Law students and lawyers in Afghanistan are filing reports with JURIST on the situation there after the Taliban takeover. Here, a Staff Correspondent for JURIST in Kabul offers observations on the financial predicament of school teachers in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s financial incapability to pay. For privacy and security reasons we are withholding his name and institutional affiliation. The text has been only lightly edited to respect the author’s voice.
Most school teachers in Afghanistan have not received salaries for almost three months now, leading to demonstrations across the country. The Taliban have released statements assuring that the salaries will be processed but it appears that it is unable to pay. The Ministry of Higher Education released a statement of its own recently noting that public universities will remain closed due to lack of funds. The situation appears to be the same with schools.
UNICEF announced that it is working with the Taliban to pay school teachers without involving the group directly. I do not know how it plans to do that but I hope it handles the flow of funds through the commercial banks. My concern is that the Ministry will not provide UNICEF with accurate information regarding the number of teachers currently teaching and/or waiting to return to schools. That in turn can lead to payroll fraud and corruption. This is not a novel issue—the same thing happened under the former government with payments being made to nonexistent teachers. Such a ghost payment practice will surely occur if the Taliban gets involved in this process.
What might complicate this problem right now is that the Taliban have banned the use of foreign currencies in the country. It cannot be a coincidence that banks were already running out of foreign exchange reserves, particularly US dollars. Even before this development, people visiting banks in the city to withdraw cash were being told that the central bank changed its policy and they could only withdraw US $400 on a weekly basis. Regardless of this policy, banks were telling customers even then that they ran out of US dollars and will instead pay customers in the local Afghani currency rather than dollars at the current exchange rate. It appears that customers currently have no choice but to accept payment in Afghani. Consequently, it also appears that UNICEF will now be forced to pay the teachers in Afghani, although it is unclear how it plans to make the payment without involving the Taliban.