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PS8m wasted on failed Afghani project.

MORE than PS8 million was spent on a failed project to encourage Helmand poppy farmers to switch to alternative crops, a Birmingham MP has revealed.

The UK funded an agricultural business park in war-torn Helmand in Afghanistan, complete with its own airfield to export goods across the country.

The aim was to boost the province's economy and help local farmers abandon poppy cultivation linked to the heroin trade, by providing them with a secure site to launch new agriculture-based businesses. But the scheme was abandoned when officials decided the business park was not economically viable . MP Steve McCabe (Lab Selly Oak) accused ministers of wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers' money.

International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone blamed Afghanistan, telling MPs that an Aghani Government agency had failed to live up to its promises to support the scheme. The Bost Air-field and Agricultural Business Park was designed to promote "significant growth in Helmand's licit economy", according to the Department for International Development (DFID).

Ministers hoped that by providing a secure environment for businesses, and direct air links to the rest of the country, new agricultural businesses would flourish. Leading a Commons debate, Mr McCabe said: "I am a supporter of aid, but my constituents and I have a right to know what our money is being spent on.

"There is a funny smell about the Bost agricultural park and airfield project, and nothing that the Secretary of State has done so far has helped to clear it up."
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:9AFGH
Date:Mar 20, 2014
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