Confidence in govt dips to lowest point in a decade: Survey
KABUL (Pajhwok): The level of optimism among the Afghans about the overall situation in their war-torn country and confidence in the government has slumped to the lowest point in a decade, an international survey revealed on Tuesday.
Deteriorating security, growing unemployment, and corruption are the main reasons for their pessimism in the Asia Foundation’s survey for 2015, covering with 9,586 citizens from 14 ethnic groups and all 34 provinces.
A nonprofit international development organisation, the Asia Foundation is working to improve lives across the continent. The foundation, which began working in Afghanistan in 1954, re-opened its Kabul office in 2002.
The 2015 Survey of the Afghan People includes new questions on youth, ISIL/ISIS, women in leadership, migration, and mobile phone access. It provides insight into the views of Afghans on issues central to the country’s development.
Since the foundation conducted its last annual survey in June 2014, immediately after the presidential runoff election, where the overall national mood was high, optimism has fallen.
After the formation of the national unity government, the country has seen a deteriorating economy in the face of shrinking foreign aid and military spending, and the full assumption of security responsibilities by Afghan forces amid increasing militant attacks.
The Asia Foundation’s country representative said: “Afghanistan experienced the impact of the three simultaneous security, political and economic transitions in 2015. Against this intensely challenging backdrop, the 2015 survey reflects Afghans’ understandable concerns, and a frustration that more progress isn’t being made.”
Abdullah Ahmadzai added the results reflected increased skepticism in the government’s ability to effectively address these challenges. The survey is also highlighted the need for the international community and regional neighbours to support Afghanistan’s efforts for stability.
Growing sense of fear
This year’s survey shows Afghan optimism about the overall direction of the country declined to the lowest point in a decade, after steadily rising through 2014. More than half of Afghans (57.5%) say the country is moving in the wrong direction.
Similarly, 67.4% of Afghans -- the highest recorded level -- fear for their personal safety. There is a growing perception among Afghans their security forces need foreign support to operate.
In June 2015, 82.8% said the Afghan National Army needed foreign support; 80.1% believed the Afghan National Police required assistance; and 70.4% thought the Afghan Local Police needed foreign support -- all up from 2014.
“ISIL/ISIS has had an impact on Afghans’ perceptions of their safety: nearly three out of four respondents say they have heard of ISIL/ISIS and 40.3% of all Afghans say the group poses a threat,” the survey said.
The number of those who think the government is doing a good job has fallen to 57.8% -- down from 75.3% in 2014 when election promises of improvements in governance and services contributed to a sense of hope.
The proportion of Afghans satisfied with the democratic process has also declined, from 73.1% in 2014 to 57.2% in 2015 -- an all-time low. The number of people who say they can impact local government decisions has also decreased from 55.9% in 2014 to 44.5% this year.
Despite government efforts to curb corruption, 89.9% of Afghans view graft as a major problem in their daily lives, the highest percentage reported since 2004.
Provision of public services
Satisfaction with electricity and drinking water has steadily increased, but approval of most services dipped. As many as 56.3% say public services-- electricity, roads, drinking water, education, healthcare and water for irrigation -- are the most common problems on a local level.
Asked about a range of public services in 2015, 71.8% expressed the highest level of satisfaction with access to drinking water, a long-term improvement since 2006. Importantly, 67.8% of respondents reported satisfaction with the quality of education for children. But satisfaction with education has fallen in all regions in 2015.
Asia Foundation’s President David D. Arnold remarked: “The annual survey provides a picture of a nation undergoing extraordinary change, and the concerns, hopes, and experiences that accompany such change.”
Unemployment & illiteracy
About half of Afghanistan’s population is under age 18, one of the largest youth bulges in the world. As foreign aid shrinks, Afghans say unemployment (71.4%) and illiteracy (26.5%) are the two biggest problems facing youth.
But one cause for optimism is the expanding media sector and increasing availability of sources of information from around the world, which continues to shape public opinion. Media (66.6%) remains the most trusted institution alongside religious leaders (64.3%), and ahead of government institutions and NGOs.
This year, 62.1% of Afghan households own a television, a number that has almost doubled in the last eight years. A majority (82.3%) report owning at least one mobile phone in their household, compared to 41.5% in 2007; and 21.0% report having someone in their household who has access to the internet.
Despite disappointments, on the positive side, 2015 saw wins for women in Afghan politics: the cabinet includes four female ministers and the government appointed two new women governors. Women are increasingly aware of their rights and know which institutions to contact in a domestic conflict.
Nearly all Afghans (93.6%) support women’s equal access to education in madrasas and a high proportion support equal opportunities at the primary school (84.5%), high school (82.8%) level, and at the university level (73.8%).
However, the Farkhunda murder case and recent insurgent attacks against educated and politically active women in Kunduz illustrate the serious challenges they face. As in previous years, Afghans list education and illiteracy (20.4%) and unemployment/lack of job opportunities (11.3%) as the two largest problems facing women.
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