Most of you have been hearing the ongoing gun fire and the attacks currently taking place in Kabul city. While details remain unclear, early reports indicate the involvement of numerous gunmen and suicide bombers near Pashtoonistan square. We are aware that the Taliban have claimed responsibility for this attack and we condemn this attack unreservedly. It is of particular concern that the attack is taking place in an area where so many civilians are present and going about their daily work. You will recall that only recently, we issued a report on civilian casualties which clearly indicated that suicide bomb attacks and roadside bombs are the biggest killers of civilians in Afghanistan, and last year alone over 1,000 civilians were killed in such attacks. We are monitoring the situation closely as we speak and we hope to be able to give you an update on the situation later during the day.
The Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board will meet for the thirteenth time on Wednesday (20 January).
This JCMB will be presented with the Government of Afghanistan's key plans ahead of the London Conference on 28 January.
Economic development plans and the effective use of aid money; increasing the size of the Afghan National Army and Police and the support provided by the international community to support and train both of these institutions; and peace and reintegration plans will be among the topics on the agenda and presented for approval.
The JCMB is the forum where Afghanistan's leaders and the international community identify top development priorities and finance them. It is chaired by Minister of Finance Zakhilwal and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General Kai Eide.
ENHANCING TRANSPARENCY AND EFFICIENCY OF CUSTOMS FACILITATION DRAMATICALLY INCREASES AFGHAN TRADE VOLUMES AND REVENUE COLLECTION
UN supported customs capacity building in Afghanistan has resulted in the increment of revenue collection by 700 per cent and trade by 300 per cent.
Since 2003, UNOPS, UNCTAD and UNIDO have been working with the Afghan Customs Department (ACD) under the Ministry of Finance on a customs modernization and trade facilitation project to improve the capacity of the ACD to effectively manage custom clearance processes and revenue collection.
Six years back, trucks could wait up to 7 hours for their turn. Today, they can be back on the road in less than two hours.
The time to clear customs for trucks has now been reduced from 428 minutes to around 90 minutes. This in turn has increased trade volume by 300 per cent from US$ 2 billion to US$ 8 billion per annum, according to World Bank estimates. Customs revenue collection for the Afghan Authorities has been boosted by almost 700 per cent from US$ 50 million to nearly US$ 400 million and the capacity of the ACD strengthened to deliver better and more transparent services through the implementation of electronic customs processing systems and training
The project, which is financed through interest-free credit and grants by the International Development Association (IDA), has been such a success that based on the Government of Afghanistan's request, IDA is considering financing a follow on project to ensure that the reform process within the Customs Department continues.
From 2003 to 2009, the major focus of the project has been on establishing a more efficient and transparent customs system; improving the revenue collecting capacity of the ACD and other agencies; decreasing the obstacles and costs related to customs clearance through improvements in infrastructure, communications and administration systems; and facilitating Afghanistan's international trade.