Notes from the Field

Afghans Optimistic about Reconstruction, Report Progress in Day-to-Day Needs Being Met

November 16, 2011

For the first time since 2007, respondents in The Asia Foundation’s 2011 Survey of the Afghan People cited reconstruction and rebuilding as the most important reason for optimism.

The level of optimism for reconstruction and rebuilding is high across all 34 provinces, but particularly so in the West, Central/Kabul, South East, South West, and East regions and urban areas. The level of optimism is nearly the same for men and women, as well as all ethnic groups, except Hazara who reported slightly lower figures.

2011 Afghan Survey

Respondents in the 2011 Survey who reported the need for reconstruction as a reason for pessimism is at the lowest level since the Foundation first conduced the survey in 2004.

The finding highlights a link that respondents perceive between the direction of progress in the country and the ability of government to provide essential services and support for development projects. Respondents report the highest level of satisfaction with the availability of education for children, with almost three quarters (73%) saying this is quite good or very good in their local area. A similarly high proportion of respondents say the same about the availability of clean drinking water (70%) and freedom of movement or their ability to move safely in their area or district (70%). More than two thirds (69%) of respondents say the security situation is quite good or very good in the area where they live.

On the other hand, people are least satisfied with the availability of jobs. More than two thirds (70%) of respondents say the availability of jobs in their local area is quite bad or very bad. Almost two thirds (65%) say the same about the supply of electricity. Although procurement of electricity is an ongoing focus of President Karzai’s administration, including some success at bringing in electricity from neighboring countries, local potential for greater electricity supply has not been tapped. The delay has resulted in lost of revenue for the country and potential infrastructural construction job opportunities.

The survey also cited greater awareness among respondents of reconstruction projects in their local areas, such as road and bridge construction, improvements to education, new schools, and teacher training. With the road network in place, people have easier access to markets and greater ease of doing business.

Though findings vary across regions, people who cited the need for reconstruction as a reason for pessimism is now at its lowest level since we first began conducting the survey, in 2004. The same is true for people who cite unemployment and a poor economy as the biggest problems facing Afghanistan, which both fell to the lowest levels since 2006, suggesting that Afghans view the country’s economic situation more favorably than in previous years. The percentage of people who gave a positive assessment of the availability of jobs in their local area has been rising steadily since 2008, which is consistent with the fall in those that identify unemployment as a major national problem. The most significant improvements concern the financial well-being of households, quality of the food diet, availability of products in the market, and the physical conditions of housing, suggesting that the level of material prosperity is improving for a significant percentage of the Afghan population.

Increased optimism in the area of reconstruction and rebuilding certainly represents a source of hope for Afghanistan’s future development. However, it will be critical that emphasis on the needs of the country’s citizens be met with even greater focus and commitment in order to regain the trust and confidence of the Afghan people.

Fazel Rabi Haqbeen is The Asia Foundation’s program planning & development director in Kabul and co-author of the Survey of the Afghan People. He can be reached at fhaqbeen@asiafound.org. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the individual author and not those of The Asia Foundation.

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