From Rueters Alert Net
By Robert Birsel
KABUL, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Afghans are among the most optimistic people in the world when it comes to their economic future, a BBC survey has found, but such confidence is not always easy to find on the streets of the capital, Kabul.
The survey found 70 percent of those questioned in Afghanistan thought their own circumstances were improving, and 57 percent believed their country overall was on the way up.
The survey by the Globescan polling firm also found optimism in Iraq, where 65 percent of people believed their personal lives were getting better, and 56 percent were upbeat about their country's economy.
The firm surveyed 37,572 people in 32 countries between October 2005 and January 2006, said the BBC, which released the results this week.
On the cold streets of an overcast Kabul on Friday opinion seemed divided about how people were faring more than four years after U.S.-led forces forced the hardline Taliban from power.
"It's not getting better for ordinary people, only for a few businessmen and investors. Ordinary people are getting poorer and poorer," said labourer Syed Kamal.
"Jobs are so few some people are willing to work just for bread," he said.
Prices have been rising fast in Kabul and many people say they are frustrated with what they see as a slow pace of improvement in their lives.
"Government figures show that billions of dollars of aid have been disbursed, but given the little change in the lives of many people, there hasn't been much improvement economically," said Kabul University student Izatullah, 25.
After decades of conflict and chaos, Afghanistan is wracked by poverty and deprivation.
Development will be a main issue at an international conference on Afghanistan in London at the end of the month, where Afghanistan is hoping to get promises of economic and security help.
Despite the poverty, Kabul's streets, lined with piles of dirty snow, are packed with vehicles and markets are full of imported goods.
Ahmad Sear, who owns a handicraft shop in a shiny new Kabul shopping centre, says life is good.
"My life has improved enormously over the past three years. I started from scratch and now I have this shop," he said.
The city's newest shopping centre is lined with electronics and mobile phone shops, as well as jewellery and clothes outlets. There's a trendy coffee shop in the basement and teenagers wander around in the latest Western fashions.
"I'm hopeful about the future although I worry about chaos and insecurity," Sear said.
"But it's tough for people who have no money or other resources. Refugees coming back from Iran and Pakistan, they've got no job, can't afford to pay rent, so they go back. That's not good," he said.
Complaints about corruption are common.
"Life has improved for only a few percent of the people. Most people are impoverished," said another city centre shopkeeper, Mohammad Nadir, who said graft was widespread in the government and among aid groups.
But he said Afghans had to be optimistic.
"I'm hopeful about the future, not only for my own business but for the whole of Afghanistan. We have no alternative, we have to be hopeful," Nadir said.
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