The capital of Afghanistan may go into complete darkness ahead of winter because Taliban rulers have not paid power companies in Central Asia or returned to collect payments from residents for electricity use.
If left unmanaged, they can be left astray and lose the right path.
“The repercussions will eventually be felt across the country, but especially in Kabul. There will be darkness and it will take Afghanistan back to the Middle Ages when it comes to electricity and communications,” said Norzai, who maintained close ties with the remaining executives at DABS. “It would be a really dangerous situation,” he added.
Kabul depends on imported electricity
Electricity imports from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan account for about half of electricity consumption in all of Afghanistan, and Iran supplies additional electricity in its western part. Domestic production, especially at hydroelectric power stations, was severely affected by the drought this year. Afghanistan does not have a national electricity grid. Kabul is therefore almost entirely dependent on electricity imported from Central Asia.
Today, there is plenty of electricity in the Afghan capital – a rare improvement, though transient since the Taliban takeover. This is partly due to the fact that the Taliban no longer attacks power lines from Central Asia. Another reason is that because all the industry in the country has been halted and military and government facilities are now largely abandoned, the darkness, which was part of the daily routine, has stopped for the time being.
All of this is likely to end abruptly if the supplying countries in Central Asia – especially Tajikistan, whose relations with the Taliban are rapidly deteriorating – decide to block supplies to DABS due to non.payment. Tajikistan has provided shelter to opponents of the Taliban, such as former Vice President Amarula Saleh, and recently sent more troops to the border with Afghanistan. Russia has called on both countries to end mutual escalation.
“Neighboring countries have the right to cut electricity supplies under the contract,” said Spiola Ahmadi, chief operating officer of DABS, who remained in office after the Taliban took over as acting director general until he was replaced by a Taliban cleric on Sunday. To do so, we promise they will get paid. “
The Taliban spokesman and a spokesman for the new government’s Ministry of Energy and Water did not respond to requests for a response from the Wall Street Journal.
Mafia active at night in Kabul, September / Photo: Reuters, JORGE SILVA
Residents stopped paying for electricity
At the time of the Taliban takeover, IEC (DABS) accounts had about $ 40 million in cash – money, Norzai said, that some senior government officials had tried to force him to give. The Taliban, starved for funding because of international sanctions, has not approved the use of this money to pay electricity company invoices. DABS’s liabilities have since grown to more than $ 90 million and continue to rise, Ahmadi said. Meanwhile, the collection of payments from customers shrank by 74% last month, and revenue since mid.August has reached only $ 8.9 million, according to DABS executives.
When government ministries do not pay salaries for months and the banking system is paralyzed, many Afghans have no means to pay their electricity bills. Last year, customers in Kabul were responsible for about half of DABS’s total revenue of $ 387 million, according to company documents.
Citizens are considering returning to oil lamps
An 28.year.old Afghan man named Massoud, who sells fresh pomegranate juice in a cart on the streets of Kabul, says he has not paid his electricity bill to DABS for two months. He said the Taliban’s takeover caused food prices to rise and he did not have enough money left to pay the bill, which amounts to between $ 6 and $ 12 for a family of eight. “Our problems swell every day,” Massoud said. “I ask the international community to help us,” he adds, “our problems in the country are only growing by the day.”
Farouk Pakiri, 32, who owns a market stall in Kabul that sells plastic jewelry, said his seven.year.old family could have chosen to eat meat every once in a while, but nowadays only subsist on potatoes. According to him, the number of people buying his jewelry today in the era of Taliban rule, is one.fifth of what it was before. Fakiri says that now his family even has to skip some of these meals in order to save enough money to pay the electricity bill, which is already a month behind. “The electricity comes from a company so they will not give us the bill,” Pakiri said. “If they cut us off, we’ll have to go back in time and use the oil for lighting and heating in our rooms.”
DABS needs an urgent injection of $ 90 million to avoid a collapse, said Spiola Ahmadzi, operations manager at DABS. He urged international donors to work directly to regulate late payments to Central Asian countries or to cover the unpaid bills of Afghan consumers. “This is not a political issue, it will be a direct payment to the poor people of Afghanistan, not to the government,” he explained. “Other than that, electricity is essential for the wheels of the economy to keep turning.”
The international community has pledged more than $ 1 billion in emergency payments to Afghanistan at a UN.sponsored conference last month. Central Asia According to the diplomat, those Central Asian countries should use the money they owe as leverage against the new Taliban regime.
An Afghan street seller talks to customers buying shoes at a street market in Kabul, last week / Photo: Associated Press, Felipe Dan
On the fast track to insolvency
While many of DABS’s central management staff remained in office, the Taliban replaced local district officials with clerics, though they left people from the company as their deputies, Ahmadinejad said. On DABS’s Facebook page, Ahmadi praised the Taliban’s Islamic statement for bringing peace to the country. Many IEC professionals, as in other areas of Afghanistan’s corporate and government bureaucracy, have fled the country since the Taliban took over or are now trying to flee it.
Norzai, who resigned as CEO of the Electric Company, said the good price the state receives under its existing contracts is in jeopardy unless the accounts are settled late. “If we do not pay them on time, we will reach insolvency on our contracts – You compensate for the damage to the customer by increasing the price. “