Dr. 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.

Dr. Byrd 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.

Dr. Byrds' 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

Revitalizing Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance

Revitalizing Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

By: William Byrd

Revitalizing Afghanistan’s badly damaged Ministry of Finance is critical for the state’s survival today and will be equally important during a peace process or under any interim or power-sharing arrangement. Without curbs on political interference and corruption at the ministry, Afghanistan will be hard pressed to ensure that aid pledges made at November’s Geneva international conference materialize.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment; Democracy & Governance

Afghanistan Aid Conference Yields Mixed Results

Afghanistan Aid Conference Yields Mixed Results

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

By: William Byrd

The quadrennial international donor conference for Afghanistan, held virtually late last month from Geneva, was largely shaped by the pitfalls and roadblocks forecast months ago when the event was publicly announced. Delays in the peace process, worsening violence, and unveiling of plans for further U.S. troop reductions left the meeting’s potential unmet. Yet amid the unsatisfying results, some hopeful rays broke through. In particular, the size and duration of aid pledges provided at least something to build on.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment; Peace Processes

Afghanistan Donor Conference 2020: Pitfalls and Possibilities

Afghanistan Donor Conference 2020: Pitfalls and Possibilities

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

By: William Byrd

When Afghan officials and international donors meet next month to consider future aid commitments to Afghanistan, they will face a changed situation from their last gathering four years ago. Then, the focus was on tying financial assistance to government reform in the midst of ongoing war with the Taliban; peace was barely on the agenda. Now, peace talks between the Taliban and the government have begun, and a new Afghan administration is still taking shape with an agreement that resolved the disputed 2019 presidential election. Meanwhile, fighting and casualties remain at unsustainable levels and the country is reckoning with the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment; Democracy & Governance

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

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