Afghanistan earns $1.5m from precious stones extraction


KABUL (PAN): Afghanistan receives $1.5 million in revenue per year from the extraction of precious stones, while those who sell them in Pakistan earn $500 million, the mines minister said on Wednesday.

Wahidullah Shahrani told the lower house that nearly 4,000 people were involved in the industry. He said the country earned $1.5 million in tax.

He said 500 people were involved in the business in Pakistan and earned $500 million per annum. The minister said four provinces and a district had been identified as providing 90 percent of the stones.

He said the stones were being smuggled into neighbouring countries, particularly Pakistan, to avoid paying taxes.

He added those who mine the stones show a lesser amount than is actually extracted to the government and smuggle the rest to the neighbouring countries.

Shahrani said the ministry of mines received a 15 percent share in the production of stones as well as the 12.5 percent tax.

He said the ministry had allowed people to dig up precious stones by using their own resources under the condition that a 15 percent of the production would go to the ministry.

The minister said the imposition of such a huge tax on extractors was against the international norms. In foreign countries, he added, only two percent tax was imposed. However, he did not say if the ministry of mines plans to change this.

Shahrani said recently conducted surveys showed Afghanistan had natural resources worth $3 trillion.

He said they had evolved a comprehensive plan for the extraction of resources. Under the plan, the country would earn $1.2 billion in revenue after five years and $3.5 billion after 15 years.

The minister said the Hajikag iron deposits and other resources would soon be opened up to bidding.

He also said talks were underway with a British company to lay a railway line from Kabul to Torkham and Kabul to Herat.

Only 10 lawmakers were present during Wednesday's session. The MPs posed several questions to the minister, but left the house before listening to his answers.

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