What is Ez-Kar?

The Eshteghal Zaiee – Karmondena Project, commonly known as “the EZ-Kar”, is another of the whole-of-Government development projects. It is particularly designed to provide short term employment and market-based infrastructure, and improve the ease of doing business in cities with large numbers of displaced populations within Afghanistan, and support Afghan refugees in Pakistan in voluntary returns through facilitation of passports and travel documents. 

Its name derives from the Dari “Eshteghal Zaiee” meaning job creation, and the Pashto “Karmondena” meaning finding a job. The Project is part of a government-led programmatic approach to support Afghanistan’s economic growth agenda, whilst adhering to the principles of GoIRA’s Policy Framework for Returnees and IDPs.

The EZ-Kar was designed by a multi-ministry team and the World Bank working closely together in 2018 and was approved by the World Bank Group (WBG) board on 19th December 2018. It came into effect, after meeting the effectiveness conditions in the Financing/ Grant Agreements, on 26thFebruary 2019.The proposed EZ-Kar project is consistent with the WBG’s overall approach to addressing forced displacement as it focuses on medium-term socio-economic responses that complement the humanitarian support.

The EZ-Kar’s currently approved duration is for five years, 2019 to 2023. It will cover Afghan refugees in Pakistan, and provincial capitals of 13 provinces within Afghanistan with the highest numbers of displaced people. The target cities include: Kabul City (Kabul Province), Jalalabad (Nangarhar), Kandahar City (Kandahar Province), Herat City (Herat Province), Puli Khumri (Baghlan), Maimana (Faryab), Ferozkoh/ Chaghcheran (Ghor), Khost Matun (Khost province), Asadabad (Kunar), Kunduz City (Kunduz Province), Mehtarlam (Laghman), Parun (Nuristan), and Taloqan (Takhar).

EZ-Kar Objective/ Goal

The stated Project Development Objective (PDO) of the EZ-Kar is to strengthen the enabling environment for economic opportunities in cities with a high influx of displaced persons. This will be pursued by increasing the returnees’ access to civil documents, providing short-term employment opportunities, improving market enabling infrastructure, and supporting investor friendly regulatory reforms. The PDO level indicators for EZ-Kar and their defined targets are as follows:

% of Afghan passport applications in Pakistan processed – 80%
% of Afghan passport applications in Pakistan processed for female applicants – 80%
# of vulnerable households in high IDP/returnee cities provided with short term employment support – 80,000
# of such vulnerable households provided with short term employment support that are IDP/ returnee households – 10,000
# of market enabling infrastructure built or upgraded – 1,115
# of market enabling infrastructure build or upgraded at community level – 900
# of market enabling infrastructure built or upgraded at gozar level – 180
# of market enabling infrastructure built or upgraded at business gozar level – 30
# of market enabling infrastructure built or upgraded at the city level – 5
# of processing steps reduced for specific Doing Business reform indicators in 4 cities — 13
# of processing steps reduced for specific Doing Business reform indicators in the cities of Jalalabad, Herat and Kandahar — 10
# of processing steps reduced for specific Doing Business reform indicators in Kabul city — 3

It should be noted that none of the components or sub-components of the EZ-Kar directly support economic growth, except for the short-term labor provision, but all of them contribute to strengthen the existing enabling environment for the same.

Donors/ Funding Source

The EZ-Kar’s assured funding to-date comes from two primary sources: The International Development Association of the World Bank Group (IDA/WBG) and various donors through the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF). The IDA has provided the equivalent of US$ 150 million of which US$ 100 million comes from the South Asia Region (SAR) Regional IDA pool, and US$ 50 million comes from the IDA funds for Afghanistan. The ARTF has committed US$ 50 million for the Project. The total funds of US$ 200 million are divided among the various components different, but at a 75% IDA: 25% ARTF ratio uniformly.

Project Structure and Beneficiaries 

The EZ-Kar will be implemented primarily by four Implementing Agencies (IAs): the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), the Ministry of Economy (MoEc), the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG) and the Kabul Municipality (KM). Each of these IAs has the responsibility of one full component within the EZ-Kar, while the IDLG alone has the responsibility for two full components. The MoEc will serve as the lead agency for oversight and coordination among the IAs.

The MoEc and the MoFA will have their own stand-alone Project Implementation Units (PIUs) for the EZ-Kar. The MoEc’s PIU will include provincial coordinators in each of the 12cities. The MoFA’s PIU will work with staff in the Afghan Embassy/ Consulates in Pakistan. The Kabul Municipality will implement the Project using it’s PIU for the Kabul Municipal Development Program (KMDP). The IDLG will implement Component 2 through its core urban Citizens’ Charter Afghanistan Project’s (CCAP’s) PIU, and Component 3 through its core Cities’ Investment Program’s (CIP’s) PIU. For the Component 2, the urban CCAP PIU will be expanded significantly to add EZ-Kar specific staff, as the PIU will now expand to include Provincial Management Units (PMUs) in nine additional cities, as well some staff additions to the three cities covered by CCAP PMUs.

All Afghan refugees in Pakistan are potential Project beneficiaries as the EZ-Kar hopes to include them in a communication and awareness raising campaign to facilitate their return process. The 12 cities selected for coverage for the remaining components are also deemed potential beneficiaries. It should be emphasized that while women, IDP and returnee persons/ households will especially be included as beneficiaries, the components 2, 3 and 4 are designed to cover both host communities and the displaced populations. Components 2 to 5 will also particularly impact on the business communities in the select cities, and to some extent, nation-wide.