Afghan govt undergoes overhaul

2014-11-17 16:30

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Kabul - Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has missed his own deadline for naming a cabinet as he undertakes a major overhaul of his country's government, which officials and analysts say has long suffered from a focus on patronage rather than policy.

The delay has raised concerns that Ghani and his former rival Abdullah Abdullah — now in the prime minister-like post of chief executive — cannot agree on who should take what cabinet post.

Diplomats and officials say, however, the two leaders are restructuring the administration to focus on security, the economy and social policy ahead of a vital donor conference in December.

Right jobs

"There is no deadlock or difference of opinion," said Mujib Rahman Rahimi, Abdullah's spokesperson. It takes time "to consider how to fill these positions in order to have a functioning, professional cabinet."

Senior advisers are being appointed, regulatory authorities set up, ministers' duties defined and some of the 24 ministries merged to possibly as few as 18, officials and analysts said.

Only when these tasks are complete can "the right people with the right skills be appointed to the right jobs," said another official close to Abdullah.

Ghani became president in September, promising to reverse the legacy of corruption and nepotism of his predecessor Hamid Karzai's 13 years in office. He inherited an anaemic economy, endemic corruption, a lack of public trust in government and a still-virulent Taliban insurgency as US and Nato combat troops prepare to withdraw at the end of the year.

Ghani said he would appoint his cabinet within 45 days, but that deadline passed on Thursday last week.

Senior positions

He has met around 80% of senior officials and asked each to explain the functions and responsibilities of their institutions, said Ghani's spokesperson Nazifullah Salarzai.

"They all said there was no political will to have an institution that functioned normally and accountably," Salarzai said.

Ghani already has appointed former Interior Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar as national security adviser and acting Finance Minister Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal as national finance adviser.

Women are expected to take a number of senior positions, while the Women's Affairs Ministry, widely derided as ineffectual, could be among those to go, a number of officials said.

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