Will China’s latest investment in Afghanistan actually work?

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The Taliban-run Afghanistan saw its first significant foreign investment last month when a Chinese firm signed a 25-year-long, multimillion-dollar contract to extract oil. Experts are cautiously optimistic the project may bring jobs and income despite China’s sketchy record on executing deals.

On January 6, the Taliban signed with Xinjiang Central Asia Petroleum and Gas Company (CAPEIC), a subsidiary of the state-owned China National Petroleum Company (CNPC), a contract to extract oil from the Amu Darya basin, which stretches between central Asian countries and Afghanistan where it covers about 4.5 square kilometres (1.73 square miles). The deal will see an investment of $150m in the first year in Afghanistan and $540m over the next three years, a Taliban spokesperson said on.

“The daily rate of oil extraction will be from 1,000 to 20,000 tonnes,” spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid shared in a tweet, adding that the Taliban will be a 20 percent partner in the deal, which will later be extended to 75 percent.

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Abdul Jalil Jumrainy, an industry expert and the former director general of the Afghan Petroleum Authority at the Ministry of Mining and Petroleum, is one of the many following the development with a little bit of hope.

“Looking at the situation now, the way our people are struggling, in my opinion, this [project] can be a source of revenue that provides economic relief – an opportunity for Afghans to benefit from their resources,” Jumrainy said. “Even if a major part of it goes to the government, there will be jobs created and some Afghan expertise will be utilised, and that is a good thing,” he said.

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