News - Afghanistan
Despite reports that the National Unity Government (NUG) would finalize a plan for the pilot phase rollout of the e-NIC program at its meeting on Thursday, the issue was not discussed in the end, stoking fears of further delays and funding shortfalls at the e-NIC department.
Officials at the e-NIC department said continued delays in the rollout would likely mean the termination of jobs. Funding organizations such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have already cut off further aid for the electronic ID program because of the halting process. The European Union (EU) has warned it could halt funding as well.
The pilot phase was initially intended to start on August 19, which coincided with Afghanistan's National Independence.
"We hoped that the Council of Ministers would have discussed two important topics concerning e-NIC: including the timeframe for the exact launch of the distribution process and how to prevent complete termination of financial assistance to the department," e-NIC head Ezmarai Baher said on Friday.
According to Baher, a total budget of 100 million USD has been made available by international donors for supporting the e-NIC program. But disagreements between NUG leaders is said to have gotten in the way of a smooth trial distribution.
Now, officials report some 800 employees working at the e-NIC department have not been paid their salaries for months.
"This situation not only damages national sprit but also damages our self-confidence, it indicates that we, the Afghans, can't do anything," Afghan journalist Sayed Zia Danish said of e-NIC delays.
"The problem emerged during Karzai and continues," political analyst Bakht Mohammad Bakhtyar said. "We are losing time and the government must act."