• Survey suggests growing optimism, but major concerns remain

Survey suggests growing optimism, but major concerns remain

14 November 2012

The latest annual Asia Foundation survey in Afghanistan says just over half of Afghans feel that their country is moving in the right direction.

The Foundation says its 2012 “Survey of the Afghan People” reveals that public optimism about the overall direction of Afghanistan is currently at its highest point since 2006.

It says improved security was the major reason cited for optimism, with many Afghans feeling safer in their home communities.

However, it notes that, as in previous years, some of the places originally identified for sampling in the nationwide survey had to be replaced for security reasons.   “Thus respondents living in highly insecure areas (who might be more pessimistic about the overall direction of the country) are likely to be underrepresented,” it says.

The survey suggests that security remains the most significant factor in shaping Afghans’ assessment of progress, with 39 per cent of respondents citing insecurity as a reason for pessimism.

More than 6,000 people who took part in the survey identified insecurity, followed by unemployment and corruption, as the three biggest problems facing Afghanistan as a whole.  

While half of those questioned said their household’s financial wellbeing had improved over the past year, more than two thirds said the employment situation in their local area was either quite bad, or very bad.

More than half of respondents believed corruption was a major problem in their neighbourhood or within their local authorities.  More than two thirds regarded it as a problem in provincial government, and almost four fifths saw it as a major problem in Afghanistan as a whole.

The Asia Foundation says that perceptions of corruption as a major problem at a national and provincial level are at their highest point since 2006.  It adds that corruption is also increasingly regarded as a major problem at the local authority and neighbourhood level.

However, it adds the survey’s findings suggest Afghans are “generally satisfied with government performance, from the central to local level” and notes that 81 per cent of respondents continue to support the government’s national reconciliation efforts.  

In terms of public participation, The Asia Foundation notes, “Many Afghans are still afraid to engage in basic public activities that people in other countries take for granted.  There is a rising sense of powerlessness to influence government decisions through public participation.”

It adds that while the survey suggests broad support for women’s rights in several spheres, “Afghans are divided on key issues related to women’s political participation.”