Today was my second time meeting the Governor of Kapisa Province (Governor Abu Baker.) We met at his compound again in Mahmood Raqi district.
This time, we attended a Provincial Development Council meeting. This council, made up of all the government’s line directors (think “departments”,) is held periodically so they can come up with projects that they would like to build (and ask for the coalition’s help with.) The idea is that rather than us telling them what we’re gonna do for them, they tell us what they need, and we see if we can help them. (This way, the Afghan people do not feel as if we are forcing our ways and projects upon them without their input.)
It’s kind of a political/verbal ballet … because we want the Afghan people to have a hand in developing their province. But, at the end of the day, it’s OUR money (the American taxpayer.) So, we have to find a balance between allowing them input in the process, and making sure we’re doing the right thing with the money.
It’s no secret that corruption is an issue in Afghanistan. I’m not going to go as far as to accuse anybody in Kapisa province of being corrupt, but I’ll certainly tell you that we think about such things when meeting with people who have a hand in proposing where our PRT spends it’s money. (Remember, Afghanistan is the fourth-poorest country in the world.)
During the meeting, we discussed a few road projects, and some other development issues. But I noticed that the Governor did all the talking. There were a few people who spoke, but for the most part, the Governor dominated the conversation.
This was my first PDC meeting, so I shouldn’t judge just yet. But I got the sense that rather than the free-spirited brainstorming session I envisioned the meeting to be, it was more a show for us (the PRT,) reminding us that the Governor is in charge, and everyone else was there to listen.