KABUL (Reuters) - Billions of dollars of aid that have poured into Afghanistan have done little to improve people’s lives and sweeping personnel changes in government and aid agencies should be made, a former minister said on Tuesday.
"We do not see the least improvement," Ramazan Bashardost, a former planning minister in President Hamid Karzai’s U.S.-backed government, told a news conference at Afghanistan’s parliament.
The French-educated Bashardost won a seat in landmark parliamentary elections in September with one of the highest numbers of votes.
Speaking hours before a conference on Afghanistan’s aid donors was due to open in London, Bashardost criticised the government, the United Nations and aid groups.
"The people are asking themselves ’if these billions of dollars have been donated, which of our pains they have remedied, what ointment has been put on our wounds’," he said.
"There is minimum improvement in the lives of the ordinary people," he said.
Aid and how it is used is expected to be a central theme at the London talks, to be chaired by Karzai, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Prime Minister Tony Blair.
The government is seeking greater control of aid, saying only a fraction of $11.9 billion (7 billion pounds) disbursed since 2002 has been channelled through international organisations and aid groups and much is wasted.
Bashardost backed the government’s call for greater control of aid and said top government and aid officials should be replaced because they had wasted aid.
"All ministers and key government figures have lost their legitimacy," he said.
"There should be changes at the ministerial level, among leading figures of aid agencies, foreign banks and institutions in order to avoid wasting assistance again," he said.
Bashardost resigned as planning minister in late 2004 after a row over corruption in non-governmental organisations (NGOs). He wanted to close nearly 2,000 NGOs, saying they were flouting the law and not working for the benefit of the people.
Since U.S. forces invaded in late 2001 to oust the hardline Taliban, some major roads have been repaired or rebuilt, four million refugees have been repatriated, millions of children and have been sent back to school and numerous clinics built.
But Afghanistan remains among the world’s poorest countries.
Millions of people are poorly nourished, about a quarter of all children die before they are five, and half of all men and 80 percent of women are illiterate. Only six percent of people have access to mains electricity.
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