Not so long ago it was unimaginable to even to predict that while someone would mention the name of Ministry of Urban Development and Housing (MUDH) and you wouldn’t associate all the negative names with it. But after Sayed Sadat Mansoor Naderi’s elevation as the minister of Urban Development and Housing, the ministry has become one of the key ministries of the Afghan government.
After assuming his office as a minister of Urban Development and Housing, Mr. Naderi not only focused on providing better services to Afghan citizens, but also took the fight against corruption and continued the reform agenda ahead of others, brought drastic reforms both on central and provincial levels in the MUDH administrations, garnered donor and countries support for various housing projects.
Previously known as a notoriously corrupt ministry, Naderi was determined to purge corruption in its all forms. For instance, he recovered more than 100 million AFN in his initial efforts against corruption through the forming and chairing of a committee to assess the central and provincial directorates. Naderi fathoms that vibrant change comes at a time when there’s little or no trust between the people and the government.
Given his portfolio’s bleak history, he was determined to regain the lost trust of the people and the private sector. Thus, he traveled to 34 provinces to evaluate the performance of ministry’s provincial directorates to make sure that the directorates are answering the questions of locals as well as to speak and listen to local issues in the urban sector.
In terms of working with the donors, three years ago when the ministry was home to many corrupt officials it had already upset various donor agencies and other states who were keen to support the Afghan urban sector. For instance, there were various projects that were supported by various countries and donor agencies prior to new government’s formation. But unfortunately, the dilemma of corruption not only affected the entire projects plan but also hurt the interests of donor agencies and countries that were keen to invest and support the Afghan urban sector.
Naderi realizes that without the support of Afghanistan’s international friends and donor agencies it would be cumbersome for his ministry to meet its ends. His three years of efforts of purging corruption at the ministry and bringing vast reforms by recruiting young and foreign-educated individuals to various key posts at central and provincial levels through a transparent process named ‘CBR’ paved the way to garner various countries and donor agencies interests back to the Afghan urban sector. For instance, the UN-HABITAT, UNESCO, and World Bank are now closely working with MUDH on various projects that are worth tens of millions of dollars. Countries such as China, India and the European Union, UAE and Qatar have already expressed their interests in terms of funding the designed housing schemes and projects of the ministry.
In addition, residential projects such as Khawaja Rawash and Khushal Khan, which were not completed due to various technical and administrative problems, were completed and put for public use during his three-year tenure.
Ashraf Ghani, the President of Afghanistan also realizes how vital it is for his government to meet the growing demands of people in the urban sector. Putting that as a top agenda of the government, the President himself chairs the higher urban council that aims at transforming the entire urban sector of Afghanistan by reviewing existing plans and strategies or crafting new ones. The MUDH under Naderi’s leadership is in the lead of the urban sector and has been engaged closely with all other partners. The urban sector is formed of Ministry of Urban Development and Housing, Independent Directorate of Local Governance, Afghanistan’s National Environmental Protection Agency, Capital Region Independent Development Authority, and the Afghanistan Independent Land Authority.
Mr. Naderi chairs monthly meetings and remains in close contact with urban sector leadership to promote cohesion, coordination, and cooperation. Unlike before, the administration functions as a unified team of the urban sector rather than as rivals or competitors. An excellent example of the change is the close coordination of institutions involved in the development of the urban sector and holding of the fourth consecutive National Urban Conference. The conference brought together all actors in the urban sector on a single platform to communicate with the people, disseminate information, and apprise them about their plans and initiatives.
The ministry has now become one of the key ministries of the Afghan government and the President has now given more power and authority to the minister. For instance, the President of Afghanistan issued a decree to transfer all construction projects from other ministries and directed MUDH to implement those projects in efficient and effective manner.
The four decades conflict in Afghanistan has destroyed the social and economic foundations of Afghanistan. Millions of Afghans sought refuge in 71 countries but a large portion of them migrated to Pakistan and Iran. They returned to Afghanistan with a hope in the post-Taliban era but found their homes destroyed. Meanwhile, in the last sixteen years, Afghanistan has turned to be the fastest growing urban population and the youngest country in term of age in the world thus the issue of housing was becoming a pressing one. The previous leadership of MUDH didn’t pay the due attention to this looming issue but after his elevation as minister of MUDH, Nadery put this as one of his top priorities of his assignment. Now the MUDH has designed residential projects for armed forces personnel, the staff of the Judiciary, a comprehensive residential plan for Returnees, and housing plan for civil servants.
