UN survey Afghan opium production remains shockingly high

6 February 2008A United Nations study of opium production in Afghanistan released today has concluded that this year’s cultivation levels remain shockingly high, and will be broadly similar to or slightly lower than last year’s record harvest of 192,000 hectares. Presenting the assessment, the Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, said that while the level of opium cultivated may have peaked, the money generated by Afghan drugs remained a destabilizing force. He warned Europe, Russia and countries along Afghan heroin routes to “brace themselves again for major health and security consequences.” UNODC’s Afghanistan Opium Winter Assessment reports a growing divide between opium-free provinces in the north-east, and ever-higher levels of cultivation in the south-west, where the Taliban insurgency is strongest. A dozen provinces are expected to remain free of opium cultivation this year, while more than three-quarters of Afghanistan’s opium is grown in areas outside the Government’s control. The assessment is based on field visits and interviews with village leaders. “Afghanistan is becoming a divided country, with clear drugs and insurgency battle lines,” Mr. Costa warned. “Opium is a massive source of revenue for the Taliban.” He said this money came from a tax of around 10 per cent on opium farmers, which generated close to $100 million, in addition to money made by running heroin labs and drug exports. The report also shows that Afghanistan has become the world’s biggest supplier of cannabis (estimated at 70,000 hectares this year), which is exported mainly through the southern borders, Pakistan and Iran to the Gulf countries. The UN drugs chief urged Afghanistan and its allies to take decisive action. “While analysts debate endlessly how to prioritize security, development, counter-narcotics and good governance, the Afghan opium situation is becoming desperate. And time is not on the right side,” he warned. He underlined the need for strong and honest institutions to combat opium cultivation, and pointed to elements still lacking, which he said included “honest and functioning Ministries of Counter-Narcotics and of the Interior; an anti-corruption authority with integrity and credible powers; an efficient judicial system; and honest and committed governors throughout the country.”Concerns about Afghanistan’s drug industry, violence and corruption and their impact on the country’s development were also expressed by some two dozen countries and international organisations meeting in Tokyo.Members of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board, the high-level body tasked with overseeing the five-year reconstruction blueprint known as the Afghanistan Compact, highlighted the progress achieved over the past several years in the war-ravaged country. At the same time, participants “noted that Taliban, related armed groups, terrorism and narcotics continue to pose a challenge, inhibiting the peace process; and governance has been challenged by capacity constraints, weak rule of law and corruption,” according to a joint communiqué issued yesterday.Among other things, they agreed to intensify their efforts to meet the threat posed by the narcotics industry, and to enhance the Government’s capacity to deliver basic services, reduce corruption and spur economic growth. read more

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Global finance officials argue benefits of free trade

World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim, left, joined by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, speaks at the “Financing For Peace: Innovations to Tackle Fragility” session during the G20 at the 2017 World Bank Group Spring Meetings in Washington, Friday, April 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) WASHINGTON – The world’s major economies are united in their belief that free trade delivers healthy economic growth. But they also agree that more needs to be done for those left behind, and the new Trump administration is letting it be known that it intends to make sure that America’s trade deals are fair for U.S. workers.German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told reporters Friday that if more isn’t done “we will see more protectionism and countries retreating from globalization.”Schaeuble spoke with reporters Friday at the conclusion of two days of talks among finance ministers and central bank presidents from the Group of 20 major world economies. Germany is chairing the G-20 this year.The G-20 discussions were being held in conjunction with the spring meetings of the 189-nation International Monetary Fund and its sister lending organization, the World Bank, which are scheduled to conclude Saturday. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen were representing the United States at the discussions.In comments prepared for the IMF meeting, Mnuchin said the United States wanted to see the IMF “more robustly fulfil its surveillance mandate,” which includes monitoring the currency policies of IMF member nations to make sure they do not manipulate their currencies to gain trade advantages.President Donald Trump has vowed to sharply reduce America’s huge trade deficits, which Trump says have cost the country millions of well-paying jobs.“In our view, excessively large trade surpluses, like excessively large trade deficits, are not conducive to supporting a free and fair trading system,” Mnuchin said in his remarks to the IMF panel.All of the talks this week have been dominated by concerns about growing anti-globalization sentiment represented by such events as Trump’s surprise election victory last November and the vote by Britain last summer to exit the European Union.At his news conference, Schaeuble dodged questions about whether other countries expressed concerns during the G-20 meetings, which got underway with a dinner Thursday night, about Trump’s America First trade rhetoric.Schaeuble stressed widespread agreement on the benefits of free trade.The G-20 finance officials generally agreed with the assessment made by the IMF on Tuesday in its latest economic outlook — that global growth should pick up this year, helped by improving conditions in the United States and China, the world’s two biggest economies.Schaeuble warned that economic policymakers needed “to prepare ourselves” for the end of easy money policy from the world’s central banks. “This will be challenging,” he said.In the U.S., the Federal Reserve has raised short-term interest rates twice since December, is on target for more hikes this year and is weighing whether to begin selling part of its vast portfolio of bonds, a move that also could drive up rates.Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer said in a CNBC interview on the sidelines of the meetings that he had not seen anything yet to change the view that the Fed will raise rates two more times this year, but he said the actual rate hikes “are dependent on what happens to the economy.”On when the Fed might begin reducing its massive $4.5 trillion balance sheet, Fischer noted that the minutes of the last meeting showed that central bank officials discussed making a decision on when to begin trimming assets by the end of the year. But he said no decision had been made yet on whether the reductions in bond holdings would start by December or just be announced.Rising interest rates in the United States could drive up the dollar, hurt American exporters and squeeze foreign borrowers who took out loans they have to repay in the U.S. currency.At a time of rising tensions over Syria and North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, Schaeuble said “the geopolitical risk is by far the (biggest) risk for stable economic development.”In addition to the prospects of the global economy, finance officials also grappled with problems facing individual countries.IMF managing director Christine Lagarde held what she described as “constructive discussions” with Greek Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, but her statement gave no indication that the parties were close to a new agreement.The IMF has refused to participate in a bailout of Greece until it is convinced that the troubled country can pay its debts over the long haul — something the IMF says will require debt relief from Greece’s eurozone creditors.Bailout inspectors from the IMF and European Union institutions are expected to return to Athens next week to discuss Greece’s budget targets and whether the country needs to further cut pensions and make it easier for employers to fire workers.The meetings in Washington attracted protesters. Anti-poverty activists said that the World Bank must expand its definition of poverty so more needy people around the world can be helped.Terri Ford of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation said that 75 per cent of the world’s poor and the majority of people living with HIV/AIDS reside in countries which the World Bank currently classifies as some bracket of middle-income. by Martin Crutsinger And Paul Wiseman, The Associated Press Posted Apr 21, 2017 8:20 am MDT Last Updated Apr 21, 2017 at 4:20 pm MDT AddThis Sharing ButtonsShare to TwitterTwitterShare to FacebookFacebookShare to RedditRedditShare to 電子郵件Email Global finance officials argue benefits of free trade read more

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