May 16 - Uncertainty looms for businesses in Afghanistan amid delayed presidential election results and draining foreign aid. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
It's a waiting game in Afghanistan. Businesses have ground to a halt across much of the country -- hit by political uncertainty as the country braces for another round of presidential elections, and concerns about security as the last foreign combat troops leave. (SOUNDBITE) (Pashto) OWNER OF THE CONSTRUCTION MACHINERY, SAAD MALOK, SAYING: "The construction work has recently stopped in Afghanistan. We are thinking of changing our business because we invested a lot of money buying the machinery, but all the works are on standby." Foreign combat troops are set to withdraw at the end of the year. A Bilateral Security Agreement that would allow a small force of U.S. troops to stay beyond December 31, is up in the air awaiting the new President. The economy has taken a hit with GDP expected to sharply contract after hitting a peak in 2012. (SOUNDBITE) (Dari) MONEY EXCHANGE BUSINESSMAN FARHAD JAN, SAYING: "We call on the government to quickly finalize the election result. We expect the new government to sign the bilateral security agreement, so it will bring an end to this uncertainty and bring our business and life back to normal." As Western forces wind down, foreign donors worried about insecurity are also pulling back, leaving Kabul to manage its threadbare finances on its own. The U.S. and Britain, two of the biggest donors, have cut aid by up to half. It's hitting places like this school. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FOUNDER OF AID AFGHANISTAN FOR EDUCATION, HASSINA SHERJAN SAYING: "Because there is no donor money, it is a huge program. We are talking about 3,000 students, so unfortunately we did not manage to raise enough money to pay our teachers salaries for the whole year last year." The presidential runoff is expected in June -- which may not provide a solution to the economy, but the hope is for relief.