Monday, August 16, 2004

Roads are more than transpo

In Afghanistan, paved roads do more than just make it easier to travel from one city to another. They stimulate the economy. Tradesmen can travel faster, making it easier to do more trade. When travel is made easier, more people are willing to travel. More people travel to the city to make or spend money. People living along the roads set up shops roadside to sell their wares to travelers. I never really thought about how much just building roads can help stimulate the economy till I read this article from the American Forces Press Service. Check it out.

GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Aug. 13, 2004 –– Members of the Ghazni provincial reconstruction team and the local government are looking at long-term improvements to be made in their region, adding to the redevelopment taking place throughout Afghanistan.
Road improvements taking place in Ghazni, Afghanistan, include repairs being made to the bridges in the area. Photo by Sgt. Stephanie L. Carl, USA(Click photo for screen-resolution image); high-resolution image available.
One of those projects with long-term benefits is improving roads in the area. This project tackles two issues -- the landscape and the economy.
"We've been able to pave about five kilometers of road," said Lt. Col. Steven J. Ford, Ghazni PRT commander. Included in these five kilometers are Kandahar Bus Station Road, which had its official opening July 29, and Hospital Road. Both of these streets run along bustling business districts and provide convenient passage to market areas.
"We spent around $300,000 on Hospital Road," said Allen Nugent, Ghazni PRT's U.S. Agency for International Development representative. The funding for each of the roads came from USAID, which allocates money to development projects.
"Both Hospital Road and Kandahar Bus Station Road connect to Ring Road," said Nugent. This makes them an economic asset to Ghazni city, which is one of the largest cities in Afghanistan. Ring Road links major hubs of Afghanistan, such as Kabul and Khandahar, providing a developed route for economic growth.
Already, business establishments are starting to sprout up along the new roads, from fabric stands to fresh produce stalls, as entrepreneurs are looking to profit from the influx of passersby. "We really hope these projects assist with economic development," said Nugent.
But the improvements don't stop with downtown Ghazni. Bazaars and other establishments have begun to open in areas anticipating future projects.
"We're also looking at ways to link the outlying areas of Ghazni to Ring Road," said Nugent. Another project in the design phase is a road from Ghazni to Gardez, an important trade route for the merchants of both areas.
"This project is going to be planned and completed by several contractors," he said. "This will help bring even more money to the Afghan people."
While the PRT and agencies such as USAID are providing the funding for the roads themselves, Ghazni's provincial government is making other improvements right along with them.
"These roads have curbs, sidewalks and covered drains," said Nugent. The provincial government itself, hoping to further improve the living conditions and infrastructure in Ghazni, made these improvements.
"They've even installed streetlights along the roads," said Maj. Scott C. Ford, Ghazni Civil Military Operations Center commander. "When you drive through here at night, it looks almost like an American city."
With the combined efforts of the PRT and the Afghan government, it's only a matter of time before Ghazni finds itself classified as a center of commerce for Afghanistan, said the PRT commander.
"These roads are presenting an immediate ripple effect," he said. "As soon as we have the ground-breaking for a road, there is an immediate economic impact."


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