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What Afghanistan can learn from the Taliban

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The director of a nongovernmental organization (NGO) recently revealed that groups based in Afghanistan usually designate 7 to 10 percent of their annual budgets to pay to the officials with whom they conduct business – or to expenses they expect to be "inflated" through illegal means. (In budget reports, these allotments are often called "facilitation fees" or "marketing expenses.")

Consider this: amounting to a few million dollars in cash, has been used to keep several former mujahideen commanders from attacking United States forces in key areas. The US military gives Viagra in exchange for intelligence information.

From buying land to renewing visas, to side-stepping taxes, the legal process can be nearly impossible without those handy paper pictures of Benjamin Franklin. Turning a blind eye is an important income-generator.

Would granting higher salaries to government employees reduce demands for this type of ? Sure. But a lasting solution would have to address two major problems: first, the government's lack of transparency, and second, the lack of checks and balances in the rule of law. Both are complicated by Afghanistan's tribal system, and the fact that attitudes we might call "cronyism" or "nepotism," might be considered "honorable" by an Afghan.

A single results in gains for many individuals beyond the one who asks for the payment. These outlying beneficiaries are often close friends and family members. With these networks to support them, officials are more likely to demand – and less likely to be punished for doing so.

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