The G7 tries to save the Afghan crisis

This is an audio transcript of the FT News Briefing podcast episode: The G7 tries to save the Afghan crisis

Taylor nicole rogers
Hello from the Financial Times. Today is Tuesday August 24th, and this is your FT News Briefing. Today, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will meet with US President Joe Biden and other G7 leaders to try to save the US exit from Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Taliban are working to support the Afghan economy.

Stephanie Findlay
I think in some ways they’re trying to show that they’re more business friendly and easier to work with than these corrupt officials.

Taylor nicole rogers
And in the United States, a key government assistance program will soon end. We’ll find out what that means for the millions of gig workers who have relied on these payments to try to get by during the pandemic. I’m Taylor Nicole Rogers, and here’s the news you need to start your day.

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At an emergency G7 summit hosted by Boris Johnson of the UK, G7 leaders will urge US President Joe Biden to extend his timeline for the US-led evacuation from Afghanistan. The heads of state – meeting virtually – will also try to find a long-term approach to dealing with the Taliban. And while the purpose of the talks is to find a way to lessen the debacle, our political editor George Parker says the world’s major democracies may find themselves in a weaker position.

George parker
The danger for the G7 here is that, you know, it might be very good for the G7 to ask for more time to keep foreign troops in Kabul to carry out this evacuation. But what if the Taliban says no and the Taliban has already said no. It is a red line that foreign troops must exit by August 31. And the feeling that, in a nutshell, captures the weakness of the West, that we are basically on our knees before the Taliban asking for more time to get people out of Kabul. It is a very uninspiring spectacle.

Taylor nicole rogers
Also this week the UN Security Council is expected to meet and it will be a highlight as the US, France and UK will need to work more closely with their strategic rivals China and Russia.

George parker
The British government, for example, has already spoken to the Chinese who can also speak to the Russians. As far as the UN is concerned, it is really, obviously it is with the five permanent members of the Security Council, France, the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia and China. This is perhaps a case where the five members can agree on a common approach, because frankly, it is in everyone’s interest to have some stability in Afghanistan. So the resolution that France and Britain are trying to craft, which they would need, of course, and not unanimity in the Security Council, will cover things like the human rights approach. , the aid approach and other factors like that to bring everyone together and find some kind of international approach to what’s going on in Afghanistan.

Taylor nicole rogers
He is the political editor of the FT, George Parker.

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In Afghanistan, the Taliban are putting in place a new government, but the United States has frozen billions of dollars in the country’s assets. In addition, many banks are closed. Many stores are not open.

Stephanie Findlay
There is no money at ATMs. I was talking to somebody and they said to me, you know, the phone reception has become more and more spotty because there is no one to fix the lines. And we’ve seen this incredible brain drain as panic has gripped the capital and people are trying to get a flight out of the country.

Taylor nicole rogers
This is the FT Stéphanie Findlay. She said the Taliban is not only facing an economic crisis, but also a political and humanitarian one.

Stephanie Findlay
So some kind of trust is absolutely necessary. But at the same time, the Taliban are forming their new government. And you have former Afghan President Karzai and former chief peace negotiator Abdullah Abdullah trying to define what would be a power-sharing government. So it’s that balance between the absolute need for Afghanistan to get back on its feet and function again versus the type of government formed by the Taliban.

Taylor nicole rogers
What does the Taliban have for this and how could they try to gain the trust of the people?

Stephanie Findlay
The Taliban presented themselves as more open, more transparent to the corrupt government. The ordinary Afghan would have to go through this glove of customs officers, police demanding bribes on the highways. For example, the Taliban would issue a receipt if there was a checkpoint, whereas if you go through a checkpoint after a government-run checkpoint, you will have to pay at each checkpoint. So they made an effort to present themselves as fairer and indeed better for the business world. I was talking to a contact today and he was talking about how they actually cut the tariffs at the border crossings, which they resumed earlier this summer before their blitz. So I think in some ways they’re trying to show that they’re more business friendly and easier to work with than these corrupt officials.

Taylor nicole rogers
So people often say that the Taliban get their money from drug trafficking, from opium. How true is this and what other sources of income do they have?

Stephanie Findlay
Experts I’ve spoken to say the focus on Taliban income from poppy profits is probably misplaced. Looking at data at border crossings and studying tax collection, experts have shown that most of the money comes primarily from taxation. And the role of drugs, even if it represents income, it is not the main source of income.

Taylor nicole rogers
What about foreign aid? The Afghan economy has been so dependent on foreign aid, and the Taliban have said they would like foreign aid, especially to reduce their dependence on the drug trade. Is it feasible?

Stephanie Findlay
During this incredible press conference, a spokesperson for the Taliban said they would like to move away from poppy cultivation and do not want Afghanistan to produce narcotics. But he called on the international community to help with the economic transition. And the country certainly needs help and assistance. But after 20 years of US presence in Afghanistan and the fact that poppy cultivation has increased over the past 20 years and methamphetamine production is increasing, I don’t know if the Taliban will be able to deliver on their promise. in the near future future.

Taylor nicole rogers
So what do you think of the kind of government the Taliban will form?

Stephanie Findlay
I feel like we are waiting and watching to see what kind of government the Taliban will announce. I mean, a lot of countries in the region don’t want them to announce an emirate, which would embolden other extremist groups. They would like to see an inclusive government and they would like to see a government that has the capacity to absorb the old civilian government. But everything is on hold for now and we have no indication yet of which government the Taliban will announce.

Taylor nicole rogers
It’s Stéphanie Findlay from FT. And you can join the FT correspondents tomorrow for a live webinar on the future of Afghanistan. Special guests will include former US commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus. It’s tomorrow, August 25, 2:30 p.m. UK time at 9:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. You can register for the webinar at FT.com/afghan-webinar. We will include the link in our show notes.

Taylor nicole rogers
In the United States, next month, the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program will end. This landmark program was the first to provide concerts workers with government unemployment benefits, and it has helped nearly 30 million workers weather the pandemic.

Amanda chu
And the gig workers I spoke to were able to work fewer hours or stop work altogether to reduce their risk of contracting Covid due to unemployment assistance in the event of a pandemic. But now that it is about to expire, these workers are worried about returning to work, especially as cases increase, especially if they have family members or have themselves underlying health problems.

Taylor nicole rogers
This is Amanda Chu from FT. She told me that when the benefits end, a lot of people will have to re-enter the precarious economy of concerts.

Amanda chu
Experts I speak with predict that when these benefits expire in two weeks, there will be an influx of new workers and a return to the gig economy due to its promises of quick money, easy entry, and flexibility. . And this can already be seen in states that have decided to end unemployment benefits prematurely.

Taylor nicole rogers
Well, that should be good for companies like Uber and Lyft, but Amanda says a gig employee in Michigan she spoke to said the Pandemic Assistance Program has allowed her to cut back on her costs. hours because her husband had a health problem.

Amanda chu
And with PUA’s help, she didn’t have to work as much and lowered her risk. But now that PUA is expiring, she plans to return to work because she says she doesn’t really have a choice. But then I also talk to another gig worker in the same state who also stopped working and received unemployment assistance in the event of a pandemic. And for her gig work, it was just extra income and so when the pandemic unemployment assistance ends, she doesn’t plan to enter the gig economy as she says. that she just can’t do it anymore. You are not being paid enough as you should.

Taylor nicole rogers
This is Amanda Chu from FT.

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You can read more about all of these stories at FT.com. This has been your daily FT News briefing. Make sure to come back tomorrow for the latest business news.

This transcript was generated automatically. If by any chance there is an error, please send the details for correction to: [email protected]. We will do our best to make the change as soon as possible.

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