Thank you, Minister Zakhilwal. I am very pleased to be here today to commemorate this major milestone on Afghanistan’s road to economic sustainability.
The agreement by our two Governments to relieve Afghanistan of $108 million worth of debt is an important element of the international community’s broader effort to lift the debt burden inherited by the Afghan Government. This international effort will ultimately result in a 96% reduction of Afghanistan’s external debt, equivalent to about $11 billion.
Debt relief is crucial to Afghanistan’s broader poverty reduction program, as it will allow the Afghan Government to spend more of its future resources in such sectors as health and education which improve the lives of the Afghan people.
This agreement represents the culmination of a long-process that began in 2007 when Afghanistan first began its debt relief program under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries Initiative.
The Afghan Government had to meet a number of goals to reach HIPC “completion,” which occurred in March. These reforms included implementing the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS), reforming the legal framework in the mining sector, and meeting the benchmarks laid out by Afghanistan’s current IMF program.
Reaching HIPC “completion” reflects the international community’s acknowledgment of Afghanistan’s good performance on these programs.
In particular, I commend Finance Minister Zakhilwal for taking the lead on many on these programs and reforms.
Yesterday’s announcement that the Afghan Government has agreed to develop a follow-on economic program with the IMF reflects this government’s commitment to maintaining the pace of reform.
Strengthening the domestic economy is an integral element of the Afghan Government’s mission to provide a safe, stable, and prosperous environment for Afghans throughout the country.
America’s support for efforts such as this one help Afghanistan keep moving forward on the path of economic recovery and serve as clear evidence of our long-term commitment or partnership and friendship with the Afghan Government and people.
We look forward to working with the Afghan Government on further steps to strengthen the economy and increase the wealth of this great nation. Tashakur