Afghanistan Railways Authority (ARA) officials have said that operating contracts with neighboring countries for Afghanistan’s railway stations were formalized without taking the country’s best interests into consideration.
According to officials, tens of millions of dollars has been paid annually to companies from neighboring countries to run the stations.
ARA’s new leadership is now however working on a plan to outsource the operation of railway stations to Afghan companies so that it can benefit the Afghan national economy directly.
Bakht-u-Rehman Sharafat, director of ARA, said an Uzbekistan company has the contract to operate the port of Hairatan at a cost of $18 million a year. However, local companies are prepared to do the same work for much less, he said.
“The port of Hairatan, through which we carry most of our shipments, has been contracted by an Uzbek company for $18 million a year, while Afghan companies will do this for less than 25 percent of this amount,” said Sharafat.
Afghanistan’s private sector has also called on the country’s railway authority to increase trade capacity at its ports.
Members of the private sector said the local economy will improve if railway services expand.
“If we can do our export by rail, it will be cheaper for us and with that we will be able to expand our exports and lower our prices,” said Abdul Jabar Safi, the director of the Afghanistan Industries Association.