Afghanistan can offer benefits to Russian firms

MOSCOW, October 22 (RIA Novosti) - Afghan authorities are ready to grant benefits to Russian companies investing in projects in the south Asian country, an Afghan investment policy chief said Monday.

Speaking at a presentation of perspective projects at Russia's Commerce and Industry Chamber, Omar Zakhilwal, the president of the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency, said: "Russian business is very important to us, and we are ready to offer benefits and concessions."

Afghanistan's Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Zalmai Aziz said the procedure for registering firms in the country had been simplified, and now takes just a week. He added that the country's customs tariffs were among the lowest in the region, just 4.2%, compared with 17.3% in Pakistan and 22% in India.

The diplomat also said companies implementing investment projects in the country, which are of four to eight years in length, would be exempt from taxes, adding that active participation in the country's economic revival could safeguard security there.

Commodity turnover between Russia and Afghanistan increased 40% year-on-year in the first half of 2007 to $48.6 million, Russian Foreign Ministry official Andrei Vadov said.

Boris Pastukhov, a senior vice president of the Chamber, said Russian business is prioritizing the power sector and the oil and gas industry in Afghanistan. He said state-controlled power plant builder Technopromexport, electricity monopoly Unified Energy System, truck manufacturer KamAZ and other companies are already operating in Afghanistan.

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