May 27 - The signing of a strategic pact with the U.S. appears to be helping to boost Afghan businesses and consumer optimism. Paul Chapman reports.
Afghanistan's Chamber of Commerce and Industry says things are looking brighter for businesses and consumers. Its head, Qurban Haqjo, says the signing of a strategic pact with the U.S. is making that difference. He says it's reassuring many Afghans, including investors. They won't be abandoned when most of NATO's combat troops are gone. SOUNDBITE: QURBAN HAQJO, HEAD OF AFGHANISTAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY SAYING (English): "We are seeing and we are hearing from our members that they are very positive and they are looking for an extension of their investment and staying in Afghanistan and working here which, before the signing of that agreement, was not that sure." Property prices in Kabul have leapt by 15 per cent since U.S. President Barack Obama signed a long-term security deal with Afghanistan on May 2nd. That's prompted some residents to consider buying instead of renting. And there are signs that shoppers are getting bolder. The manager of this supermarket in the city says he's seen a lot more customers. SOUNDBITE: MOHAMMAD SAFI, SUPERMARKET MANAGER, SAYING (Dari): "The number of customers has increased about 30 per cent after the signing of the strategic pact between Afghanistan and the United States," (HE SAYS) "Before the signing of this pact people were worried and were frightened to come out and do more extensive shopping like house decorations and other stuff." Yet questions remain about how to prevent a slide back into chaos and a Taliban resurgence when most NATO troops have gone by 2014. Not everyone in Kabul is convinced the future is bright. SOUNDBITE: JAWAD BAYAT, KABUL RESIDENT, SAYING (Dari): "I don't see much progress in the country. There are still problems and there are still suicide attacks, risks and concerns. I'm not optimistic about investment right now." Talks have been taking place with Afghanistan over continuing aid and reconstruction support and expert advisors for at least a decade after 2014. Afghanistan's Chamber of Commerce and Industry admits there's much still to do to convince investors about security during the transition period. In the meantime Kabul's consumers seem to be making the most of the chance to get some heavy duty retail therapy. Paul Chapman, Reuters