Afghans. In July, 1 USD was equivalent to 79 AFS. I remember many worried about making ends meet at the time. After the Kabul takeover, and especially once it was revealed that the central bank’s reserves were empty, the value of the US dollar soared against the Afghani. Today, a single dollar goes from 96.30 to 96.40 in the markets of Kabul, making it quite difficult for the average household to maintain a routine of three meals a day.
In order to understand how inflation affects Afghan citizens, you need to know a little bit about how trade works in Afghanistan these days. Almost all of the items on the basic commodity lists in an average household in Kabul are imports. Take cooking oil for example; any company that imports this oil must raise US dollars in the current market in order to be able to purchase and import this product. Therefore, the importing company must sell the product to distributors at USD rates and the sub-distributor must buy them at USD rates. But since the average person does not trade or own any dollars, they have to buy cooking oil in Afghanis.
One therefore wonders where the circulation of the USD begins. Well, once the importing company collects enough Afghans, then they have to buy US dollars with it and then import the product using that money. Since most or almost all trading is done in physical currency, this makes it a lagging, slow-paced process. The market value of the USD has been somewhat controlled by the government and the central bank by injecting millions of USD by auctioning them in the market. Now that the banks are heading for a complete shutdown and the government is run by baboons, inflation is creeping into the bones of citizens. Add to that a very disturbing claim made by the vice president of the former Afghan administration, who says that the Pakistani government prints Afghan money for the Taliban; which encourages inflation per se.
And that’s not all when it comes to our economic problems. “Unemployment” is a word that distorts the situation in Afghanistan. With inflation and the terrorist persecution of business owners, many have fled and many businesses have disappeared. The private sector is therefore almost non-existent. Meanwhile, many of those employed in public offices have not been paid for more than four months. Some workers and sellers of essentials earn less than 50 cents a day, or maybe if they have a good day, more than a dollar. I can’t imagine how they can endure if inflation continues. Since I gave an example earlier on cooking oil, this may clarify my point a bit: the cheapest vegetable oil is 1950 AFS, which, if used with great caution, might help to feed a household of five people per month. I know many who earn less than a dollar a day, and assuming there is no increase in the cost of living, a month’s work will not provide the purchasing power to buy. only that, not to mention food, rent, water, gas (all the most important given the prospect of a cold winter without heating).
A small increase in the local cost of USD might be unnoticeable in many places, but where we are, things are a little different. It makes fathers a decade old in a week and mothers lose their kind smiles to cruel sadness. It makes the once young people full of joy and hope, the eyebrow lines run deeper than any experience they have had in their short, fresh life.
I’ll leave you with that. Today in Kabul I saw a man of bold character and rich in sense who had taken a cart for a living. After a day without being called to work he cried at sunset, not, I imagine, from the prospect of being hungry at night, but from the anguish of having to return to his family with nothing to spare. show for his effort.