Afghanistan dispatches: ‘inflation is sucking the life out of millions’
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Afghanistan dispatches: ‘inflation is sucking the life out of millions’

Law students and lawyers in Afghanistan are filing reports with JURIST on the situation there after the fall of Kabul to the Taliban. Here, a law student in Kabul offers his perspective on how rampant inflation of the Afghan currency against the US dollar is destroying the lives and very souls of Afghans even before the cold winter sets in. For privacy and security reasons we are withholding the name and institutional affiliation of our correspondent. The text has been only lightly edited to respect the author’s voice.

After more than 100 days of a Taliban-ruled Kabul, inflation is sucking the life out of millions. In June 2021, 1 US dollar equalled 76 to 77 Afghanis. In July, 1 USD equaled 79 AFS. I remember many were worried then about making ends meet. After the takeover of Kabul, and in particular once it was revealed that that central bank reserves were empty the US dollar value spiked against Afghani. Today a single USD goes runs to to 96.30-96.40 in Kabul markets, which makes it quite difficult for the average household to maintain a three meal per day routine.

In order to understand how inflation affects Afghan citizens, you have to know a bit how trade works in Afghanistan these days. Close to every item on the lists of staples in an average household in Kabul are imports. Take cooking oil for instance; any business that imports this oil need to gather US dollars from the current market to be able to buy and import this product, hence the importing company has to sell the product to distributers in USD rates and the sub-distributee has to buy them in USD rate. But since the average person does not trade or own any dollars, they have to buy the cooking oil in Afghanis.

So this makes one wonder where the circulation of USD begin. Well, after the importing company gathers enough Afghanis they then have to buy USD with it and then import the product using that money. Given that mostly or close to all trade happen in physical money, this makes it a lagging and slow paced process. The USD market value was somewhat controlled by the government and central bank by injecting millions of USD by auctioning it in the market. Now that the banks are moving toward a full stoppage and the government is run by baboons the inflation is creeping into the very bones of citizens. Add to this a very disturbing claimbrought up by the vice president of the former Afghan administration, who says that the Pakistan government is printing Afghan money for the Taliban; which encourages inflation in itself.

And that’s not all when it comes to our economic problems. “Unemployment” is a word that misrepresent the situation in Afghanistan. Given inflation and terroristic persecution of business owners, many have fled and many businesses have died out. The private sector is therefore virtually non-existant. Meanwhile, many who are employed in public offices have not been paid for more than four months. Some laborers and essential sellers earn less than 50 cents a day, or maybe if they have a good day, more than a dollar. I cannot imagine how they can endure if the inflation goes on. Since I gave an example about cooking oil earklier this may clear my point a bit clearer: the cheapest vegetable oil is 1950 AFS, which if very cautiously used will sustain a household of five maybe a month. I know many who earn less than a dollar a day, and assuming there is no cost of living increase, a month of work will not give the purchase power required to buy only that, let alone food, rent, water, gas (all the more important given the prospect of a cold winter ahead with no heat).

A small increase in the local cost of USD would perhaps be unnoticeable in many places, but where we are, things are a bit different. It makes fathers age a decade in a week and mothers to lose their kind smiles to a cruel sadness. It makes young people once full of joy and hope get brow wrinkles deeper than any experience they have had in their short fresh lives.

I will leave you with this. Today in Kabul I saw a man—bold in character and rich in meaning—who had taken a cart to earn his living. After a day of not being call to do any work, he cried when the sun set, not, I imagine, from the prospect of being hungry at night, but out of anguish for having to return to his family with nothing to show for his effort.