Afghanistan Wants to See the Money

One of the more surprising decisions to come out of the international conference held in Kabul last week was to start funneling half of foreign aid directly through the Afghan government, compared with only 20 percent now. Those billions will be an inviting target: Transparency International ranks Afghanistan second worst on its Corruption Perceptions Index. One Kabul-based NGO recently estimated that Afghans paid $1 billion in bribes last year.

But Afghan officials have proved in the past that they can distribute aid efficiently—especially through the National Solidarity Program instituted by former finance minister Ashraf Ghani to promote community-run development. United Nations adviser Clare Lockhart notes that Kabul has asked to move the new aid through transparent trust funds and programs involved with international organizations like the World Bank. And foreign NGOs, which operate with huge overhead costs, have problems of their own. Better for Afghanistan to take control of its economic future.

Correction: We originally noted that Lockhart is an adviser to Ghani. She is not. NEWSWEEK regrets the error.