Given the poor economic statics of Afghans that could not afford to buy or build a house, MUDH has now not only introduced a mortgage system which will help ordinary people buy affordable houses but also expanded the construction of affordable housing projects to provinces as well. With his efforts, China has agreed to fund a residential project of 10,000, which is scheduled to commence within two months. India has also expressed willingness of building 4,000 houses for returnees in Nangarhar province. Through ministry’s continued efforts, the European Union and a number of other major donors have also expressed readiness for the construction of 8,000 residential units for IDPs and returnees in Herat province.
Afghanistan’s urban planning was once dependent on foreign engineers or experts but now, as a result of the efforts of the MUDH, Afghans are now devising their own urban plans for major cities of Afghanistan. Between 2014 and 2017, the ministry completed 33 detailed plans, 85 strategic plans and master plans for the six major cities of Afghanistan. Plans which were neglected and ignored in last decade are now being taken into consideration and, finally, brought into the limelight. The results so far have been positive and projects are progressing rapidly with time. Negligence has turned our historical sites into ruins. War has robbed the whole nation of its cultural and religious identity. Historical sites and sacred monuments have been severely destroyed and damaged and need immediate attention.
As there has been no renovation or reconstruction in the last 13 years of the ancient and historical sites that are turning into ruins day by day. According to Sadat Naderi, these sites not only represent our diversity and tolerance as a nation but also represents our rich culture and history. According to him, the renovation and reconstruction are as important as building new infrastructure. For instance, the reconstruction of Darulaman Palace will be a significant achievement in the journey of preserving Afghanistan’s history and culture. Though practical work has already begun on the site, it is expected that the project Darulaman Palace will be completed on the 100th Independence anniversary of Afghanistan. The reconstruction and renovating of the historical sites such as Ghazi Amanullah Khan’s tomb, Qasr-e-Tapah e Baig, Rawza-e-Sharif, Herat Mosque, Pool-e-Kheshtee Mosque and other important historical sites and monuments are also under review.
One of President Ghani’s vision is to revive the dream of the founder of modern Afghanistan, Ghazi Amanullah Khan, and one of the steps toward which is worth highlighting is the reconstruction of the administrative complex in the vicinity of Darulaman. For Ghani, the right person to translate his vision into action was no other than Sadat Naderi, who also associates and shares the vision of King Amanullah Khan. Naderi states that it was Ghazi Amanullah Khan dream and vision that we are now translating into action by building a robust administrative complex. The construction of Darulaman administrative complex will have salutary impacts on many fronts.
For instance, it will make it easy for the public to access all ministries and institutions at one place and resolve their issues on time. It will not only decrease the amount of time and energy of both the public and officials but also speed up the process of good governance through a robust coordination among the institutions. On the other hand, it will play a significant role in terms of reducing the traffic in the main commercial areas of Kabul. The master plan of the complex is completed and the MUDH is working with various ministries and other governmental organization for the design input. The project is set to begin in the in the fiscal year of 1397 (2018). Its construction will be the blueprint of a modern Afghanistan.
Unlike before, where the attention was only paid to the capital, Naderi believes on equal development; thus, his ministry implemented and designed projects across the urban sector at the provincial levels. For instance, the MUDH started working on 66 major projects in various provinces, which included schools, health clinics, provincial administrative office, districts administrative office, provincial guest houses, conference halls and other public projects. They are almost ready to be turned over to contractors.
The performance of the MUDH under Nader, a young minister within President Ghani’s cabinet, gives immense hopes to the Afghan people. The Afghan nation has gone through almost all sorts of miseries in the past four decades. Now is the perfect time to heal the wounds of the people by closing the door to and ending the rampant corruption in government and society. The Afghan government will continue to fight against corruption in both government and society and bring vast administrative reforms in order to facilitate the country and the people’s trajectory toward peace, development, and prosperity. The dream of a modern peaceful, developed, and prosperous Afghanistan is only possible if the people and their government walk hand-in-hand, as Minister Naderi has done, to implement change and reform.
*Aziz Amin Ahmadzai is a Chevening Scholar and writes on the political and security issues in South Asia and the Middle East. He tweets @azizamin786.