Ashraf Ghani was a key figure in rebuilding Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, and is a leading advocate for foreign investment (rather than foreign aid) as a tool for economic development and the eradication of poverty.
Before Afghanistan's President Karzai asked him, at the end of 2001, to become his advisor and then Finance Minister, Ashraf Ghani had spent years in academia studying state-building and social transformation, and a decade in executive positions at the World Bank trying to effect policy in these two fields. In just 30 months, he carried out radical and effective reforms (a new currency, new budget, new tariffs, etc) and was instrumental in preparing for the elections of October 2004. In 2006, he was a candidate to succeed Kofi Annan as Secretary General of the United Nations, and one year later, was put in the running to head the World Bank. He served as Chancellor of Kabul University, where he ran a program on state effectiveness. His message to the world: "Afghanistan should not be approached as a charity, but as an investment."
With Clare Lockhart, he runs the Institute for State Effectiveness, which examines the relationships among citizens, the state and the market. The ISE advises countries, companies, and NGOs; once focused mainly on Afghanistan, its mission has expanded to cover the globe.
In 2009, Ghani ran against Hamid Karzai in the 2009 Afghani presidential elections, emphasizing the importance of government transparency and accountability, strong infrastructure and economic investment, and a merit-based political system.
“Economics taught in most of the elite universities are practically useless in my context. My country [Afghanistan] is dominated by drug economy and a mafia; textbook economics does not work in my context.”
“Every Afghan sees the sky as a source of fear. We were bombed practically out of existence.”
“Money is not capital in most of the developing countries. It’s just cash — because it lacks the institutional, organizational, managerial forms to turn it into capital.”
“The majority of the world benefits neither from capitalism nor from democratic systems. Most of the globe experiences the state as repressive, as an organization that is concerned about denial of rights — about denial of justice, rather than provision of it.”
“When I joined as finance minister [of Afghanistan], I thought that the chances of my living more than three years would not be more than five percent.”
“When I went back to Afghanistan after 23 years, space had expanded. Every conceivable form of infrastructure had broken down. Travel between two cities that used to take three hours now took 12.”