William Byrd is a development economist whose academic background includes a doctorate in economics from Harvard University and a master's degree in East Asian Regional Studies from the same institution. He joined USIP in April 2012 as a senior expert, working on Afghanistan.

He had long experience at the World Bank, where most of his work was country-focused, including China, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. He lived for significant lengths of time in all of these countries and speaks Dari and Chinese, with some knowledge of other languages. During 2002-2006, he was stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he served as the World Bank’s country manager for Afghanistan and then as economic adviser.

His publications include six books on China, other books, and numerous articles, among them several papers on Afghanistan, as well as a number of World Bank reports. Examples include reports on Afghanistan’s economic development, public finance management, economic cooperation in the wider Central Asia region, vulnerabilities to corruption assessments, Afghanistan’s drug industry, and economic incentives and development initiatives to reduce opium production, as well as papers on these topics, security sector reform from a financial and development perspective, and on responding to Afghanistan’s development challenge.

Publications By William

Dismembering Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance

Dismembering Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

By: William Byrd

In Afghanistan, where corruption and ineffective government have hampered efforts to build a functioning state, the Ministry of Finance has been a standout performer. Competently run since as early as 2002, the ministry collects substantial revenue, manages aid inflows, pays public employees, funds key public services and has won the confidence of donors. Now, all that is threatened. The Afghan government is eviscerating the ministry—carving out key constituent parts, putting them directly under the presidential palace, and gravely weakening one of the country’s most effective institutions. It’s a move that’s bad for Afghanistan’s governance and financial viability. It will harm the country’s development and jeopardizes the sustainability of peace if an agreement is reached with the Taliban.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment

An Essential for Afghan Peace: Funding the Government

An Essential for Afghan Peace: Funding the Government

Monday, March 2, 2020

By: William Byrd

A critical ingredient for the current efforts to bring stability and peace in Afghanistan is the Afghan state’s ability to pay for more of its own operations. Despite optimistic new reports from the Afghan government, its actual revenues stagnated last year. With international donors still funding around half of Afghan government expenses, urgent improvements are needed in the way the government collects and measures its revenues. These changes are vital to persuade donors to sustain funding when their current assistance pledges expire in just 10 months—and to help strengthen the government in prospective negotiations with the Taliban.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment

A Rift Over Afghan Aid Imperils Prospects for Peace

A Rift Over Afghan Aid Imperils Prospects for Peace

Monday, September 16, 2019

By: William Byrd

As the United States has pursued peace talks with the Taliban, international discussions continue on the economic aid that will be vital to stabilizing Afghanistan under any peace deal. Yet the Afghan government has been mostly absent from this dialogue, an exclusion exemplified this week by a meeting of the country’s main donors to strategize on aid—with Afghan officials left out. The government’s marginalization, in large part self-inflicted, is a danger to the stabilization and development of Afghanistan. In the interests of Afghans, stability in the region and U.S. hopes for a sustainable peace, this rift in the dialogue on aid needs to be repaired.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment

Afghan Government Revenue, Critical for Peace, Grows in 2019

Afghan Government Revenue, Critical for Peace, Grows in 2019

Thursday, August 15, 2019

By: William Byrd; M. Khalid Payenda

An Afghanistan peace deal, currently under discussion between the Taliban and U.S., will depend in the long term on more than political and military agreements. A sustained peace will also require that the Afghan government can generate growing revenue to help pay its soldiers, deliver services and reduce its dependence on...

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment

Afghanistan Cannot Afford Another Government Breakdown

Afghanistan Cannot Afford Another Government Breakdown

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

By: William Byrd

Afghanistan is on uncertain terrain this year. Along with scheduled presidential and other elections and a nascent peace process, the possibility of withdrawal of international troops, worsening security, and an economic downturn loom heavily over the country. In this critical moment, government failure would make peace and political stability even harder to achieve let alone sustain. How can basic government functioning be maintained during this challenging period?

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance; Economics & Environment

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